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Laws against corporal punishment in school

This article is written by Shamyana Parveen. This article would enable the learners to gain a basic understanding of the problem of corporal punishment given to the children in school in the Indian context and knowledge about the legal position and legislative provisions regarding corporal punishment in India. This article would also give information about the negative effects of corporal punishment on children and the need to ban it.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Introduction 

Corporal punishment is described as the earliest form of punishment in criminology. Corporal punishment is the conjugation of physical pain upon a person’s body as punishment for a crime or septicity. It is a form of punishment that involves physical force that causes pain or difficulty to the child. The major forms of corporal punishment are slapping, spanking, or using any object to punish a child. Some other forms of punishment involve mental torture of the child through humiliating, threatening, or using abusive language with the child. In India, corporal punishment is common in schools. This form of punishment not only takes place in government schools but also in private schools for disciplining children. 

The need for law reform to prohibit corporal punishment means ensuring that children are legally protected from assault just as adults are even when the assault is inflicted under the guise of discipline or correction. 33 countries have prohibited corporal punishment in all settings including the home government. Further, 18 countries are publicly committed to the prohibition of corporal punishment in all settings.

India seems to protect children from being subject to punishment in schools through laws laid down under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. However, several loopholes are there in the laws even in cases where brutal crimes and punishments are inflicted upon the children.

Meaning of corporal punishment

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal punishment as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. In view of the committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading. There is no proper definition of corporal punishment in Indian laws.

Corporal punishment is a daily routine punishment for some children. It may be in a physical form, staring, scolding, or abusing. This punishment is for children for their bad actions, bad behavior, and violence. It is believed that the punishment makes children realize that their act was unacceptable, wrong, unneeded, and/or disappointing.

Corporal Punishment is completely needless and without any goodness in it. Many cases of immoderate beating have only underlined this fact. A teacher who beats and loses his/her temperament and uses his/her stick to teach the offending a lesson eventually loses their respect in their own eyes.

Corporal punishment given in excess may damage some organs of the student’s body permanently and may create a lifelong terror in the mind of a learner. Many children abandon their studies, fall into bad company, and become hardhearted rogues due to such actions.

Some of the methods for putting an end to corporal punishment in schools include physical punishment which means any action that causes affliction, torture, injury, and strain to the child. These are provided by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). It encompasses making children assume an unbearable position like standing on a bench, standing against the wall in a chair-like position, etc. Mental harassment is the incorporeal treatment which includes sarcasm, calling names, scolding using humiliating adjectives, etc.

Usually, punishing a child to control him/her was a culturally accepted practice in India. Similarly, using corporal punishment in schools was also considered a normal part of pedagogy. It is shocking that at this point in the 21st century, we are still fighting entrenched attitudes that hitting children is acceptable. Prohibiting corporal punishment is a fundamental human rights obligation. Humiliation and abusive treatment are not only a violation of the child’s right to protection from violence but also counterproductive to learning. Corporal punishment teaches the child that violence is acceptable and so perpetuates the cycle of violence.

Corporal punishment in school

Corporal punishment in the context of school is to beat a student in response to the student’s undesired behaviour or language. It also refers to the emotional or mental humiliation of a child.

Corporal punishment is given to children in schools to punish them because of their misbehaviour or to discipline them. Corporal punishment is very common in many countries. Different countries use different forms of corporal punishment such as spanking paddles, cane, scales, or any other objects to spank children. 

Examples of corporal punishment in school

Physical punishment

Examples of some of the common forms of physical corporal punishment in schools reported in India include the following:

Spanking with an open hand; pinching on any part of the body; pulling the ear lobes; slapping; punching on the face; pulling the hair; beating with the use of a cane, wooden scale, leather belt, or any blunt object; hitting the students head against the wall; throwing hard objects at the student; not allowing the child to sit; making the student stand on the bench; standing with a school bag on the head; making the student kneel; making the student take a crouching posture; asking the student to stand in the hot sun; forcing the student to run many rounds in the playground; forcing the student to remove the clothes sometimes in front of the school assembly or a class; not allowing the child to visit the toilet; depriving mid-day meals; seize in the library, toilet, classroom, or any closed place in the school, etc.

