K. Crenshaw has been credited for coining the term ‘intersectionality’.

Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a Black woman is harmed because she is in the intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination.”

The model of ‘intersectionality’ was initially developed to highlight the experiences of African-American women. There is a growing recognition, an intersectional lens is useful for addressing the specific set of lived experiences of those individuals who have faced violence and discrimination on multiple grounds. An intersectional analysis requires us to consider the distinct experience of a sub-set of women who exist at an intersection of varied identities.

The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 amended Section 3(2)(v) of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The amendment would not be applicable to the case at hand.

The key words in Section 3(2)(v) are, as it stood at the material time, “on the ground that such person is a member of a SC or ST.” The expression “on the ground” means “for the reason” or “on the basis of”. The contours of the terms “on the ground of” have been explicated in Khuman Singh v. State of MP, Criminal Appeal No. 1283 of 2019 and Ashrafi v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2018) 1 SCC 742 to mean, “only on the ground that the victim was a member of the Scheduled Caste.” To read the provision in that manner will dilute a statutory provision which is meant to safeguard the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes against acts of violence which pose a threat to their dignity. A true reading of Section 3(2)(v), as it stood earlier, would entail, conviction can be sustained as long as caste identity is one of the grounds for the occurrence of the offence.

The evidence does not establish the offence. Reference to Larger Bench is unnecessary. We keep the debate alive.

Hon’ble Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Patan Jamal Vali v. State of Andhra Pradesh, [Criminal Appeal No. 452 of 2021].