The Karnataka High Court has observed that using abusive words against the prime minister is derogatory and irresponsible, but does not constitute sedition, PTI reported on Friday.
A single bench of Justice Hemant Chandangoudar made the observation while quashing a first information report against officials of the Shaheen School in Bidar, where a play had been staged in 2020 by students of Classes 4, 5, and 6 against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities, excluding Muslims, from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.
Protestors against the Act have expressed fears that it could be used with the National Register of Citizens to harass and disenfranchise Indian Muslims. The law, however, is yet to be implemented as the rules under the Citizenship Amendment Act have not been framed.
The FIR against the school officials in Bidar was filed on the basis of a complaint filed by Nilesh Rakshala, an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Rakshala alleged that besides criticising the laws, the play insulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and was posted on social media to create religious enmity.
“The utterance of the abusive words that the prime minister should be hit with footwear is not only derogatory but is irresponsible,” the court said in its judgement. “The constructive criticism of the government policy is permissible, but the Constitutional functionaries cannot be insulted for having taken a policy decision for which a certain section of the people may have an objection.”
Regarding the play, Justice Chandangoudar said that it was enacted within the premises of the school and came to public knowledge only when one of the school officials uploaded it on his social media account, reported PTI.
“Hence, at no stretch of the imagination, it can be said that the petitioners herein enacted the play with an intention to incite people to resort to violence against the government or with the intention of creating public disorder,” he said in the order.
The court further said that schools should not indulge in teaching children to criticize the policies of the government or insult constitutional functionaries for taking particular policy decisions that are not related to education, reported Live Law.
“The school is supposed to impart education and encourage learning among young minds,” Justice Chandangoudar said. “...They [students] should be fed with knowledge, technology, etc, which benefits them in their upcoming curriculum of the academic period.”