16 Aug 2021 9:00 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court on Monday made a prima facie observation that the presence of policemen in their uniforms, carrying weapons, while interrogating children with regard to the sedition case on staging of an anti-CAA drama at Shaheen Education Society in Bidar last year, was a serious violation of the provisions under the Juvenile Justice(Care and Protection of Children) Act,...
The Karnataka High Court on Monday made a prima facie observation that the presence of policemen in their uniforms, carrying weapons, while interrogating children with regard to the sedition case on staging of an anti-CAA drama at Shaheen Education Society in Bidar last year, was a serious violation of the provisions under the Juvenile Justice(Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice N S Sanjay Gowda said,
"We have perused affidavit filed by Deputy Superintendent, Basaveshwar of March 16. In the affidavit he has not dealt with photographs attached to rejoinder, he has dealt with photographs annexed in IA 1, 2020. The second photograph of April 1, 2020, shows that these school children (2 boys, 1 girl) are being interrogated by five police officers out of which four are in full uniform and at least two of them are carrying firearms. In the affidavit Shri Basaveshwar has accepted the correctness of the photographs annexed to the IA. By not denying the photographs annexed to rejoinder, it is apparent that he has accepted the correctness of the photographs."
The bench added "Prima facie this is a serious case of violation of Rights of the Children and provisions of 86 (5) of JJ Act 2016. "
Section 86 on constitution of a Special Juvenile Police Unit for Children in its Sub-Rule 5 states that, "The police officer interacting with children shall be as far as possible in plain clothes and not in uniform and for dealing with girl child, woman police personnel shall be engaged."
The court thus went on to add,
"We direct the state government to respond by filing an affidavit of a very senior officer stating on record what action has been initiated against the police officers who interrogated school children, while wearing uniform and carrying firearms. Apart from placing the action taken report the state government may consider issuing directions to the police throughout the state which will ensure that such violation of rights of children does not take place again."
During the hearing, the bench orally said "If we condone this action, this will be repeated. We cannot condone such action at all."
The Bench added "Why children are subjected to all this? This has to be corrected, this can't go on like this."
The observations were made while hearing a petition filed by Lawyer Nayana Jyothi Jhawar and South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring which 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, the petition had averred.
Students of the Shaheen Education Society belonging to classes 4, 5 and 6 had staged a play on the CAA and NRC, last year. 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, the Headmistress of the school, as well as a parent of a child, were arrested. They were later released on bail.
The plea states that the police action was in blatant violation of the Rule of Law and various provisions of the CrPC, Juvenile Justice Act and the Constitutional norms.
"...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," the plea reads.
The plea urged the issuance Guidelines with respect to examination of minors in criminal proceedings, in line with the Guidelines on Justice in Matters Involving Child Victims and Witness of Crime, issued by the UN in 2005. It has also sought payment of compensation to the guardians of the students who were illegally examined.
The entire episode of police excesses as was reported by the media and can be corroborated with the footage, recorded in the CCTV cameras, installed at the school, the petitioners had submitted.
The court has now directed the Director General Inspector General of Police to nominate an senior officer to file an affidavit in two weeks time.
Moreover, the officer should be higher in rank than Shri Basaveshwar, the Deputy Superintendent.
The matter will be next heard on September 3.
Case Title: Nayana Jyothi Jhawar v. State of Karnataka
Case No: WP 3485/2020
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