The Karnataka High Court on Monday directed the investigating officer probing the sedition case in respect of anti-CAA play staged in Shaheen Education Society in Bidar to file a personal affidavit in response to photographs produced before the court showing presence of policemen in uniform while interrogating the students.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Ashok S Kinagi orally remarked "Photographs show police in uniform. There are four people in uniform."
Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi replied " As per the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, police officer interacting with children, has to be not in uniform. The police officer who counselled the children, was in civil dress. We have mentioned in our statement of objection, about the videographer being in uniform and how he was told to change it. The petitioners are making mountain of this mole hill."
The court has directed the petitioners to supply coloured pictures produced to the state.
The bench said " Ultimately we are dealing with children, the law makers ensured that there should be no police officer in uniform around children."
To which Navadgi said " We will have a look at the pictures."
The petitioner, Nayana Jyothi Jhawar and South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring stated that about 85 children, some as young as 9 years of age, were subjected to police interrogation. This made the environment very hostile and affected the children' mental psychology.
This contention is further supported after four parents of students of the school who were counselled wrote letters to the Chief Justice describing how their consent was not taken by the police before questioning the children.
A letter written by a parent Azmath Gouhar, reads "I would like to inform your honourable self that my child is terrified in the manner in which the interrogation was carried out. The incident has carried such a traumatic impression on her that she has been refusing to go to school and fears she might go to jail. Further my child fears to be part of any kind of activities in the school."
Advocate General Navadgi claimed the letter to be not correct saying " We have statements given to us by all these persons, saying they have not written the letter." The bench allowed him to file an affidavit replying to the letters produced, on the next date of hearing, March 26.
In the rejoinder to the statement of objection filed by the Bidar police, the petiitoner claimed that "It is false to suggest that the child Protection Officer, Bidar namely Sri Gowrishankar and Special Police Unit, namely St. Jagadevi, were made to enter the visiting room at the school on January 28. When the fact that both the person's were only present for questioning sessions after January 30."
Further the rejoinder states that "Police authorities should have followed established law by counselling the children, in their respective residence in presence of their respective parents. Further, the woman police personnel should have been engaged to carry out counseling of the children."
It adds that " Police personnel were in fact in Police uniform and that one of the old Police officers was carrying a weapon. This again is violative of Rule 86 (6) of the Rules and most importantly violative of the spirit of the Juvenile Justice Care and protection of Children) Act, 2015. Moreover, that once most of the violations of law occurred on 28.01.2020, the attendance an 29.01.2020, was drastically low of the children of class 6. This demonstrates the trauma and fear undergone by the children/students.
The police had arrested school headmistress and a mother of a student who enacted the drama. Subsequently, they have been released on bail after 15 days of custody.
While granting pre-arrest bail to the school manager, the Bidar Sessions Court observed "The drama has not caused any disharmony in the society. Considering all the circumstances, I am of the opinion that the ingredients of Section 124A of IPC (Sedition) are prima facie lacking."
Students of the Shaheen Education Society belonging to classes 4, 5 and 6 had staged a play. Following that an FIR was registered at the Bidar New Town police station against the school authorities on the allegation that the school was indulging in "anti-national activities" and "spreading negative opinion" about Parliamentary laws.
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