Karnataka HC: Sedition charges quashed against Shaheen school for performing anti-CAA skit

The charge of sedition was levied against the school authorities for performing "anti-national activities" and "spreading negative opinion" about parliamentary laws

On June 14, the Kalaburagi Bench of the Karnataka High Court quashed the sedition charges and other charges registered against the management of the private Shaheen School by a right wing leader from Bidar for making satirical comments in a play critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Central government. In the said case, the proceedings initiated against four persons belonging to the management of Shaheen School in Bidar, where the students belonging to classes 4, 5 and 6 had staged a play on the CAA and NRC in the year 2020.

Justice Hemant Chandangoudar quashed the case after hearing Senior Counsel Amit Kumar Deshpande on behalf of Shaheen School Management. Notably, the prosecution initiated against them was under sections 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 505(2) (Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes), 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting, attempting to promote disharmony) and 34 (common intent) of the Indian Penal Code.

A detailed order copy is awaited.

Brief Background of the case:

In January 2020, the students had performed a play on the CAA and NRC, following which an FIR was registered at the Bidar New Town police station based on a complaint by activist Nilesh Rakshala. The charge of sedition was levied against the school authorities for performing “anti-national activities” and “spreading negative opinion” about parliamentary laws.

It was alleged by the complainant that the school used the students to perform a drama whereby Modi was “abused” for introducing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).  The complainant alleged that the play was spreading misinformation by saying that Muslims in India have to leave the country because of NRC. This message was shared on social media to spread misinformation, the complaint said. The complainant said, “The management tried to create ‘fear’ among the Muslims that they would have to leave the country if the CAA and NRC are implemented”.

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 later released by a Sessions Court in February 14, 2020.

Shaheen Group of institutions had contested the allegations and said that the Police were treating the children as “anti-nationals” and visiting the school daily.

On August 17, 2021, the Bangalore Bench of the Karnataka High Court made a statement stating that the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 and children’s rights were violated by the presence of armed police officers while questioning children in connection with the same case.
The current MLA of Mudigere constituency, Nayana Jyothi Jhawar, filed had this current petition in relation to children’s rights. The petition claimed that 85 students, some of whom were as young as nine years old, had to endure police questioning, which had an adverse effect on children’s psychology.

As has been reported by the Hindustan Gazette, Dr. Abdul Qadeer, Chairman Shaheen Group of Institutions, had expressed his belief in the court’s ability to deliver justice. He thanked his advocates, the media, and other friends for their support during challenging times.

Police visiting school and questioning children

The first visit of the police to the school was on January 28, which had garnered widespread criticism for putting the kids through trauma after they were seen investigating children. They had then visited the school on January 31, but this time in plainclothes. Again, in an investigation on February 1, they interrogated 60 students. On February 4, 2020, as had been reported by SabrangIndia, four policemen in plainclothes along with two female members of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) had visited the Shaheen School for the fourth time as part of the investigation in the case of sedition registered against the school authorities for staging a play where some characters allegedly ‘insulted’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The policemen and the members of the CWC were joined by the Deputy Superintendent of Police Basaveshwara Hira, who had then allegedly proceeded to grill seven students, six of whom were not part of the play. The questioning had lasted two hours and some of the students questioned were not part of the play. It was reported that the investigating officers asked the same students that were asked in previous investigations – who gave the students the script, who taught them the dialogues, and where the rehearsal had taken place.

Tauseef Madikeri, CEO of Shaheen Group of Institutions, had said, “I cannot understand why the police are repeatedly subjecting the children of 9 to 12 age group to mental torture. The harassment will affect them in the long run. The police don’t understand if we tell them.” He also said, “This is mental harassment of the students who are 9 or 10 years old and also of the parents. Some students who took part in the play have not turned up at school because of this. Is this because we are a minority institution?”


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