GNCT of Delhi & Ors vs. Praveen Kumar: Key Insights on SC/ST Act, FIR Registration, and Natural Justice


In the landmark case of The State of GNCT of Delhi & Ors vs. Praveen Kumar, the Supreme Court of India dealt with critical issues under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 . This judgment delves into the obligations of public servants under the Act, the procedural intricacies involved in registering an FIR, and the principles of natural justice.

Factual Background

Initial Complaint

On 29th April 2018, Praveen Kumar (Respondent) lodged a complaint at Police Station Fatehpur Beri, New Delhi, alleging offenses under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against several individuals. The complaint pertained to atrocities committed against Kumar, a member of the Scheduled Caste.

Application under Section 156(3) CrPC

Kumar filed an application under Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) with the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate on 9th May 2018. He sought a direction for the registration of an FIR based on his complaint, as the police had not taken any action.

Allegation of Public Servants’ Inaction

Kumar further filed a miscellaneous application under Sections 4(2) and 4(3) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 before the Special Judge. He alleged that the Station House Officer (SHO) and other police officials neglected their duties by not registering his FIR.

Proceedings Before Lower Courts

Special Judge’s Decision

The Special Judge observed that there were no grounds to proceed under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against the public servants and dismissed Kumar’s application. The Judge concluded that the complaint did not reveal any specific neglect of duty by the police officials.

High Court’s Directive

Kumar appealed the Special Judge’s decision to the High Court of Delhi. The High Court allowed the appeal, directing the initiation of proceedings against the SHO for neglect of duty under Section 4 of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Legal Issues

The primary legal issues before the Supreme Court were:

  1. Compliance with Section 4 of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989: Whether the initiation of proceedings against the SHO was in accordance with the statutory requirements under Section 4 of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
  2. Principles of Natural Justice: Whether the High Court’s directive to initiate proceedings against the SHO violated the principles of natural justice by not providing the SHO an opportunity to be heard before initiating such proceedings.

Supreme Court’s Analysis

Statutory Framework and Compliance

Section 4 of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, as amended, mandates a preliminary administrative inquiry before legal proceedings can be initiated against a public servant for neglect of duty. The Supreme Court noted that the High Court’s direction to initiate proceedings without such an inquiry was procedurally incorrect.

The Court emphasized that Section 4(2) of the Act requires a proper inquiry before any action can be taken against a public servant. The legislative intent behind this provision is to protect public servants from frivolous and vexatious complaints, ensuring that only genuine cases of neglect of duty are prosecuted.

Natural Justice and Due Process

The Supreme Court emphasized the importance of natural justice, noting that the SHO should have been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations before any adverse action was taken. The Court reiterated the necessity for adherence to due process to ensure fairness and transparency.

The principles of natural justice, including the right to be heard (audi alteram partem) and the rule against bias (nemo judex in causa sua), are fundamental to fair administrative and judicial procedures. The Court highlighted that these principles are enshrined in the Constitution and must be adhered to in all proceedings, including those under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Key Judgments Referred

Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh

This landmark judgment mandates the registration of an FIR upon receipt of information disclosing a cognizable offense, with specific exceptions for preliminary inquiries in certain cases. The Court referenced Lalita Kumari to underscore the obligatory nature of FIR registration under the CrPC.

In Lalita Kumari, the Supreme Court held that police officers must register an FIR if the information received discloses the commission of a cognizable offense. The judgment clarified that the police do not have the discretion to refuse to register an FIR, except in cases where a preliminary inquiry is required, such as in matters of matrimonial disputes, commercial offenses, medical negligence, corruption cases, and cases where there is abnormal delay in initiating criminal prosecution.

Dr. Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra

Initially, this judgment imposed requirements for a preliminary inquiry before registering FIRs under the SC/ST Act. The judgment was later reviewed and amended, but it remained a critical reference for understanding procedural requirements.

In Dr. Subhash Kashinath Mahajan, the Supreme Court introduced safeguards to prevent misuse of the SC/ST Act. The Court directed that no public servant should be arrested under the Act without prior approval of the appointing authority, and a preliminary inquiry should be conducted to ascertain the veracity of the allegations. This decision was subsequently reviewed in 2018 following widespread protests, and the Court modified its earlier directions to balance the need for protection of SC/ST communities with safeguards against misuse of the law.

Judgment and Conclusion

Setting Aside the High Court’s Order

The Supreme Court set aside the High Court’s order directing the initiation of proceedings against the SHO, Fatehpur Beri. The Court highlighted the procedural lapse and the violation of natural justice principles in the High Court’s directive.

The Supreme Court underscored that the High Court failed to follow the statutory mandate of conducting a preliminary inquiry before initiating proceedings against the SHO. The Court observed that the failure to adhere to this procedural requirement not only contravened the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 but also resulted in a denial of natural justice to the SHO.

Directive for Appropriate Proceedings

The case was remanded for appropriate proceedings in line with the statutory framework and procedural fairness. The Supreme Court emphasized that any action against public servants under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 must comply with the requirements of preliminary inquiry and due process.

The Court directed that the authorities conduct a preliminary administrative inquiry to determine whether there was any neglect of duty by the SHO and other police officials. This inquiry must be completed within a specified timeframe, and the findings should guide any further legal action.

Implications for Law Students and Practitioners

Understanding Procedural Requirements

This judgment underscores the critical importance of adhering to statutory procedural requirements before initiating legal proceedings against public servants. It serves as a guide for law students and practitioners on the necessity of preliminary inquiries under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

For law students, this case illustrates the importance of understanding the procedural safeguards embedded in statutory provisions. It highlights the balance that the law seeks to achieve between protecting vulnerable communities and preventing the misuse of legal provisions.

Principles of Natural Justice

The case reiterates the fundamental principles of natural justice, ensuring that no adverse action is taken without providing an opportunity to be heard. It highlights the judiciary’s role in upholding these principles to ensure fairness in legal proceedings.

The judgment is a valuable resource for practitioners who must navigate the complexities of legal processes involving public servants. It emphasizes the necessity of due process and the protection of rights of all parties involved, ensuring that justice is both done and seen to be done.

Judicial Precedents and Their Applications

The judgment provides a comprehensive analysis of relevant judicial precedents, offering insights into their application in cases involving the SC/ST Act. It serves as a valuable resource for understanding how precedents shape judicial decisions and procedural norms.

For students and practitioners, the references to Lalita Kumari and Dr. Subhash Kashinath Mahajan provide a broader context for understanding the evolution of legal principles related to FIR registration and safeguards against the misuse of the SC/ST Act. These cases highlight the dynamic nature of judicial interpretation and the role of the Supreme Court in refining legal standards to ensure justice.


The Supreme Court’s judgment in The State of GNCT of Delhi & Ors vs. Praveen Kumar is a significant contribution to the body of law governing the SC/ST Act. It clarifies the procedural obligations of public servants, emphasizes the importance of natural justice, and provides a nuanced interpretation of statutory requirements. For law students and practitioners, this judgment offers a detailed roadmap for navigating similar legal issues and underscores the judiciary’s commitment to fairness and procedural integrity in the application of the law.

This judgment serves as a reminder that procedural safeguards and principles of natural justice are paramount in ensuring fair and just legal proceedings. It reinforces the judiciary’s role in upholding these principles and provides a clear framework for addressing similar issues in future cases. For law students, this case is an essential study in the interplay between statutory provisions, judicial precedents, and the overarching principles of justice and fairness.

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