Today, The Supreme Court of India has voiced its discontent with the way the Uttar Pradesh Police handled the slapping incident involving a Muzaffarnagar school student. In this case, a primary school teacher disciplined a Muslim boy by instructing fellow students to slap him. The matter was heard by a two-judge bench including Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Abhay S Oka. The bench directed that the matter be investigated by a senior police officer (IPS). It further adjourned the matter for 30 October 2023 and directed the UP government to file a compliance report related to the counseling and better educational facilities given to the victim.
While hearing the matter, the bench observed that “there is prima facie failure on the part of the State” to agree with the mandatory Right to Education Act which prohibits children’s mental and physical harassment and discrimination on grounds of caste and religion. The Supreme Court also observed that certain key allegations were not mentioned in the FIR. Justice Oka said “We take serious objections to the way the FIR was filed. The father had made a statement saying allegations were made and he was beaten due to religion. But this is not mentioned in the FIR. Next is, where is the video transcript? This is about quality education. Quality education includes sensitive education. The manner in which it has happened should shake the conscience of the State.”
Further, the Additional Solicitor General appearing for the UP government, KM Nataraj, told the Supreme Court bench that “There was a communal angle blown out of proportion. Something is there.” Hearing this, Justice Oka said, “Not just something, it is very serious. The teacher gave mandate to beat the child because of his religion. What kind of education is being imparted?” Furthermore, the Advocate appearing for the petitioner, Shadan Farasat, pointed out that the FIR does not include the offence related to the promotion of communal hatred under Section 153A IPC.
The Court ordered, “After a long delay, an FIR has been registered on September 6, 2023, alleging commission of offences under Section 75 of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, and Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 503 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC have been invoked. Petitioner contends offence is also of 75(2) of JJ Act and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the IPC. The probe shall be supervised by a senior police officer nominated by the State government to look into whether these two offences deserve to be invoked. The IPS officer so invited shall submit a report to this court.” The PIL addressed today was filed by social activist Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. The petitioner asked for an independent probe into the matter as well as remedial actions to tackle violence against children. He also called for the authorities asking them “to take all consequent actions, including arrest of the school teacher.”
During the court proceedings today, the bench also addressed the necessity to comply with the RTE Act. It said, “We may note that there is a complete bar on physical and mental harassment of children (under the Act). If parents are also made to bear the brunt, then it is the worst form, since here teachers direct other students also. There cannot be any quality education if a student is sought to be penalized only on the grounds that he belongs to a particular community.” The Supreme Court also pointed out that “The State will have to answer the important question as to what facilities it will extend to the victim of the offence under the RTE Act for his quality education as per the Act. The State cannot expect the child to continue in the same school.”
The incident took place at a private school in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh where a private school teacher, Tripta Tyagi, instructed the students to physically assault a seven-year-old Muslim student. The same was done to punish him for his poor performance in multiplication tables. The video went viral last month where Teacher Tyagi is heard making offensive remarks, ‘Mohammedan Children’. The matter was then heard today by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court where the bench listed the matter for hearing on October 30, 2023.