There are laws that prohibit corporal punishment and define who is responsible for protecting children from abuse, which everyone must be cognisant of as such cases spike.
THE Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 prohibits corporal punishment on children under its Section 17. However, several recent instances of teachers injuring students have rocked the nation.
In Karnataka, a ten year-old student was beaten up with an iron rod, and thrown off a school building by a teacher. The incident happened last week, on December 19, resulting in the death of the child due to severe injuries.
The child was brutally beaten with a shovel by Muthappa Hadagali, a teacher at the Adarsh Primary School in the northern village of Hagley. The victim was identified as Bharat, a student of Class 4. Muthappa also assaulted Bharat’s mother, Geetha Barker, a school staff member, when she tried to protect her son.
Another similar incident occurred earlier this month when a 26 year-old primary school teacher in Delhi was detained for allegedly pushing a Class 5 student off the first floor of the school building and striking her with a scissor, which resulted in a fracture at her cheekbone. The girl was admitted to the hospital right away and is now out of danger.
The horrible incident happened at the Delhi Nagar Nigam Balika Vidyalaya at about 11 a.m. on Friday, December 16. The other students fled the classroom in panic as papers, books and backpacks were scattered around. The child, who is approximately 11 years old, is said to have suffered small injuries in the region of the scalp.
In another shocking instance, a Class X student at the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya in the Nandyal district of Andhra Pradesh suffered major burn injuries after being reportedly attacked with a hot iron rod by her teacher for not wearing a dupatta.
Pavani, the teen’s physical education instructor, confronted her in the playground for not wearing a dupatta. Following this, the girl is said to have returned to her dormitory and expressed rage, venting about her teacher. When the teacher discovered this, she confronted her in the hostel room. Agitated, the teacher rushed to the kitchen, grabbed a hot iron rod used to make rotis, and burned the student on the cheek. The girl was immediately hospitalised.
The school is an institution that not only teaches children, but also plays a crucial role in their long-term development and safety, but these cruel instances raise some questions about the Indian educational system. However, there are laws that prohibit corporal punishment and define who is responsible for protecting children from abuse, which everyone must be cognisant of as such cases spike.
Also read: Restorative Justice can make Schools safer for Children
How is corporal punishment defined in law?
A punishment that is physical in nature is termed corporal punishment. Although there is no formal definition of “corporal punishment” directed against children in Indian law, section 17(1) of the 2009 Act prohibits “physical punishment” and “mental harassment,” and makes it a crime under section 17(2). Physical punishment is defined as any action that results in pain, hurt/injury, or discomfort for a child in the Guidelines for Eliminating Corporal Punishment in Schools published by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (‘NCPCR’).
Focusing on the degree of a kid’s physical injuries is not important, but what has to be realised is that any physical force can be potentially harmful to a kid. In circumstances of corporal punishment, schools frequently adopt an inappropriate standard of teaching.
Every school is required to establish a ‘Corporal Punishment Monitoring Cell’ made up of two teachers, two students’ guardians, a physician, an attorney (recommended by the District Legal Services Authority), a counsellor, a local independent child rights activist, and two senior students.
Recognising the critical need to protect children from this barbarous practice, the Madras High Court last year underlined the necessity for a separate statute dealing with corporal punishment. There is currently a legal-constitutional structure in place that specifically forbids physical punishment of kids studying in school.
What are the laws that criminalise corporal punishment?
Section 17 of the 2009 Act forbids physical punishment in any circumstances. It forbids corporal punishment and verbal abuse of children, and stipulates that the culprit must face penal action.
Child abuse is punishable under Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. A strict five-year jail sentence and a fine of up to five lakh rupees are the penalties for anybody who, being in a position of managing or working for children’s care, assaults, abuses, or neglects a kid in a way that results in bodily or mental suffering. If the kid becomes physically disabled, develops a mental disease, becomes mentally incompetent to do normal activities, or poses a risk to life or limb, the imprisonment can be extended up to ten years.
Section 75 states: “Whoever, having the actual charge of, or control over, a juvenile or the child, assaults, abandons, exposes or wilfully neglects the juvenile or causes or procures him to be assaulted, abandoned, exposed or neglected in a manner likely to cause such juvenile or the child unnecessary mental or physical suffering shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or fine, or with both.”
Depending on the severity of the crime/act, several provisions of the Indian Penal Code relating to various levels of physical harm and intimidation, such as Sections 305 (assisting of a child’s suicide), 323 (intentionally causing hurt) or 325 (intentionally causing grievous hurt) can be used to prosecute those who commit corporal punishment against children in an educational setting.
Who is in charge of ensuring the safety of children?
To guarantee that children are protected in schools, appropriate authorities have been designated. The NCPCR and the State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights have been allotted the accountability of guarding children’s rights to education under Section 31 of the 2009 Act. In accordance with their specific regulations under the 2009 Act, state governments can also give the block and district-level grievance redressal bodies formed under the Act notice.
Strict legislation alone cannot guarantee that children are secure in an educational setting. It is also necessary for educators to change their perspectives. Furthermore, parents must understand that beating children violates several moral standards.
The NCPCR rules for banning the corporal punishment of minors demand that each school create a framework and set up precise procedures for handling student complaints. Drop boxes must be set up so that the individual who feels wronged can submit a complaint, and anonymity must be preserved to safeguard privacy.
Every school is required to establish a ‘Corporal Punishment Monitoring Cell’ made up of two teachers, two students’ guardians, a physician, an attorney (recommended by the District Legal Services Authority), a counsellor, a local independent child rights activist, and two senior students. The accusations of physical punishment are to be investigated by this Cell.
Maharashtra’s state government released a circular in 2018 requesting that schools follow the NCPCR principles and hold priority workshops for all administrators, teachers, and support staff of all schools associated with any board.
Also read: Is a Law Enough to Stop Corporal Punishment in Schools?
Why is corporal punishment still a growing concern?
Physical abuse deprives a student of their dignity by leaving permanent scars on their mind and body. Just because a child has entered the school premises, they should not automatically forfeit their rights in the name of discipline. Laws must be amended to combat corporal punishment.
Teacher sensitisation across the country should be made necessary, given the rise in heinous crimes committed in school settings. This is necessary for children, especially those between the ages of five and ten years, who lack the vocabulary to recognize an act as abuse, report them and take action.
However, strict legislation alone cannot guarantee that children are secure in an educational setting. It is also necessary for educators to change their perspectives. Furthermore, parents must understand that beating children violates several moral standards. All instances of physical punishment, no matter how little, must be addressed, and parents and children must be encouraged to report them.
Not only physical punishment, but any sort of punishment including non-physical mental harassment, should be considered damaging to a child’s academic and psychological well-being. Until everyone involved in children’s upbringing takes measures to de-normalise the harsh practice of hitting children to punish and discipline them, the laws will always remain ineffective.