Police interrogation of children over anti-CAA was violation of JJ act: Karnataka HC

The Karnataka High Court on Monday made a prima facie observation that the presence of policemen in their uniforms, carrying weapons, while interrogating children with regard to the sedition case on staging of an anti-CAA drama at Shaheen Education Society in Bidar last year, was a serious violation of the provisions under the Juvenile Justice(Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice N S Sanjay Gowda said, “Prima facie this is a serious case of violation of Rights of the Children and provisions of 86 (5) of JJ Act 2016. “

Section 86 on constitution of a Special Juvenile Police Unit for Children in its Sub-Rule 5 states that, “The police officer interacting with children shall be as far as possible in plain clothes and not in uniform and for dealing with girl child, woman police personnel shall be engaged.”

The court thus went on to add,

“We direct the state government to respond by filing an affidavit of a very senior officer stating on record what action has been initiated against the police officers who interrogated school children, while wearing uniform and carrying firearms. Apart from placing the action taken report the state government may consider issuing directions to the police throughout the state which will ensure that such violation of rights of children does not take place again.”

Students of the Shaheen Education Society belonging to classes 4, 5 and 6 had staged a play on the CAA and NRC, last year. Following that, an FIR was registered at the Bidar New Town police station, for sedition against the school authorities for performing “anti-national activities” and “spreading negative opinion” about Parliamentary laws, based on a complaint by activist Nilesh Rakshala. Pursuant to the FIR, the Headmistress of the school, as well as a parent of a child, were arrested. They were later released on bail.

The entire episode of police excesses as was reported by the media and can be corroborated with the footage, recorded in the CCTV cameras, installed at the school, the petitioners had submitted.

The court has now directed the Director General Inspector General of Police to nominate an senior officer to file an affidavit in two weeks time.