PIL in Karnataka HC against police interrogation of minor students of Bidar school over "Anti-CAA" play

PIL in Karnataka HC against police interrogation of minor students of Bidar school over "Anti-CAA" play

Rintu Mariam Biju

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Karnataka High Court to initiate action against the State Police for illegally examining and questioning minor students of Shaheen Education Society in Bidar over a play concerning the controversial CAA Act staged last month.

The petitioners contend,

In blatant violation of Rule of Law and various provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure…and Juvenile Justice Act… [the Respondent-state authorities] have interrogated the students aged merely 9 years to 12 years of Shaheen School in Bidar, creating mental trauma and fear in the children’s state of mind.
PIL petitioner

Inter alia, the Court has been urged to direct the Karnataka Police to examine minors in accordance with the provisions of law.

A play that was staged by the students of classes 4, 5 and 6 on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) marked the genesis of the police interrogation, the PIL notes. Subsequently, the State Police authorities had filed an FIR against the management of the School based on a compliant filed by one Neelesh Rakshyal.

The main allegation against the School administration was that it facilitated the spreading of false information about the newly passed CAA, spread negative opinions about the Parliament's laws among students by performing anti-national activities and contributed to communal tension.

The plea points out that the headmistress Fareeda Begum as well as a parent of a child has been arrested pursuant to the FIR filed in the matter.

The petition further informs that the Police authorities questioned about 85 students studying in classes 4-6, thus creating a very hostile environment for students, affecting their education and mental state of mind. The police questioned the students in uniform and selected students according to their whims and fancies, the petitioners contend. Further, it is highlighted that,

“... the respondent Police questioned the students of Shaheen Education Society and the Administration, Bidar, violating procedure established by law including the provisions of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and Rules 2016 as well as Criminal Procedure Code 1973 and most significantly Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, without any presence of parents or teachers of the students questioning them while being video recorded, without their consent.”

PIL petitioner

Inter alia, the petitioner refers to a statement titled “Mental Harassment to Children By Bidar Police” issued by the Shaheen alumni Association condemning the sequence of events and various media reports over the issue to buttress grievances regarding the illegal and malafide action of the Police officials in interrogating the children.

Further, it is pointed out that the State Child Right Commission had issued a notice to the Police authorities over the reported violation of various child rights during the course of the interrogation. Additionally, the Commission had also written to the Child Welfare Committee regarding the directions issued to the State Police over the incident.

The petitioners further state that they had submitted a representation to the authorities, expressing their objection in the manner in which the students of Shaheen School were interrogated.

In this backdrop, the petitioners pray that the Court directs the Karnataka Police to examine minors in accordance with the provisions of law and further that it initiate action against the delinquent police personnel. The plea also calls for the payment of compensation to the parents or legal guardians to those students who have been illegally examined in the matter.

As for interim relief, it is prayed that the Court issue directions to restrain the Police officials from carrying out any further questioning or interrogation over the issue.

The petitioners in the matter are Advocate Nayana Jyothi Jhawar and the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM). Advocate Basawa Prasad will be representing the petitioners in the matter.

Nayana Jhawar
Nayana Jhawar

It was earlier reported that, on January 21, a play was prepared and presented in the school in Bidar. The play was on CAA and NRC presented by students of Classes 4, 5 and 6. An FIR was registered over the play by police officials at Bidar New Town police station based on a complaint by one Nilesh Rakshala - an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on January 26.

The remand report accused the school and the two women arrested of "trying to spread false information about the CAA and NRC" and of "making minor children state that Prime Minister Narendra Modi must be hit with a chappal [slippers]".

The matter is likely to come up for hearing on February 14. On a related note, on Tuesday a Bidar Court has declined to grant relief to the Headmistress as well as to the parent arrested under sedition charges in Bidar's Shaheen School.

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