The colonial legacy of mentioning the caste of accused, victim and witnesses in criminal proceedings should be shunned as a public policy

Himachal Pradesh High Court: While deciding the present case wherein the accused had been charged under Sections 452 and 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 for trespassing into the room of the victim, wrongfully restraining her and pouring kerosene oil on her when she refused to marry the accused, the Division Bench of Rajiv Sharma and Sureshwar Thakur, JJ., noted how the police in the inquest report, the statement, recovery memo and dying declaration had mentioned separately the caste of the accused and the victim. Holding the practice to be impermissible, the Court stated that the colonial legacy of mentioning the caste in the criminal proceedings should be done away with and as a public policy caste system should be shunned wholly.

The Court further observed that the Constitution guarantees a casteless and classless society, as right to live with dignity is an integral part of the Fundamental Right to Life. The Court further noted that how the Founding Fathers of the Indian Constitution had a faith that the caste system which had no scientific, intellectual and logical basis will come to an end with the passage of time, however it has still lingered on even though it is against the very basic tenets of the Constitution. The Court thereby issued directions to the Principal Secretary (Home) for the Government of Himachal Pradesh to issue instructions to the investigating officers to do away with the practice of mentioning the caste of the accused, victims and witnesses in recovery memos, FIR’s, seizure memos, inquest papers and other forms prescribed under the CrPC and Punjab Police Rules. [Krishan Kumar v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine HP 2130, decided on September 16, 2016]

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