The mother of the 11-year-old student and the head-teacher of a Bidar school, arrested over a school play, will remain in prison till February 14, which is when the district court will pronounce the order on their bail plea.
The two women were arrested on January 30 over charges of sedition after a school play voiced dissent against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) last month.
Appearing for the two women, advocate BT Venkatesh argued that this was a politically motivated case and that two women, living in a little town like Bidar, were not a threat to the state. He added that the slogans in the play did not create any unrest and promote any disaffection towards the government.
The judge questioned who wrote the script of the play. Venkatesh refrained from answering the question and stated that the contents of the play did not amount to sedition. The judge also stated that it is the responsibility of the elders to read the script before children stage it.
Opposing the bail, the public prosecutor argued that the women would leave the country and possibly destroy the video evidence. He cited the recent case of Kris Chudawala, who was booked along with 50 others for sedition in Mumbai. Kris was booked for shouting “anti-national" slogans in support of JNU scholar Sharjeel Imam at Mumbai's Pride March. Sharjeel Imam was arrested last month for allegedly making inflammatory speeches at Shaheen Bagh. On Tuesday, Kris was granted interim relief from arrest by the Bombay High Court.
Nazbunnisa, the mother of a student of Shaheen Primary and High School, and Fareeda Begum, the headteacher of the school's primary section, were arrested on January 30 after a video of the anti-CAA school play went viral. The court took cognizance of the fact that the said video was not sent to a forensic science laboratory for probing its authenticity.
The sessions court on Tuesday was also hearing the anticipatory bail plea filed by the headmaster of the school. Hearing this plea, the public prosecutor sought more time to file objections and the court will hear this case further on February 17.
The public prosecutor opposed bail to the two women despite the fact that Pravin Sood, Karnataka Director General and Inspector General of Police (DG&IGP), had reportedly promised a delegation of lawyers recently that the state will not oppose the bail plea of the two women. (Read more here: How is Bidar school play sedition? Bengaluru lawyers pose 20 questions to state DGP)
The two women, Nazbunnisa and Fareeda Begum, have spent the last two weeks lodged in the Bidar district prison. They were arrested after a police complaint from Nilesh Rakshala, an activist from the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) seeking an investigation into the school play.
In his complaint, Nilesh accused the school management of sedition and 'insulting' the Prime Minister through the play. Nazbunissa's daughter Ayesha* (name changed) was alleged to have delivered the dialogues which 'insulted' Prime Minister Modi.
Nazbunnisa and Fareeda were arrested on January 30 even as police officials visited the school five times to question students connected to the play. The judge at the district court was on leave till February 4 and upon returning, the public prosecutor was given one week's time to file objections to the bail petition.
Basaveshwara Hira, the Deputy Superintendent of Police of Bidar district led the investigation into the play. He visited the school five times including once when he was accompanied by police officers in uniform. The police's actions at the school were heavily criticised after a photograph of the police questioning students in uniform was shared widely.
Bidar police defended the repeated questioning of students in the school stating that they were interviewing students in batches and that they were "collecting information about the play". Students in the school, however, had earlier told TNM that they were intimidated by the police's repeated questioning.