The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh and the police for the manner in which they have been dealing with a case in which a teacher in Muzaffarnagar district instructed her students to slap their seven-year-old Muslim classmate.
A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal observed that there is a “prima facie failure” on the part of the UP government in complying with the provisions of the Right to Education Act.
The Act deals with providing quality, free and compulsory education to children up to 14 years without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or gender.
“This is a very serious issue,” Justice Oka said.
Justice added: “Teacher telling students to hit a classmate because they belong to a particular community! Is this quality education? The state must take responsibility of the education of the child. If the allegations are true, this should shock the conscience of the state.”
At Monday’s hearing, the top court asked the UP government to appoint a senior Indian Police Service officer to investigate the matter and submit a report within three weeks.
The top court has “serious objections” about the manner in which a first information report had been filed, said Justice Oka verbally.
The apex court said that the FIR does not have allegations levelled by the father of the child and the transcript of the video.
“If the allegation is correct, this may be the worst kind of physical punishment imparted by a teacher, inasmuch as the teacher directed other students to assault the victim,” the bench said.
While Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, claimed the communal aspect of the case was “being blown out of proportion,” the judges disagreed and reiterated that the matter should not be taken lightly.
“There cannot be any quality education if a student is sought to be penalised only on the ground that he belongs to a particular community,” they said.
The bench directed the Yogi Adityanath government to provide professional counselling to the Muslim boy and other students who were asked to slap him. “The state cannot expect the child to continue in the same school,” the bench added.
The top court made the observations while hearing a public interest litigation filed by Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, seeking a speedy investigation in the case.
In a video widely circulated on social media, a teacher, identified as Tripta Tyagi, can be seen asking the students of Neha Public School in Khubbapur village in Muzaffarnagar to hit the Muslim child. Tyagi also encourages the children to hit the crying student harder while declaring that all Muslims children should be taught a lesson.
The incident led to widespread criticism on social media, with many people calling for the teacher to be arrested. However, the posts were said to have been withheld in the country “in response to a legal demand.”
An FIR was been filed against Tyagi based on the boy’s statement and his father’s complaint, under IPC sections 323 (causing hurt) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace).