CHENNAI: A vacation bench of the Madras High Court has restrained the authorities concerned from mobilising school students for government functions. A bench of Justices S Vaidyanathan and S M Subramanian granted the injunction while admitting a PIL from CHANGEIndia, by its director A Narayanan of Virugambakkam, on Wednesday.
When the PIL came up, the Special Government Pleader took notice for the respondents - Chief Secretary, Education Secretary and the DGP. The three shall not make children attend the centenary celebrations, public meetings or any other meetings organised in connection with the centenary celebrations of former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran, the judges said.
The PIL prayed for a direction to the three to prepare draft guidelines and dos and dont’s to be followed by school education and police departments and school managements, whenever children are made to participate in public functions, rallies and campaigns held at venues outside schools and submit a report to the court, within a court-fixed time frame.
The petitioner alleged that the present splinter faction of the ruling party has been misusing the centenary celebrations of MGR for furthering their factional politics in the guise of government functions. Large cut-outs and banners of the chief minister and their factional leaders were erected along the public meeting routes occupying platforms, both on the national and State highways as well as at congested places, thereby putting road-users to tremendous hardship and in utter contempt of the directions of Supreme Court and High Court.
Thousands of children drawn from government, government-aided and unaided schools were forced to attend these public meetings and to greet the CM and other political leaders en- route as well as at the venue and children were asked to shower petals on the leaders.
The students were forced to come to the venues very early, even during school days as well on week-ends to fill the thousands of empty chairs at the venue to showcase a large participation and to declare these functions as ‘grand success’. Only a fraction of those students brought was to perform cultural events on stage, as part of the function. Thousands of other students have nothing to do at the public meetings, except to greet the dignitaries under the hot sun or rain and to remain glued to their chairs till the chief minister and other dignitaries complete their long political speeches, which are of no concern to the students.
The so-called MGR centenary celebration inaugural public meetings, in which school students are forced to attend, are only government functions on paper. In blatant disregard to the ethics and morality of the need for separating the activities of political party from the State, all the inaugural public meetings so far were utilised by political leaders for cheap and petty politicking, to score points over rival factions, to deride opposition parties and to wash dirty linen in public, instead of educating the people on the significance of the contribution of MGR to arts, culture and the development of the State and to highlight his great qualities.
It is highly disturbing that thousands of innocent school children are made pawns in their cheap political game, the petitioner contended.
State files petition to vacate interim injunction
Acting swiftly, the State filed a petition seeking to vacate the interim injunction, in the evening. Denying the petitioner’s allegations, the petition said only those students who won in various competitions participate in the evening programme, which is limited to receiving prizes. Celebration of the centenary year of MGR is not a political programme.
School children are not forced to attend public meetings and to greet the chief minister and other political leaders. They voluntarily participate in the function, it added. The matter will be taken up at a special sitting at the judge’s chambers on Thursday.