The Karnataka High Court has found and sentenced 10 individuals for their involvement in a 2008 incident where they intruded into a Harijan Colony in the Tumkur district. During this intrusion, they verbally abused and physically assaulted Dalit residents using clubs and stones, causing serious injuries. In response to an appeal, Justice J M Khazi, sitting as a single judge, overturned the earlier acquittal and convicted the accused under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The court determined that the accused were guilty of offenses punishable under Sections 143, 147, 148, 323, 324 read with Section 149 of the IPC, as well as Section 3(1)(x) and (xi) of the SC and ST (POA) Act. The judgment included a one-year rigorous imprisonment sentence and a fine of Rs. 3,000 for each accused, with a default provision for simple imprisonment lasting three months, for the offenses under Section 3(1)(x) and Section 3(1)(xi) of the POA Act read with Section 149 IPC.
Addressing the plea for leniency from the accused, the court stated that despite their justifications, it could not overlook the fact that the assault was unprovoked and targeted Dalit residents. The attack was triggered by two Dalits filing a complaint against accused No.1 Sudeep for an incident on the land of PW-19 Shivamurthy. The court emphasized that the accused assaulted the complainant and others simply because they, despite being Scheduled Caste individuals, had the courage to file a complaint against a person from a forward community.
The case originated from a complaint filed by Lakshmamma on August 14, 2008. The police registered a case against accused No.1 to 11, leading to an acquittal in 2011 by the trial court. The state government did not challenge the acquittal, but the complainant contested it, arguing that the judgment was contrary to law and facts. The high court bench, upon reviewing the records, concluded that the evidence of the injured witnesses established the guilt of the accused, who were angered by the Dalits' complaint against accused No.1.
Setting aside the trial court's order, the high court criticized its failure to thoroughly examine the evidence, including the complaint and FIR, and its unsubstantiated assertion that these documents were anti-dated. The court stressed the need for the trial court to explain how such observations benefited the prosecution or prejudiced the accused. Additionally, the bench faulted the trial court for not adequately addressing the testimonies of the injured eyewitnesses, considering the evidence, and providing reasons for disbelieving their accounts.
In allowing the appeal and convicting the accused, the high court declared the trial court's view as unreasonable, emphasizing the misreading of evidence and the perverse nature of the conclusions reached. This decision highlights the importance of a comprehensive and impartial examination of evidence in ensuring justice and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.
TAGS: Karnataka High Court ,Conviction Assault on Dalits Harijan Colony ,Tumkur district ,Caste-based violence ,Single judge bench ,Justice J M Khazi