Three former CITCO staff jailed for caste slurs against Mountview Hotel security guard

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A special court has found three retired employees of the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation Limited (CITCO) guilty of using caste language against a security guard at the Mountview Hotel, Sector 10, in 2000.

Among the convicts, Praveen Goswami, 69, was a security guard at the hotel, while Kulbhushan Sharma, 77, and Surinder Pal Singh, 76, successively served as Chief Security Officer (CSO) at the time. facts.

Found guilty under Section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the accused will be liable to six months rigorous imprisonment and pay a fine of 5,000 each.

The plaintiff, Ram Kumar from Indira Colony, Manimajra, had served in the army for 16 years before joining CITCO as a security guard.

On October 15, 2000, he was on patrol at the Mountview Hotel, when security guard Praveen Goswami asked him to turn off a television which was being watched by some guests and staff.

According to the complaint, when Kumar shared with Goswami that a cricket match was in progress, the latter used caste remarks against him and hurled abuse in front of other people.

Kumar took the matter to Kulbhushan Sharma, the CSO at the time, who assured him to act, but did nothing.

After Sharma’s retirement, Surinder Pal Singh took over the post and pressured Kumar to withdraw his complaint.

Singh also filed bogus complaints against Kumar, based on which an investigation was opened against him by the Managing Director of CITCO and his services were terminated on January 19, 2005.

Kumar had also approached the High Court of Punjab and Haryana over the matter, where the proceedings in the present case were quashed against Vijay Kumar Gupta, then General Manager of Shivalikview Hotel, while the case was dismissed in session court for trial on March 3, 2014. .

In court, the three defendants pleaded their innocence. They claimed that Kumar was argumentative and rude and was removed from duty due to negligent behavior.

Citing their age, they also spoke about their health issues, the fact that it was their first offense and how they regularly attend court hearings.

The court observed that there were two main issues – whether the defendant used derogatory language knowing Kumar’s caste status and whether he criminally intimidated him.

Although the offense under section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, alleged by the plaintiff, was not proven, the trio were convicted under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes Act listed (atrocity prevention).

The court also took note of the fact that all the warning letters given to Kumar were after the date of his original complaint and it cannot be said that he used his caste as a tool to implicate them wrongfully.

Convicts plead for leniency in old age and receive minimum sentence

Before the sentencing was handed down, 76-year-old Surinder Pal Singh said his 70-year-old wife would be left home alone and they were both suffering from age-related illnesses.

Praveen Goswami, 69, said he was on medication for a stroke and suffered from brain problems after an accident on August 1, 2022.

Kulbushan Sharma, 77, also said there was no one at home to look after his 73-year-old wife as he himself suffered from a heart condition.

However, the court observed that given the personality and background of the convicts, as well as all the facts and circumstances of the case, there was no justification for adopting a sympathetic and lenient attitude.

However, the court noted that the trio had been on trial for over 12 years. Since Section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act provides for a minimum term of imprisonment of six months, up to five years, the court imposed the minimum sentence for the offence.

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