Usha Tanpure has been acquitted by the Bombay High Court of her 2001 conviction for humiliating a man during an argument in public.
In the fall of 2000 Tanpure was living in Pune, India. Pune is about 90 miles east of Mumbai. She celebrated a holiday by wearing a nightgown to her work. A man ridiculed her attire, and they got into an argument.
The man was a “peon” — a member of a lower caste in Indian society than Tanpure.
Even though he started the disagreement by criticizing her clothing, the man complained about Tanpure to the police. She was charged with mistreating him under India’s Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCST) Act. The SCST was enacted in 1989 to make India a bias free society by forbidding humiliation and harassments meted to the Dalits (peons or “untouchables”).
After her conviction following a bench (judge only) trial, Tanpure was sentenced to six months imprisonment and payment of a 500 rupee fine (US$10.75).
In late-March 2017 the Bombay High Court set-aside Tanpure’s conviction on the basis there was reasonable doubt of her guilt. In his ruling Justice A. M. Badar harshly criticized the trial judge for “not holding the scale of justice quite evenly.” Badar explained the judge interfered in the case by assuming the role of the prosecutor, and influencing witness testimony favorable to the prosecution. Badar stated: “For these reasons the accused is certainly entitled to the benefit of doubt and allowed the appeal by quashing the order of conviction.”