Karnataka HC Quashes Proceedings Against Bidar School for Play on CAA-NRC

The case caused outrage after the Bidar town police "interrogated" around 85 students, all of them minors. The management of the school was accused of sedition and promoting enmity for staging the play, which was performed at a time the country saw widespread protests against the controversial CAA.

New Delhi: The Karnataka high court on Wednesday, June 14, quashed the proceedings initiated against a school in Bidar for a play staged by students of Classes 4, 5 and 6 on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in January 2020.

According to LiveLaw, the single-judge bench of Justice Hemant Chandangoudar allowed the petitions challenging the proceedings and quashed the prosecution that was initiated against four members of the management of Shaheen School in Bidar. The case was registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including sedition, promoting enmity and incitement.

Senior advocate Ameet Kumar Deshpande appeared for the petitioners before the Kalaburagi bench of the high court and confirmed to LiveLaw that the proceedings were quashed. A detailed order is not yet available, according to the report.

Speaking to the media, Abdul Qadeer – the chairman of Shaheen Group of Institutions – said their faith in the court’s ability to deliver justice had been vindicated. He thanked the lawyers who represented the school management and well-wishers who stood by it.

In January 2020, when there were protests against the CAA and NRC in many parts of the country, some students of Shaheen School also participated in a play that was against the law. But acting on a complaint filed by ABVP member Nilesh Rakshala, the Bidar New Town police registered a first information report (FIR) against the school for performing “anti-national activities” and “spreading negative opinion” about parliamentary laws.

The police reportedly “questioned” more than 85 students, all of them minors, about the play. Concerns were raised about the police’s behaviour was creating “a very hostile environment for students, affecting their education and mental state of mind”.

The “interrogation” of students stopped only after the police were rapped by the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Nazbunnissa, the mother of a student who performed dialogues about Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the play, and Fareeda Begum, the primary section’s principal, were arrested by the police on January 30. They were granted bail about two weeks later. During this time, Nazbunnissa’s daughter had to live with relatives because she is a single parent.

The district and sessions court in Bidar ruled in March 2020 that the contents of the play did not amount to sedition while granting anticipatory bail to five people who were part of the school’s management. “In the country, there are rallies and protests for and against CAA, NRC and, as a citizen, everybody has the right to express disapprobation of the measures of the government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means. The dialogues were expressed during the course of enacting a play in the school,” the judge said.

In May 2022, the Supreme Court put the sedition law in abeyance, barring governments from registering new cases and investigating old ones while the colonial era law is under review. While the Union government had at the time submitted an affidavit to the top court saying that the law is “not in line with the current social milieu”, the Law Commission recently suggested that the law should be retained and be made more stringent.