Sedition case against Bidar school: Police questioning kids prima facie violated rights, says Karnataka HC

The interrogation of children by armed policemen in uniform at a school in Bidar region of Karnataka last January in a sedition case was prima facie a “serious case of violation of the rights of children” and provisions of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, Karnataka High Court observed on Monday.

The case was filed over a play opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

“Prima facie this is a serious case of violation of the rights of children and provision 86 (5) of JJ Act 2015,” a division bench of the High Court observed in the course of hearing a petition against the questioning of children over the play against CAA, staged in January 2020 at a primary school run by Shaheen Education Society in Bidar.

The court had earlier asked the Karnataka government to report on whether children at the private school were interrogated by uniformed police personnel.

The HC bench pointed to pictures of interrogation of three children from the school by five policemen and stated that rights of the children had been violated during the probe. The validity of the pictures were not denied by Bidar district police in submissions to the court.

The HC sought details of action taken against police personnel who violated child rights and asked the state to issue orders to prevent similar situations from arising in the state.

An advocate, Nayana Jyothi Jwahar, and the South India cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring had filed the writ petition in 2020, stating that children between nine and 12 years were questioned by police in a “hostile environment” in violation of JJ Act and rights of children as enshrined in the Constitution.

The petition has sought compensation for the children, who were randomly selected and questioned by police, and has also sought directives from the High Court to the police on rules of conducting investigations in cases involving children. The petition stated that the police questioned 85 students of Shaheen Primary School in violation of procedure laid down under Juvenile Justice Act and its model rules, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, and Article 21 of the Constitution.

The petition has pointed out that the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has issued notices to Bidar police over the violation of JJ Act.

Following an inquiry into the incident, and the arrest of the widowed mother of a 11-year-old student from the school who had taken part in the skit concerned, the KSCPCR had pulled up Bidar police for violating child rights and norms of Juvenile Justice Act.

KSPCR chairperson Dr Antony Sebastian had sent a letter to Bidar district officials on February 6 last year, with copies marked to the Karnataka DGP, stating that rights of children were violated and an “atmosphere of fear” was created at Shaheen Primary School by the police investigations.

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