Schoolchildren in PM Modi’s roadshow | How is it a criminal offence, asks Madras High Court

Justice G. Jayachandran directs Coimbatore city police to explain how the offence under Section 75 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2005, will get attracted

April 04, 2024 06:05 pm | Updated April 05, 2024 07:40 am IST - CHENNAI

The judge said that in the instant case, the children had not been used for any election campaign, and they had simply watched a roadshow.

The judge said that in the instant case, the children had not been used for any election campaign, and they had simply watched a roadshow.

The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Coimbatore city police to explain by Monday how the mere presence of schoolchildren in uniform during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s roadshow on March 18 would necessitate the registration of a criminal case against the school management.

Justice G. Jayachandran posed multiple questions to the prosecution during the hearing of a petition filed by the headmistress of a middle school to quash a First Information Report (FIR) registered on March 19 on the basis of a complaint lodged by District Child Protection Officer Pavithra Devi.

The judge primarily wanted to know how Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which deals with assaulting, abandoning, abusing, exposing or wilfully neglecting children in a manner likely to cause mental or physical suffering, would get attracted in the present case.

A law officer replied that the school management had “exposed” 32 students to unnecessary mental and physical suffering by taking them to watch the roadshow in a crowded place, just because there was a delay on the part of their parents in coming to school to pick them up.

However, the judge wondered whether the criminal case could be filed solely at the instance of the District Child Protection Officer, who had come to know about the incident only through media reports. He pointed out that none of the parents appeared to have lodged any complaint.

Also Read: Notice to BJP over children’s presence in PM Modi’s Coimbatore roadshow

Further, no untoward incident had been reported at the roadshow, the judge said, and cautioned the police against being carried away by media reports. He said that the police must not end up registering criminal cases against school managements as a knee jerk reaction to media pressure.

When the law officer said that an Assistant Returning Officer, too, had reported the incident since the model code of conduct had come into force on March 18, the judge said that in the instant case, the children had not been used for any election campaign, and they had simply watched a roadshow.

Stating that the decision to be taken in the present case would have a large-scale bearing on similar issues touching upon the presence of children in political events, the judge asked the law officer to do his homework and come prepared with case laws to argue the matter at length on Monday.

“When we were children, all of us used to go to see celebrities and politicians during their election campaigns. Some time ago, when the High Court initiated departmental action against a judicial officer for attending a political meeting, he argued that in a democracy, it is his right to attend a meeting to know the ideology of that political party. So, this is an important issue to be decided,” the judge said.

He also extended, until further orders, the interim protection granted to the school management by Justice N. Anand Venkatesh last week by directing the police not to take any coercive action.

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