Mental harassment

Mental harassment is a non-physical punishment to the child who is being treated with such torture that is deleterious to the academic well-being of the child or damaging the inner mental health of the child. Some examples of mental harassment are: mockery that hurts or is beneath the child’s dignity; making jokes about a child in front of others is a type of mental torture; calling funny names or berating or humiliating and terrifying; labeling the children on their caste, on their parent’s background or their financial status; ridiculing their health issues or that of their family especially such as HIV or AIDS and Cuba closet; belittling a child in the class due to his or her incapability to perform best or to meet the teacher’s expectations of educational gaining; Most children who perform poorly in education are the children who need special care attention or such children have learning disability, hyperactivity disorder, or attention deficit, mild development delay, etc. 

Discrimination

Discrimination means an adverse opinion and behaviour towards a child because of his/her social class, gender identity, profession, colour, ethnicity, region, and non-payment of fees offered. In society, a student facing discrimination is acknowledged under the 25% reservation to be treated unfavourably. 

Discrimination includes behaving in school with social attitudes and prejudices in some communities by commenting on some children or making jokes about them based on their caste, religion, social status, or gender. For example, toilet or floor cleaning tasks assigned by caste, making a team for playing games assigned by gender, recognition through 25% of reserved seats under the Right to Education Act, 2009, or non-payment of any authorised charges. Commenting on someone’s educational ability based on his or her caste, gender, or community; or refusing to give mid-day meals or books from the library, or uniforms or any other facilities to the children because of their background, religion, gender, or social status they belong to or deliberate wanton neglect, are all examples of discrimination. 

Legal protection for children in India

  • Protection of Corporal Punishment Act, 2013 is to ensure that no child is subjected to any physical punishment or mental harassment.
  • Institutions provide education or care to children and provide a safe and nurturing environment for the children to grow.
  • Government or government-aided schools provided free and compulsory elementary education to every child.
  • Schools receiving financial assistance from the government.
  • Government-sponsored residential schools implement strict regulations and oversight to ensure a safe and nurturing environment.
  • Non-governmental schools protect children from corporal punishment by fostering a culture of non-violence and respect.
  • Madrasas have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for their students by adhering to educational policies that respect the dignity and rights of children.
  • Children’s homes, also known as orphanages or residential care homes, have a fundamental duty to protect the children in their care from all forms of violence, including corporal punishment.
  • Children being educated in home study groups that are well-informed about child rights and positive discipline strategies can ensure that children learn in a safe, supportive, and non-violent setting.

Laws against corporal punishment in school

International Laws

Article 28(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC)

Article 28(2) of UNCRC necessitates the countries to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present conversation”.

Article 29(1)(b) of the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC)

Similarly, Article 29(1)(b) of the Convention highlights that the “State parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations”.

Article 37(a) of the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC)

Article 37(a) of UNCRC requires State Parties to make sure that “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Article 19(1) of the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC)

Article 19(1) requires States to ensure all relevant judicial, executive, social, and educational measures have been taken to protect the children from all forms of torture, bodily injury or mental violence, abuse, negligent treatment, or victimization, including sexual abuse.

Some countries with a policy agenda have doubled to address violence against children. The assumption of administration prohibiting the use of brutality as a form of disciplining or penalizing is stimulus with many states having adopted a legal prohibition of inhuman punishment including life imprisonment and capital punishment. An increasing number of countries have in place an extensive veto on corporal punishment in all settings and many others have a limited prohibition. The majority of the northerly states have rules and regulations that are completely opposed to corporal punishment, including states like California, Michigan, Lava, and a few more.

India is a member of the United Nations which has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UNCRC, and is therefore fully committed to the prohibition of corporal punishment in all settings. The CRC states the learning environment should respect and discipline children’s dignity in school and punishment should be administered in a manner consistent with the child’s dignity. 

Indian laws against corporal punishment in schools

The Government of India in 2012 had accepted recommendations of global bodies to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings. Corporal punishment in schools in India is banned for children aged 6-14. From 2007, the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act, 2015, prohibits all forms of corporal punishment in ‘alternative care settings’ for children. The National Policy on Education 1986, modified in 1992, states that “corporal punishment will be firmly excluded from the educational systems”.

