Throwing away the accused's appeal against their conviction, a bench, comprising justice Markandeya Katju and justice Gyan Sudha Mishra, also observed that it was time to undo the "historical injustice" to tribals.
Questioning why the state did not appeal against the Bombay high court verdict that set the four accused free under the stringent Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the bench said: "The parade of a tribal woman on the village road in broad daylight is shameful, shocking and outrageous."
Stating that the injustice done to tribal people in the country is a shameful chapter in Indian history, the bench censured the judgment which did not convict the accused under the 1989 Act as the victim could not prove her tribal status.
It added: "The dishonour of victim Nandabai called for harsher punishment, and we are surprised the state government did not file any appeal for enhancement of the punishment awarded by the additional sessions judge in February 1998."
The court said: "It is the duty of all people who love our country to see that no harm is done to the ST and that they are given all help to bring them up in economic and social status ..."