“State’s failure”: SC berates UP govt over Muzaffarnagar child slapping incident | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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“State’s failure”: SC berates UP govt over Muzaffarnagar child slapping incident

Sep 25, 2023 01:41 PM IST

The matter had come to light after a purported video of the incident created an outrage on social media last month, and an FIR came to be lodged against the teacher in Muzaffarnagar on August 25

Castigating the Uttar Pradesh government for a “prima facie failure” to comply with the mandate of the Right To Education (RTE) Act, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the state government to immediately appoint a senior Indian Police Officer (IPS) to monitor the investigation into a case lodged against a woman teacher, who allegedly encouraged her students to slap a classmate and made communal remarks at a private school.

The bench has sought a report from the UP government on the implementation of the RTE Act in relation to the case. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)
The bench has sought a report from the UP government on the implementation of the RTE Act in relation to the case. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)

The matter had come to light after a purported video of the incident created an outrage on social media last month, and a first information report (FIR) came to be lodged against the teacher in Muzaffarnagar on August 25.

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If the allegations are correct, the top court said, it must “shock the conscience of the state government,” adding there was a “direct violation” of the child’s fundamental right to get compulsory and quality education under the RTE Act.

Also Read: SC seeks report from police in Muzaffarnagar child slap incident

“Unless there is an effort made to inculcate importance of constitutional values in students, there cannot be quality education. There cannot be quality education if a student is penalised only on the grounds of his or her religion. Thus, there is a prima facie failure by the state government to comply with the mandates of the RTE Act and the rules framed thereunder,” held a bench of justices AS Oka and Pankaj Mithal.

Seeking report from the UP government on the implementation of the RTE Act in relation to the case, the bench further directed counselling of the victim child as well as of other children who were reportedly asked by the teacher to assault the former.

“The State will place on record a compliance report on the implementation of RTE Act and the rules in relation to the victim of the offence in question. The state will provide better education to the victim child and counselling to all children involved in the incident through expert child psychologists,” directed the bench, fixing the matter for hearing next on October 30.

The IPS officer appointed to oversee the probe, the court ordered, will also present a status report before the next date of hearing after examining the applicability of the penal charges that should be invoked in the case.

“Considering the manner in which the police have taken action and especially the fact that though a case for cognisable offences was made out, only a non-cognisable offence was invoked, it is directed that the investigation shall be overseen by a senior police IPS officer... This is a case not only on a failure to set criminal law in motion but there is also a violation of fundamental rights under Article 21A (RTE),” stated the court in its order.

The court said that if the allegations are correct, “this may be the worst kind of physical harassment by a teacher in as much as the teacher asked other students to assault the victim.”

Responding, the state government submitted in court that it disapproves of communal disharmony and comments by anyone, and that the investigation shall be conducted as per law.

Additional solicitor general KM Nataraj, representing the state, added that “something” has indeed happened and that the authorities will take all the required measures.

But the bench retorted: “It’s not ‘something’. It’s very serious... The manner in which the incident has taken place, if it is true, it should shock the conscience of the state. If this incident is true that a teacher asked students to beat a child saying he belongs to a different religion, what kind of education is being imparted?”

Observing that the “investigation should not be watered down,” the court said that it has “serious objections” to the manner in which the FIR was registered only under non-cognisable and bailable offences against the teacher whereas the complaint by the victim’s father clearly divulged more serious charges.

“We will go deep into it. Let the investigation be monitored by a senior IPS officer who will submit his report before us,” it told the ASG, adding the senior officer shall also ascertain safety of the child and his family.

It further said that the court was not concerned only about the present incident but also about the quality of education being imparted to students in the state of UP, which itself has framed ruled in 2011 to protect children from any casteist or communal remarks, besides ensuring there is no corporal punishment – as mandated by the RTE Act, Juvenile Justice Act and Commission for Protection for Child Rights Act.

“Keep aside this incident for a minute, we are more concerned about the quality of education in your state. Quality education includes sensitive education. Here, a teacher gave a mandate to beat a child because of his religion? What kind of education is being imparted?” it asked.

Advocate Shadan Farasat, appearing for petitioner Tushar Gandhi, argued that the police were required to invoke Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) and a pertinent provision under Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act that deals with situations where an employee entrusted with the care and protection of the child physically abuses him or her. These charges can fetch a maximum jail term of up to five years.

To this, the bench said that the IPS officer appointed by the state government shall examine whether the charges, as claimed by Farasat, were also made out or not.

On September 6, the bench had directed the Superintendent of Police, Muzaffarnagar to file a report on the steps taken to investigate the incident and to indicate what measures have been taken to protect the victim child and his family.

The order was passed on a petition filed by social activist Tushar Gandhi, demanding a time-bound and independent investigation and registration of FIR under all applicable charges.

The teacher, identified as Tripta Tyagi, of Neha Public School in Khubbapur village under Mansoorpur police station of Muzaffarnagar, was seen in a 34-second video, directing her students to slap their fellow Muslim classmate for failing to learn multiplication tables. She also allegedly declared that children of a certain faith whose parents do not pay attention to their children should be taught a lesson. HT cannot verify the authenticity of the video.

In the FIR lodged on August 26 on the complaint of the boy’s father, Tyagi was charged under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Last week, the police also invoked Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act in the FIR against the schoolteacher. Under the provision of the Juvenile Justice Act invoked by the police, a maximum of three years in jail can be awarded.

Speaking to HT on phone earlier, the boy’s father said that his two sons studied in the same school, but he will now send them to some other school, showing his resentment to the teacher’s act.

Gandhi’s petition, filed by advocate Shadan Farasat, stated that the slapping incident involving the seven-year-old make out a charge under Sections 75 and 82 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, as well but the police had failed in invoking them. The two provisions penalises physical abuses and corporal punishment and can fetch a jail term ranging from three months to five years.

The petition also sought preventive and remedial measures within the school systems in relation to violence against children, including those belonging to religious minorities. The episode, it added, may create a sense of fear among students and parents to send their children belonging to marginalised communities to schools,

Following the furore on social media that the disturbing video sparked last month, several leaders including former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, Congress member of Parliament (MP) Shashi Tharoor, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Varun Gandhi and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Jayant Choudhary, denounced the incident on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Meanwhile, Tripta Tyagi also came forward with her statement last month, saying: “I made a mistake by getting the child beaten up by fellow students. I am handicapped and couldn’t get up, so I asked the students to slap the child”.

She also claimed that the video had been tampered with.

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