The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government and the police for the manner in which they have been dealing with a case in which a teacher in Muzaffarnagar district instructed her students to slap their seven-year-old Muslim classmate, Live Law reported.
A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal observed that there is a “prima facie failure” on the part of the state government in complying with the provisions of the Right to Education Act, which deals with providing quality, free and compulsory education to children up to 14 years without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or gender.
“This is a very serious issue,” Justice Oka said. “Teacher telling students to hit a classmate because they belong to a particular community! Is this quality education? The state must take responsibility of the education of the child. If the allegations are true, this should shock the conscience of the state.”
A video of the incident went viral on social media on August 24. It showed Tripta Tyagi, who owns Neha Public School in Khubapur village of Muzaffarnagar, telling the child’s classmates to hit him as she makes derisory remarks about Muslim students.
“Why are you hitting him so lightly?” the teacher can be heard asking one child as the Muslim boy stands crying. “Hit him harder.”
“Hit him on the back,” she tells another student.
At Monday’s hearing, the Supreme Court asked the Uttar Pradesh government to appoint a senior Indian Police Service officer to investigate the matter and submit a report within three weeks.
Justice Oka verbally said that the court has “serious objections” about the manner in which a first information report had been filed.
As the video and news of the incident drew criticism from Opposition parties, political leaders and advocacy groups, the police filed a case against Tyagi on August 26. The charges in the FIR are non-cognisable, meaning that the police cannot arrest the accused person without a warrant. The police also need permission from a court to start an investigation.
The judges said that the FIR does not have allegations levelled by the father of the child and the transcript of the video.
“If the allegation is correct, this may be the worst kind of physical punishment imparted by a teacher, inasmuch as the teacher directed other students to assault the victim,” the bench added.
Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, claimed the communal aspect of the case was “being blown out of proportion”.
But the judges disagreed and reiterated that the matter should not be taken lightly. “There cannot be any quality education if a student is sought to be penalised only on the ground that he belongs to a particular community,” they said, according to Live Law.
The court directed the state government to provide professional counselling to the Muslim boy and other students who were asked to slap him. “The state cannot expect the child to continue in the same school,” the bench added.
The court made the observations while hearing a public interest litigation filed by Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, seeking a speedy investigation in the case.
In his petition, he had claimed that since Tyagi was booked, the student’s family was being pressured to compromise and withdraw the complaint. He had sought guidelines regarding preventive and remedial measures within the education system to prevent violence against children, including those belonging to religious minorities.
The case will be heard next on October 30.