In a serious setback to the Bihar government, the Patna High Court on Tuesday asked the Nitish regime not to take any coercive action against those children who fail to participate in the human chain programme on January 21.
The order was passed by a division bench headed by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a social activist Shiv Prakash Rai.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has planned to form the world's longest human chain in Bihar on January 21.
The event is aimed at creating awareness about the social evils of child marriage and dowry.
Last year too, a human chain was formed in January in support of liquor ban throughout the state in which around four crore people had participated.
The Patna High Court on Tuesday told the Bihar government that "children could participate in the human chain event only after the parents give their consent."
However, no coercive action should be taken against those who fail to participate in the programme, the high court bench maintained.
Rai, through his PIL, petitioned before the court that the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act was already in place.
"There is nothing new in what the Bihar government has been doing to create awareness about the social evils. However, students from Class V and above have been mandatorily asked by the education department to participate in the human chain programme," said the petitioner.
Rai complained that the chilly winter, where the minimum temperature in the state has dipped to six degree Celsius, should have been kept in mind before asking the children to participate in such an event.
The petitioner told the court that instead of providing books and clothes to government schools students on time, the Nitish regime was focusing on non-academic activities.
"Utilising the services of teachers for non-academic work was a violation of Supreme Court guidelines," the petitioner maintained.
The high court has listed the matter for further hearing after four weeks.