Bidar court says school play not seditious, what does it imply?

The court made this observation while granting anticipatory bail in the case and also dismissed other offences laid out in the case

bidar school drama

The District Court of Bidar, Karnataka made a fundamental observation while granting anticipatory bail in the Bidar school sedition case. The court made a prima facie observation that ingredients of section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deals with the offence of sedition, are not made out in this case. The court also observed that the drama has not caused any disharmony in the society. The petition for anticipatory bail was filed by the President of Shaheen Group of Institutions, Abdul Qadeer apprehending arrest in the case.

About the case

The said case has been in the spotlight due to arbitrary charge of sedition as well as due to the interrogation carried out by the police of the young school children for over 5 days.

The play was enacted in the school on January 21 and the complaint was lodged on January 26 for offences punishable under following sections of IPC: Sections 504 [Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace], 505(2) [Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes], 124A [sedition], 153A [Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony]. The complaint had stated that Shaheen Educational Institution attempted to bring disharmony between two communities and have given a wrong message to society through the drama and have tried to oppose the Laws intended to be brought in force.

Shortly after the complaint, the school’s Principal, Fareeda Begum and Nazbunnisa, mother of one of the children who took part in the play were arrested and were eventually granted bail in February.

The court observed that the dialogue in the play where the children have expressed that they will have to leave the country if they do not produce the documents does not amount to bringing about hatred or contempt or even to “excite disaffection towards government”. The court also observed that “everybody has got the right to express disapprobation of the measures of the government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means”. These are words from the IPC itself which explain what the offence of sedition entails. The court concluded that the school play while “expressing disapprobation of the meas­ures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means” did not “excite or attempt to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection” towards the government and hence it did not amount to sedition.

Sedition law in India

The law on sedition has been a controversial one mostly inviting criticism for its misuse in the judicial system. The law inherited from the British colonizers of India has been notoriously exploited for muzzling dissenting voices against the ruling government, more so in the BJP era which began in 2014. Clearly, the intention of the colonizers was to stifle opposition against their government and to curb the attempts of freedom fighters to mobilize the masses against them. The popular view is that a law like sedition has no place in a democracy as one of the fundamental foundations of a democracy is freedom of speech and expression which the law of sedition straightaway curtails.

Other criticisms of the law are that the words used in the explanation of the offence in the IPC is very vague and hence, subject to misuse by the State. The sedition law can also be termed to be antithetical to the underlying principles of a democracy, specially a democracy like India which has been thriving for more than 70 years now. Even the Law Commission of India has, in 2018, recommended that sedition be done away with or at least be revised to align it with our democratic principles.

The central legislature has, however, not paid heed to such prevailing criticisms and hence a controversial offence like sedition remains open to misuse, giving unbridled powers to the State to curtail dissent. Despite of the fact that the United Kingdom has done away with the offence of “seditious libel”, Indian legislature shows no intentions of doing the needful.

The Court’s observations

The Bidar district court took in consideration the argument of the petitioner that “every citizen of the country has right to submit his view whenever a new Act is proposed to be brought in force and opposing an enactment itself cannot be termed as sedition”. The Court concluded that although the school play had derogatory words of using chappal against Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi, if read as a whole, sedition is not made out against the government.

The Court also disregarded that the case makes out the other offences such as inciting enmity since the play does not mention any other religion and hence question of disharmony between two religions does not arise. The court further said that since the person being insulted, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is not the complainant, no offence can be made out under section 504 of IPC.

Bidar Superintendent of Police Nagesh D L told The New Indian Express that the judge’s observations were in respect of the order granting anticipatory bail; it will not be part of the ongoing trial against the staff, the parent and the management members of Shaheen Urdu Medium School.

The Court’s observations, even if they can be seen as being fundamental to the current political scenario, effectively, is only a passing comment which will tend to have very little impact during the trial of the case, depending on the bench that will hold the trial of the case. Even though, this observation can be depended upon, it is far-fetched to say that the accused will not be convicted for sedition, it can, although, be said there is still hope in the judicial system interpreting draconian laws in a way that does not hamper democratic principles.

The court’s order may be read here:



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