The Karnataka High Court on Friday directed the police to take disciplinary action against the officers who had allegedly violated the Juvenile Justice Act while questioning school students in connection with a sedition case, reported Live Law.
In 2020, the students belonging to a school in Karnataka’s Bidar district were questioned about a play that took a critical look at the Citizenship Amendment Act. The law grants citizenship to persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, provided they have resided in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014, but explicitly excludes Muslims.
Videos of the incidents showed police officers dressed in their uniforms and a few of them carrying firearms during the questioning.
The police had alleged that the content of the play staged at the school in January 2020 was inflammatory and its participants – students of classes 4, 5 and 6 – had insulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They had arrested a teacher at the school and the mother of a student who performed in the play. They were granted bail in February 2020.
The Karnataka High Court took up the matter after a petition was filed before it arguing that the police allegedly violated the law by questioning the students in the absence of their teachers or parents. The petitioners – a lawyer and a human rights group – had said that questioning in a hostile environment had impacted the children’s mental wellbeing.
On August 16, the Karnataka High Court said the questioning of the students by police officers in uniforms was a “serious violation” of child rights and the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. The court ordered the Karnataka government to file an affidavit about what actions it has taken against the police officers who questioned the children.
On Friday, Bidar Superintendent of Police Nagesh DL filed the affidavit before the High Court. In the affidavit, Nagesh said that he has sent a report to the director-general and inspector-general of police recommending disciplinary action against the police officers concerned.
The affidavit said that it was the responsibility of the investigating officer in the case to ensure strict compliance with the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016.
The affidavit also said that the investigating officer was not in police uniform but his subordinates were in their official dress. The High Court had taken note of a photograph of the police questioning during the last hearing.
“I state that when I orally inquired, it was informed that they [the subordinates] have not interacted with any of the children and they have entered the hall only for the purpose of assisting the investigation officer,” the affidavit read.
During the hearing, the government’s counsel said that the petition an be closed as the director-general and inspector-general of police will take steps to initiate a departmental inquiry. The High Court, however, said that it will keep the petition pending and monitor the case.
Senior Advocate Ravi Varma Kumar, representing the petitioners, pointed out that the High Court had asked the state government in its order on August 16 to issue a direction to the police to ensure that such violation of rights of children do not take place again. Kumar said that the affidavit does not mention anything on this aspect.
The state’s counsel then told the High Court that the government will comply with the bench’s directions. The High Court gave the state government four weeks to comply with the order.
“[The] State government shall also file a fresh affidavit in respect of the stage of the proposed department inquiry,” it added.
The matter will now be taken up on October 21.