NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to depute a senior IPS officer to monitor the probe into the incident related to slapping of a Muslim boy by fellow students at the instance of a teacher in a private school for wrong multiplication tables.
A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Pankaj Mithal found prima facie failure on the part of the State government to comply with the mandate of the Right to Education Act and the rules which prohibited physical and mental harassment of students and their discrimination on the basis of religion and caste.
"This is about quality education, which includes sensitive education. The manner in which it has happened should shake conscience of the State. This may be the worst kind of physical punishment," the bench said.
The court also took an exception to long delay in lodging the FIR and rejected a contention that the plea filed by Tushar Gandhi can't be entertained because he is great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
"We can always make this suo motu as there was direct contravention of Article 21A (Right to Education) of the Constitution," the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj said a communal angle was blown out of proportion.
"It is something very serious. Teacher gave mandate to beat child because of his religion? What kind of education being imparted," the bench asked.
The court directed for appointing a senior officer to monitor the probe.
"Let probe be monitored by senior IPS officer. When will chargesheet be filed? What protection will be given to witnesses and child? We want to know. Counselling has to be professional," the bench asked Nataraj, posing a series of questions.
The court also took serious objections to the way the FIR was filed in the case.
"The father had made a statement saying allegations were made and he was beaten due to religion. But this is not mentioned in FIR," the bench asked.
The bench further said in fact in a case like this, the State should not be concerned with the locus of the petitioner as this is a case where the criminal law process was not set in motion and there was violation of fundamental rights and the Right to Education Act.
It also noted after a long delay, the FIR was registered on September 6 2023 alleging commission of offences under Section 75 of Juvenile Justice Act 2015, and Sections 323 and 503 of IPC.
Advocate Shadan Farasat for the petitioner contended the offences under Sections 75(2) of JJ Act and 153A of IPC were also involved.
The court said the IPS officer, appointed to monitor the probe, should submit a report.
Having noted that there have been violations of UP (RTE) Rules, the bench said, "As the investigation is pending, we are not highlighting the precise nature of the allegations, however, we must note that the teacher whole criticising the kid for his performance suggested the other students to assault the students because the victim belongs to a particular community."
"We may note that there is a complete bar on physical and mental harassment of children. If parents are also made to bear the brunt then it is the worst form, since here teacher directed other students also. There cannot be any quality education if a student is sought to be penalised only on the grounds that he belongs to a particular community. There is a prima facie failure of the State to comply with mandate of RTE Act and Rules," the bench said.
The bench directed the state government to ensure that proper counselling is extended to the victim by a professional counsellor. "Even to the students who were dictated to take part in the action. The state will immediately do the needful.
Seeking a compliance report from the state government, the court also said the state will have to answer the important question as to what facilities it will extend to the victim of the offence under the RTE Act for his quality education as per the Act. The State cannot expect the child to continue in the same school, it said.
The court posted the matter for further hearing on October 30.
The plea by Gandhi sought independent and time bound probe into the "disturbing video" of August 24, 2023, purportedly showing the boy of being slapped by fellow students in Neha Public School in Muzaffarnagar village at instructions of their teacher/ principal, Tripti Tyagi because he got his multiplication tables wrong.