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Karnataka High Court: Using abusive words against the Prime Minister certainly ‘derogatory’ but not seditious

Abusive words against PM Modi derogatory, not seditious: Karnataka High Court

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The Karnataka High Court has observed that using abusive words against Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not sedition. The observation was made while quashing a case of sedition against a school management. It is derogatory and irresponsible but it does not constitute sedition, the high court said.

Justice Hemant Chandangoudar at the Kalburgi bench of the Karnataka High Court quashed an FIR filed by the New Town Police Station, Bidar, against Allauddin, Abdul Khaleq, Mohammed Bilal Inamdar and Mohammed Mehatab, all management persons of the Shaheen School in Bidar. The FIR was lodged against them after a play in which children enacting roles had made alleged derogatory remarks against the prime minister.

The court said that the ingredients of Section 153(A) (causing disharmony between religious groups) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) are not found in the case.

“The utterance of the abusive words that the Prime Minister should be hit with footwear is not only derogatory, but is irresponsible. The constructive criticism of the government policy is permissible, but the Constitutional functionaries cannot be insulted for having taken a policy decision, for which, certain section of the people may have objection,” Justice Chandangoudar said in his judgment.

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Though it was alleged that the play enacted by the children criticised the various enactments of the government and “if such enactments are enforced, the Muslims may have to leave the country,” the HC noted that “the play was enacted within the school premises. There are no words uttered by the children inciting people to resort to violence or to create public disorder”.

The high court said that the play came to public knowledge when one of the accused uploaded the play on his social media account.

“Hence, at no stretch of imagination it can be said that the petitioners herein enacted the play with an intention to incite people to resort to violence against the government or with the intention of creating public disorder,” it observed.

Therefore, the court said that “the registration of the FIR for the offence under Section 124A (Sedition) and Section 505(2) in the absence of essential ingredients is impermissible”.

The sedition FIR was filed against the school authorities following the performance of a play against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizenship by students of Classes 4, 5 and 6 on January 21, 2020.

The four persons were charged under Sections 504 (insulting someone intentionally), 505(2), 124A (sedition), 153A read with Section 34 of the IPC, following a complaint by Nilesh Rakshala, an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad activist.

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The high court had initially dictated the operative portion of the order, and the full judgment was uploaded recently on June 14.

The high court, in its judgment, also had an advice for schools to keep children away from criticising governments.

“Dramatisation of the topics which are appealing and creative in developing a child’s interest in academics is preferable, and hovering over current political issues imprints or corrupts young minds,” the court said.

The children should be fed with knowledge, technology, etc., which benefits them in their upcoming curriculum of academic period, the court added.

“Therefore, the schools have to channelise the river of knowledge towards children for their welfare and betterment of society and not indulge in teaching the children to criticise the policies of the government, and also insult the Constitutional functionaries for having taken particular policy decision which is not within the framework of imparting education,” the judgment said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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