In the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Tushar Gandhi before the Supreme Court concerning the incident in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, where a teacher allegedly instructed students to physically harm a Muslim student, the Court has expressed serious reservations about the handling of the case, particularly with regards to the filing of the First Information Report (FIR) and the quality of education in the State.

A Bench comprising Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal raised concerns about the FIR's contents. They noted that while the complaint filed by the student's father detailed objections and comments made by the teacher regarding specific religions, these allegations were conspicuously absent from the FIR. The Court further questioned the quality of education being imparted and the well-being of the victimized student, inquiring if the student was still attending the school. "We have serious objections about the manner in which FIR has been registered", remarked Justice Oka.

The Court also emphasized that the State should take responsibility for the education of the victimized child and inquired about whether counselling has been provided not only for the victim but also for the students who were instructed by the teacher to assault the victim. The Court found the incident deeply troubling, stating that it should shock the conscience of the State, if the allegations were true.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj submitted that the communal aspect of the incident had been blown out of proportion. However, the judges referred to the transcript, indicating that the transcript suggested otherwise. The Bench insisted that if the teacher had indeed encouraged other students to harm the victim due to their community background, it raised serious questions about the kind of education being imparted. Appearing for the Petitioner, Advocate-on-Record Shadan Farasat pointed out that Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code had not yet been invoked.

Expressing their primary concern about the quality of education and the well-being of the students, the Court in its order stated, "We have perused the status report submitted by the state of Uttar Pradesh. After a significant delay, an FIR has been registered on 6th September 2023, alleging the commission of offences under Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. Apart from Section 75, which is a cognizable offence, Sections 323 and 504 have also been invoked. The submission of the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner is that, in fact, the offence falls under the second proviso to Section 75 of the JJ Act. Additionally, he submits that in view of the complaint made by the father of the victim child, Section 153(A) of the Indian Penal Code will have to be applied. Considering the manner in which the police have taken action, especially the fact that although a cognizable offence was made out, only a non-cognizable case was reported, it is necessary to direct that further investigation be conducted under the supervision of a senior IPS officer appointed by the State government. The state government shall do it within one week from today. The officer so nominated will go into the question of whether subsection 2 of Section 75 is attracted and whether Section 153(A) of the IPC deserves to be invoked. The IPS officer so appointed shall be responsible for submitting a report to this court."

Continuing, the Court stated, "The ASG states that the petitioner cannot capitalize on the fact that he is the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, in a case like this, the state should not be really concerned with the locus of the petitioner, as this is not only a case of failure to set the criminal law in motion but also a case involving the violation of the fundamental right of the victim under Article 21-A of the Constitution of India, as well as a violation of the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. Therefore, this court can always treat the petition as suo motu proceedings."

The Court refrained from discussing the specifics of the allegations since the investigation was ongoing but acknowledged that if the victim's parents' allegations were accurate, it could be the most severe form of physical punishment administered by a teacher, as the teacher had directed other students to assault the victim solely based on their community background. "Thus there is prima facie failure on the part of the State to comply with the mandatory obligation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act", observed the Bench.

The Court noted in the order that the object of the RTE Act is quality education and that "unless there is an effort made to inculcate importance of constitutional values in the students, there cannot be any quality education. There cannot be any quality if a student is sought to be penalised only on the ground that he belongs to a particular community".

The Court directed that the state to "ensure that proper counselling is extended to the victim of the offence through an expert child counsellor. Even the students who are involved in the incident, who allegedly followed the diktats of the teach and assaulted the victim need counselling by expert child counsellor".

The Bench also emphasized that the State must provide appropriate facilities to the victim under the RTE Act and Article 21-A, implying that the victim should not be expected to continue attending the same school. "This means that the state has to make proper arrangements for quality education of victims in terms of the RTE Act. The state cannot expect the child to continue in the same school", noted the Court in the Order.

In the PIL filed by Tushar Gandhi, a social activist and the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, through the Advocate-on-Record Shadan Farasat submitted to the Court that on August 24, 2023, a distressing video surfaced showing a 7-year-old boy being slapped by fellow students at Neha Public School in Muzaffarnagar village, Uttar Pradesh. The PIL stated that this incident occurred under the instruction of their teacher/principal, Ms Tripti Tyagi because the boy made errors in his multiplication tables.

"The teacher was seen on video telling the children to hit their classmate “hard” and saying at one point: “Maine toh declare kar diya, jitne bhi Mohammedan bachche hain, inke wahan chale jao (I have declared – all these Muslim children, go to anyone’s area)…” Then, as one child sits down after hitting the boy, the teacher tells him: “Kya tum maar rahe ho? Zor se maaro na (Why are you hitting him so lightly? Hit him hard)", stated the PIL.

Cause Title: Tushar Gandhi v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. [W.P.(Crl.) No. 406/2023]