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Muzaffarnagar slapping incident: Supreme Court reprimands Uttar Pradesh for not obeying its orders

The Supreme Court has pulled up the State of Uttar Pradesh for showing complete ‘non-compliance’ of its previous order, directing counseling of a Muslim school student, who was slapped by classmates on the instruction of his teacher in Muzaffarnagar in August 2023.

Expressing ‘shock’ over the approach of the state government in the matter, the Bench of Justice A.S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal on Friday summoned a top official of the Education department for failing to get the victim admitted to a private school on the request of his father, based on an earlier order issued by the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on the Uttar Pradesh police over the delay in registration of FIR and the omission of communal allegations in the case related to repeated slapping of a Muslim student by his classmates on the behest of their teacher in Muzaffarnagar.

The Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal, while observing that there was a ‘prima facie failure’ on part of the state government to comply with the mandate of the Right to Education Act, which prohibited physical and mental harassment of students and their discrimination on the basis of religion and caste, directed investigation into the incident by an IPS-rank officer.

Calling it a ‘very serious’ issue, which should ‘shock the conscience of the State’ if proven true, the Apex Court said that a teacher telling students to hit a classmate because they belonged to a particular community, could be described as the worst kind of physical punishment imparted by a teacher. 

Asking whether this could be called quality education, the top court of the country directed the state government to ‘take responsibility’ for the education of the victim child. 

It further expressed its displeasure over the fact that though the complaint filed by the student’s father related to cognisable offences, no First Information Report (FIR) was immediately registered. 

A non-cognizable report was filed initially and the FIR, which was registered after a considerable ‘delay’ on September 6, almost two weeks after the incident, did not mention the allegations made by the victim’s father regarding communal targeting, noted the Apex Court.

Earlier on September 6, the Apex Court had issued notice to the Superintendent of Police, Muzzaffarnagar, directing him to file a report by September 25 regarding the status of FIR in the case.

The same Bench had directed the Muzaffarnagar SP to file a report over the status of FIR registered against Tripti Tyagi, a primary teacher at Neha Public School and also about the steps taken to protect the victim.

The Apex Court passed the order on a writ petition filed by social activist and great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Tushar Gandhi, in the backdrop of an infamous video that went viral across the country, wherein a school teacher purportedly was seen making communal remarks while egging students to repeatedly hit their fellow classmate, a seven-year old boy belonging to the minority community.

Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Shadan Farasat contended that the petition further sought guidelines regarding preventive and remedial measures within the school systems to prevent violence against children, including those belonging to religious minorities.

The teacher said in the video 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 sat down after hitting the boy, the teacher told him, “Kya tum maar rahe ho? Zor se maaro na (Why are you hitting him so lightly? Hit him hard).”

Following the incident, an FIR was registered against school teacher Tripti Tyagi under Section 323 (punishment for causing voluntary hurt); Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

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