Constitutional Provisions and their Interpretations:

Article 21: Article 21 of the Constitution of India lays out the right to dignity. This article also talks about giving free and compulsory education for children up to the age of 14 years.

Article 39(e): Article 39(e) of the Constitution of India ensures that the good physical condition, and firmness of workers, men, women, and children of adolescents are maintained and they are not mistreated. This is to be executed by the state and the state is the one who needs to work gradually towards it.

Article 39(f): Article 39(f) of the Constitution of India aims to draw attention to the state that they make provisions and give children opportunities and facilities to enlarge healthy living.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)

Some provisions of the IPC relating to different levels of bodily injury and intimidation can be used to bring suits against offenders of corporal punishment as opposed to children in an institutional setting.

Section 83 of the IPC lays down that any act that is done by a child from the age of seven to twelve, who is of immature understanding, would not have said to have committed any offence – This means a child who has not attained the age of maturity in understanding to judge what the nature and the consequence of his conduct are on that occasion.

According to the above Section 83 IPC, it is clearly said that if any children who do not do his/her homework or does not follow the dress code between the ages of 7 to 12 years then the school should not punish the child or there should be no scope of corporal punishment.

Several other Acts also have provisions related to corporal punishment. At present, on the contrary, many cases of corporal punishment are reported, but there are many unreported cases.

In the principle of Doli Incapax, children of the age of 7 and below are prohibited from receiving any type of punishment. But, in Indian Laws, there are no provisions that cover corporal punishment and also there is nothing that penalises the offender of physical harm. As in the above-mentioned provisions, it does not make any difference between the adults and the children. In schools and other institutions, corporal punishment is considered to be broadly believed as a custom. The above provisions of the IPC can be used for corporal punishment but they are hardly ever used.

Criminal liability in India for corporal punishment requires malice on the part or from the teacher’s end. In many situations, negligence and unreasonableness can also replace malice and can create a ground for injuring a student or causing simple injury under the Indian Penal Code.

RTE Act, 2009

RTE Act, 2009: It came into force on the 1st of April, 2010. This Act prohibits any form of “physical harassment” or “mental harassment” under Section 17(1) of the Act, further making it a punishable offence under Section 17(2). 

According to Section 17(1), no child shall be treated with any physical punishment or mental harassment. If anyone breaches the provisions of this subsection, they shall be liable to punitive action under the service rules applicable to such person.

Sections 8 and 9 of the RTE Act state that the child belonging to disadvantaged groups and weaker sections are not discriminated against, which the appropriate government and the local authority must make sure of.

The RTE Act does not preclude the application of other legislations that relate to the violations of the rights of the child. Thus, offenders of corporal punishment could be booked under the IPC and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989 as well. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) have been entrusted with the task of monitoring children’s right to education under section 31 of the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. Thus, the NCPCR or the SCPCR shall have the authority to inquire into complaints regarding corporal punishments.

Though the Government has imposed a ban on corporal punishment, the practice of corporal punishment is still prevailing. The fact is that no action is taken against the erring teachers. The ultimate truth is that the concept of corporal punishment is deeply rooted in the psyche of Indian teachers. In the 21st century, we need to adhere to a new technique under which children should be effectively disciplined and taught.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

The Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act, 2015 is an important law that criminalizes the acts that may cause a child’s mental or physical health.

Section 23 of the Act

Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 states that if anyone having the actual charge of all control over the juvenile or the child physical attack, relinquishes, reveals, or intentionally neglects the juvenile or causes or procures him/her to be assaulted, relinquish, explore, revealed, or neglected in any manner, is likely to cause such a juvenile or the child unnecessary mental or physical suffering, and shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or fine or with both. The Scheduled Castes and Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 can be used to prosecute an adult in the general category who inflicts corporal punishment upon a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe child.

Section 75 of the Act

Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act prescribes punishment, rigorous imprisonment of up to five years, and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh for cruelty to children. If the child is physically incapacitated, develops a mental illness, or is rendered mentally unfit then imprisonment may extend up to ten years.

