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18 months after photos of uniformed cops questioning kids, police admits violation in Bidar case

Sedition FIR was filed against Shaheen Urdu Primary School in 2020 for a play allegedly critical of CAA and NRC. Police has now admitted violation of Juvenile Justice Act rules during probe in the case.

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Bengaluru: After being pulled up by the Karnataka High Court on 16 August, the Karnataka Police Friday admitted it had violated rules of the Juvenile Justice Act in a sedition case against a school in Bidar. More than 18 months after photos of uniformed policemen interrogating students inside the Shaheen Education Society over an Anti-Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) play emerged, Bidar superintendent of police, Nagesh D.L., filed an affidavit before the High Court that disciplinary action has been recommended against officials who were involved.

“…I felt that the then Investigating Officer ( Dy SP Bidar ) ought to have ensured strict compliance of sub-rule (5) of Rule 86 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules 2016 while interacting with the children during the course of investigation. I further state that the Investigating Officer was in mufti (plain clothes, not in uniform). However, the photographs show that his subordinates, who are seen in the photographs, were in uniform,” the SP stated in his affidavit.

The affidavit added: “I state that when I orally enquired, it was informed that they have not interacted with any of the children and they have entered the hall only for the purpose of assisting the Investigation Officer. I state that it is the responsibility of the IO to ensure that there is strict compliance of sub-rule (5) of Rule 86 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules 2016 and in view of the same and keeping in mind the order dated 16-08-2021 passed by this Hon’ble Court in the above proceedings, I have sent a report dated 31-08-2021 to the Director General and Inspector General of Police, Bengaluru, to take appropriate disciplinary action against the concerned persons.”

In his 12-page submission, a copy of which is with ThePrint, Nagesh D.L. said he was filing a compliance affidavit following the High Court’s directions on 16 August to the state police.

The High Court had on that day observed that “Prima facie, this is a serious case of violation of rights of the children under the provision of Sub Rule 5 of Rule 86 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016. We direct the State Government to respond by filing an affidavit of a senior police officer stating on record what action has been initiated against the police officials who interrogated school children while wearing uniform and carrying weapons.”

“The police had vehemently denied violating due procedure so far. In the previous submissions, the investigating officer had insisted that his team had not erred. The fact that they are now admitting that they have violated rules of Juvenile Justice Act and have recommended disciplinary action is a step in the right direction. This will set a precedent and the police will never repeat such violation,” said Nayana Jhawar, an advocate and Congress leader. It was based on her petition that the court had sought a response from the state police on the incident.

In a writ petition filed on 7 February, 2020, Jhawar’s legal team had stated that about 85 children were subjected to police interrogations on 28 January, 3 February and 4 February, 2020, creating a hostile environment and causing mental and psychological distress to the minors. The petition said that the police had interrogated the children at least on five different occasions.

While the government’s advocates claimed in court Friday that recommendation for a departmental inquiry and disciplinary action had been made to the DG and IGP, advocates for the petitioner also sought the government’s direction to the police that there will not be a repeat of such violations of child rights in the future.

The High Court, while acknowledging that the compliance report has remained silent on the directions to police, has kept the petition pending in order to monitor the implementation and progress of the recommendations to hold a departmental inquiry and disciplinary action. The matter has now been posted for hearing on 21 October, 2020.


Also read: Parliament panel not to push for lowering age limit to 16 years for juveniles in POCSO cases


Sedition charges against school

On 26 January, 2020, Nilesh Rakshala, a member of the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had registered a complaint against Shaheen Urdu Primary School in Bidar’s New Town police station, alleging the performance of an “anti national” play by the students.

In his affidavit filed on Friday, the police superintendent stated, that Rakshala, in his complaint, had alleged that he had received videos of a play enacted by the students on Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), as part of their knowledge activity. The complainant alleged that the skit was critical of the acts enacted by the parliament in 2019.

Based on his complaint, the police filed an FIR of sedition against the school authorities. The complaint came at a time when protests and agitations against the CAA-NRC were taking place across the country.

In March 2020, the Principal District and Sessions Court in Bidar, while granting anticipatory bail to Abdul Qadeer, founder of Shaheen Group of Institutions, in the case, observed that prima facie, the play staged by the students did not amount to sedition under Section 124A of IPC. The school’s headmistress and a parent had been arrested, following the FIR, but were later released on bail.

Meanwhile, in January last year, photos of policemen dressed in uniform, and carrying firearms, while interrogating students in the case, went viral on social media, prompting Jhawar to file a writ petition in court.

On 27 January, 2020 Bidar MP and now MoS New and Renewable Energy, Chemicals & Fertilizers, Bhagwanth Khuba issued a statement asking the state government to “blacklist” the school for performing the play. Khuba backed the sedition charges against parents and teachers of the school as well as the police interrogation of the minor students.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)


Also read: Juvenile Justice Act ‘inadequate’, allows delinquents to commit heinous offences, says MP HC


 

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