6 July 2023 4:03 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court last month quashing the proceedings initiated under Section 124-A (Sedition) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against four persons belonging to the management of Shaheen School in Bidar, said, “A citizen has a right to criticize or comment upon the measures undertaken by the Government and its functionaries, so long as he does not incite people to resort to...
The Karnataka High Court last month quashing the proceedings initiated under Section 124-A (Sedition) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against four persons belonging to the management of Shaheen School in Bidar, said,
“A citizen has a right to criticize or comment upon the measures undertaken by the Government and its functionaries, so long as he does not incite people to resort to violence against the Government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.”
A single judge bench of Justice Hemant Chandangoudar said “It is only when the words or expressions have pernicious tendency or intention of creating public disorder or disturbance of law and order that Section 124-A can be invoked. In other words, to constitute the offence punishable under Section 124-A of IPC, there must be an attempt to bring hatred or contempt, or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India by inciting people to resort to violence and creating public disorder."
The court had allowed the petition filed by Allauddin & others and quashed the prosecution initiated against them under sections 504, 505 (2), 124A, 153A read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The prosecution was initiated after students of the school had staged a play on the CAA and NRC, in 2020. Following that, an FIR was registered at the Bidar New Town police station, for sedition against the school authorities for performing "anti-national activities" and "spreading negative opinion" about Parliamentary laws, based on a complaint by activist Nilesh Rakshala.
Pursuant to the FIR, Fareeda Begum, headmistress of Shaheen Primary and High School and Nazbunnissa the mother of a girl student who had uttered a dialogue, which was treated by the police as insulting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were arrested on January 30, 2020. They were released on bail later.
The bench referred to Supreme Court judgments in the case of Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar (1962) and Vinod Dua v. Union of India, (2021) and said, “The play/drama was enacted within the school premises. There are no words uttered by the children inciting people to resort to violence or to create public disorder. The play enacted by the petitioners was also not within the knowledge of the general public at large and it was made known to the public at large only when the other accused uploaded the play on his Facebook account.”
It added “Hence, at no stretch of imagination it can be said that the petitioners herein enacted the play with an intention to incite people to resort to violence against the government or with an intention of creating public disorder.”
Following which it held “In my considered view, the registration of the FIR for the offence under Section 124-A and Section 505(2) in the absence of essential ingredients is impermissible.”
Regarding the allegation that children were made to utter words abusing the Prime Minister of the country, the bench opined,
“The utterance of the abusive words that the Prime Minister should be hit with footwear is not only derogatory, but is irresponsible. The constructive criticism of the government policy is permissible, but the constitutional functionaries cannot be insulted for having taken a policy decision, for which, certain section of the people may have objection.”
Dealing with the application of Section 153A, the bench said to constitute an offence punishable under Section 153A of IPC, there must be an intention to promote enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial for maintenance of harmony.
In the instant case, it held, there is no allegation that the accused herein either promoted enmity or hatred towards another religious community.
Before parting the bench expressed “The school is supposed to impart education and encourage learning among young minds. The school is the foremost fountain of knowledge children are exposed to and it gives them an opportunity to acquire knowledge on various fields of education and this contributes to cultivation in the thought process. Dramatization of the topics which are appealing and creative in developing a child's interest in academics is preferable, and hovering over current political issues imprints or corrupts young minds.”
Further it said “They (children) should be fed with knowledge, technology, etc, which benefits them in their upcoming curriculum of academic period. Therefore the schools have to channelize the river of knowledge towards children for their welfare and betterment of society and not indulge in teaching the children to criticize the policies of the government, and also insult the constitutional functionaries for having taken particular policy decisions which is not within the framework of imparting education.”
Accordingly it allowed the petition and quashed the offences.
Case Title: Allauddin & Others And State of Karnataka & ANR
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 221
Case No: CRL.P 200126/2020
Date of Order: 14-06-2023
Appearance: Senior Advocate Ameet Kumar Deshpande for Advocate Ganesh S Kalburagi for Petitioners.
HCGP Gururaj V Hasilkar For R1.
Advocate Sachin M Mahajan for R2.
Click Here To Read/Download Order