Sedition charges dismissed against Shaheen School management

The Kalaburagi division of the Karnataka High Court has dismissed charges of sedition against a school and its management in Bidar. The charges were related to a play that criticized the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizenship (NRC).

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The court’s decision was made by Justice Hemant Chandangounder after a criminal petition was filed.

The case was initiated in 2020 when the Shaheen Primary School staged a play that allegedly portrayed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, CAA, and NRC in a critical manner. The controversy surrounding the case had persisted over the past two years.

Initially, the headmistress of the school, Fareeda Begum, and the mother of one of the students, Anuja Minsa, were arrested based on a complaint filed by local activist Neelesh Rakshyal under sections 124a (sedition) and 504 (intentional insult to provoke) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Rakshyal claimed that the play, which was shared on social media, intended to incite hatred between communities and accused the school management of engaging in anti-national activities by involving the students.

The school authorities defended the play, stating that it depicted the current state of the country during ongoing protests. They also argued that the sedition charges had caused mental harassment.

In February 2020, the chairman of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSPCR), Dr. Antony Sebastian, criticized the fear-inducing environment and the interrogation of children in the case. He highlighted violations of norms, such as sending Minsa’s nine-year-old child to live with a neighbor without informing the local child welfare committee. Dr. Sebastian also objected to the presence of uniformed officers during questioning and the absence of guardians and parents.

In August 2021, the Karnataka High Court noted that the treatment of the children during the interrogation appeared to violate the Juvenile Justice Act and child rights. Photographs showing police personnel with the children were cited as evidence.

Although the sedition charges have been dropped, a comprehensive judgment is still pending.

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