The Supreme Court today issued notice and sought a response from the Superintendent of Police in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, regarding a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a time-bound and independent investigation into the case involving a teacher who allegedly instructed fellow students to slap a Muslim student. The PIL also sought the formulation of guidelines aimed at preventing and addressing violence against students from religious minority backgrounds.

The Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal directed the SP to produce the Action-Taken Report and apprise the Court of the measures implemented to safeguard the child victim. The Bench concurrently issued notices to the Central government, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination.

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.

Gandhi submits that this issue of national importance goes on to the very root of a civilized and pluralistic society, i.e., ensuring peace and harmony between members of different religious groups in the country, including in the school systems. The Petition seeks directions for a time-bound and independent investigation including registration of FIR and prescription of preventive and remedial measures within the school systems in relation to violence against children, including those belonging to religious minorities.

Gandhi states that an FIR has been registered against the school teacher under sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 504 while registration of FIR should be in respect of all provisions where prima facie commission of offences is made out, specifically Section 82 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Petitioner further highlights that the State law enforcement agencies have failed to prevent and remedy mob violence that took place in Neha Public School and is in breach of the guidelines laid down by this Hon’ble Court in Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs Union of India, (2018) 9 SCC 501, that inter-alia requires the police to ensure that there is no further harassment of the family members of the victims, upon the FIR being lodged. However, the members of the child’s family have stated that they are being forced to make a “compromise” and withdraw the FIR.

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