Muzaffarnagar-In a significant development, the Supreme Court of India, raised critical questions concerning the handling of the First Information Report (FIR) in a case involving the assault of a Muslim student in Muzaffarnagar. The incident, which took place in August, gained widespread attention after a video of the assault went viral.
The FIR was filed on September 6, nearly two weeks after the incident and did not include the alleged “objectionable comments against a particular religion” that the teacher made, as per the boy’s father. The judge also questioned the absence of the transcript of the video in the FIR.
A bench comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal expressed serious concerns about the omission of a communal angle in the FIR, during a hearing held on Monday. Justice Oka remarked, "We have serious objection to the manner in which FIR is registered." He noted that the initial complaint by the student's father had alleged objectionable comments against a particular religion by the teacher. These allegations were also present in a non-cognizable report. However, they were conspicuously absent in the FIR.
Furthermore, the judges questioned the absence of the video transcript in the FIR, which had played a crucial role in shaping their perspective on the case. In response to these concerns, the bench ordered that a senior police officer with an IPS ranking oversee the investigation to ensure impartiality and thoroughness.
The Court also highlighted what it referred to as a "prima facie failure on the part of the State" to uphold the provisions of the Right to Education Act. This Act prohibits both physical and mental harassment of students and any form of discrimination based on religion and caste. The Court expressed deep concern that if the allegations were true, this could constitute one of the most egregious forms of physical punishment administered by a teacher, as the teacher allegedly directed other students to assault the victim based on his community.
While Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, representing the State of Uttar Pradesh, emphasized that the communal aspect was being exaggerated, the bench appeared to hold a differing view. They pointed to the video transcript as evidence supporting their concerns. Justice Oka stated, "Transcript says so. This shouldn't be taken lightly. If this incident is correct - teacher telling students that he belongs to a particular community, beat him, what kind of education is being imparted?"
Considering the way the police have handled the case, particularly the filing of a Non-Cognizable Report (NCR) despite a cognizable offense, the Court took matters into its own hands. They mandated that a senior IPS-ranked officer designated by the State Government lead the investigation within a week. The nominated officer will also scrutinize whether specific legal provisions need to be applied, including Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act and Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Recognizing the traumatic experience endured by the victim and the students who were compelled to take part in the assault, the Court directed the state government to provide professional counselling services. They underlined that the state could not expect the victim to continue attending the same school under these circumstances.
In an effort to ensure transparency and accountability, the Supreme Court also asked for a comprehensive report from the Uttar Pradesh government regarding the implementation of the Right to Education Act in relation to this case.
The incident that sparked this legal scrutiny occurred in August when a video surfaced showing the victim standing before the class while the teacher, remained seated, instructing fellow students to slap their classmate. The purported video of the incident showed students lining up to slap their Muslim classmate for not learning the multiplication tables as the teacher – identified as Tripta Tyagi – instigates them. Tyagi, who is also the owner of Neha Public School, can also be heard making some problematic, communal comments.
The video sparked outrage on the internet as well as from various quarters, including political parties and child rights organisations and the teacher was booked under IPC sections 323 and 504 based on a complaint from the boy’s family.
The school received a notice from the education department in connection with the matter.
Tripta Tyagi, the accused teacher, had earlier contended that the video had been tampered with to stoke tensions. She admitted her wrongdoing in having students slap the victim but explained that her physical handicap prevented her from reaching the student who had not completed his assignment.
The case is scheduled for further hearings, with the next session set for October 30, as the legal system endeavours to address the serious allegations and ensure justice for all parties involved.