[Shajan Skaria v SHO & Anr.] On Friday, a court in Kerala denied Shajan Scaria’s application for anticipatory parole for allegedly disseminating a derogatory news item about MLA PV Sreenijin on the YouTube channel Marunadan Malayali.
Judge Honey M. Varghese ruled that Scaria was aware that MLA Sreejin is a member of the scheduled caste (SC) community; thus, the publication of the news article mentioned above was adequate to constitute a violation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act).
Scaria, who is accused of violating Sections 3 (1)(r) and 3(1)(u) of the SC/ST Act and Section 120(0) of the Kerala Police Act, applied for anticipatory parole before a special court established by the SC/ST Act. The prosecution contends that Scaria, as editor and publisher of Marunadan Malayali, aired a news story containing false, unfounded, and defamatory allegations against the actual complainant, MLA Sreenijin.
The news report allegedly insulted the SC community-affiliated MLA, Sreenijin. The attorney for Scaria argued that the abovementioned news was published at the request of MLA Sreenijin, chairman of the District Sports Council, to illustrate the mismanagement of a sports hostel. He argued further that it was not published with the knowledge that the MLA is a member of the SC community. In addition, the news article made no mention of the MLA’s caste or community; it was noted.The attorney for MLA Sreenijin and the public prosecutor refuted the petitioner’s arguments. They argued that Scaria is likely aware that MLA Sreenijin is a member of the SC community, as he was elected to a legislative assembly seat reserved for SC candidates. In the original version, Scaria referred to MLA Sreenijin as a “mafia don,” the MLA’s lawyer argued.
The court noted that Scaria had withdrawn the news article in which he referred to the MLA as a “Mafia don.”
“The act of the petitioner (Scaria) withdrawing the aforementioned item is commendable, but at the same time it reinforces the fact that they themselves viewed it as a derogatory remark,” the court concluded. Therefore, the court determined that Scaria was aware that MLA Sreejin was a member of the SC community and that the publication of the aforementioned news item was adequate to constitute an offence under the SC/ST Act.
“Therefore, the argument of the learned counsel for the petitioner (Scaria) that the evidence is insufficient to constitute the prima facie offence alleged against him cannot be accepted, as he never intended to humiliate the de facto complainant with the knowledge that he belongs to Schedule Caste. “Based on the discussion above, I hold that the allegation is prima facie sufficient to constitute an offence under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and therefore the section 18 prohibition is squarely applicable in this case,” the court said.
Thus, the court denied the motion for anticipatory parole.
[ READ JUDGEMENT ]
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