A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking to quash the sedition case registered against the management of Bidar’s Shaheen School & the widowed parent of a nine-year-old student for organizing a play against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The petition filed by activist Yogita Bhayana argues that the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression, which includes the right to express oneself in the form of conducting a play. It contends that imposing sedition charges for organizing a play, (which criticizes a law) shall be antithetical to Article 21 of the Constitution.
“Issue an order directing the Centre to constitute a committee to scrutinise complaints under Section 124A IPC [Indian Penal Code] and adhere to judgements by the apex court before registering the FIR [first information report] under the Section 124A IPC,” the petition said. Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code deals with sedition.
Nazbunnisa, the mother of Ayesha, a 9-year-old female student, and Fareeda Begum, the head-teacher of Shaheen School in Bidar, was arrested on January 30 on charges of sedition for staging an anti-CAA play in the school. The Police had filed an FIR against them after Neelesh Rakshyal, member of the far-right Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), had filed a complaint on January 26.
The Karnataka Police has come under heavy criticism for their aggressive action of arresting a widowed mother and the teacher for staging a play and the way, it conducted itself by interrogating little children.
Students as young as nine years old were repeatedly interrogated by the police for participating in the play. The interrogation of minor children only stopped after the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights slammed the Bidar district police for violating rules and for creating “atmosphere of fear” at the school.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in the Karnataka High Court seeking action against the Bidar police, states that about 85 students studying in classes 4-6, were repeatedly questioned, “thus creating a very hostile environment for students, affecting their education and mental state of mind”. “The police questioned the students in uniform and selected students according to their whims and fancies.”