Section 82 of the Act

Section 82 of the Juvenile Justice Act states that any person in charge of or employed in a childcare institution who subjects a child to corporal punishment to discipline the child shall be liable to fine and imprisonment for repeated offences.

Role of NCPCR and SCPCR in protection from corporal punishment in schools

NCPCR guidelines about Corporal Punishment

Every school should have to constitute a monitoring cell for corporal punishment or place a drop box where the unfairly treated person can drop his complaint. Every school must develop a mechanism and frame clear-cut protocols to address the grievances of students.

The National Commission for Protection of Children’s Rights in 2007 issued very specific instructions for removing corporal punishment in schools. These instructions have identified strategies for addressing difficult situations in schools. Schools and teachers perceive some behaviours of children as problematic and the prevalent practice is to respond to them with punishment of varying degrees. Some such situations that arise in schools that invite punishment are not keeping to time and cleanliness regulations, academic-related issues, not meeting classroom expectations of school authorities, being troublesome, offensive behaviour, causing hurt or injury to others, vandalising, etc. The school should have a clear protocol to guide the teachers about which situation needs assessment and intervention by the school counsellor and which one needs immediate intimation to higher authorities at the school and parents. If an attempt at resolving the problem is not satisfactory, the parent could then be referred to a specialist, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, or a counsellor. The child and adolescent psychiatrist and counsellor should help children learn behaviours that help them develop a sense of self-discipline that leads to positive self-esteem. 

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has recommended that there is a need for multidisciplinary inputs and networking as no sector of child abuse can be treated as independent of the other sectors psychologists, educationists, school teachers, parents, social workers, lawyers, and the children should be involved. In its letter dated 26 May 2009 the chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights urged the district collectors, district magistrate, and deputy commissioners of the districts in India to take action to stop corporal punishment of children.

Negative effects of corporal punishment in schools

It is now globally recognised that punishment in any form or kind in school comes in the way of the development of the full potential of children. Children learn from adults that hitting is an acceptable means of dealing with difficult situations or conflicts. When the teachers or parents are hitting the children in continuation then the anger issues develop in them more and they also hit their children in the future in the same way as they think that this is the only way to punish or discipline a child. Corporal punishment leads to adverse physical psychological and educational outcomes including increased aggressive and destructive behavior, vandalism, poor school achievement, poor attention span, increased dropout rate, school avoidance, school phobia, low self-esteem, anxiety, somatic complaints, depression, suicide and retaliation against the teachers that emotionally scarred the children for life. Children subjected to punishment prefer aggressive conflict resolution strategies with peers and siblings and they do not consider it a violation of their rights. There is an association between corporal punishment meted out to children and maladaptive patterns in later life such as aggression and delinquency.

Corporal punishment of children with disabilities

Children with disabilities are especially likely to experience violence from adults in the home, at school, and elsewhere. An aversive intervention is the use of something unappealing to punish a child with a disability or to eliminate or reduce the maladaptive behaviour of a child with a disability. The causes or scope of the incapability of some children with disabilities to acknowledge the danger, protect themselves, or report their experiences, their dependence on others to provide care, and the disbelief they may encounter if they report violence. Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to violent punishment. It was found that children with disabilities were significantly more likely to experience severe physical punishment than children without disability. In some countries, children with disabilities experience extremely severe corporal punishment in institutional settings.

Corporal punishment in schools and the right to health

Corporal punishment violates children’s rights to enjoy their life of health issues through direct physical harm and mental torture, which affects children’s cognitive and mental development. It also negatively affects children’s cognitive development. It develops aggression in children and affects children’s moral values and relationships with families and other people.

Role of school administration in corporal punishment

  1. All members of the school should ensure that all children enjoy their rights as per the RTE Act.
  2. All children should be treated in school in a manner that motivates children to stay in school and learn.
  3. No physical punishment is given by anyone to the children and it is not permitted.
  4. Mental harassment should not be permitted in school.
  5. No form of discrimination should be permitted in school based on religion, caste, disability, gender, class, etc.
  6. The school environment should be kept free of any fear, trauma, or prejudice by all the members of the school.

Case laws on corporal punishment in schools

In Kolkata’s very famous school of Rouvan Rawla of La Martinier of Boys School, a 12-year-old student committed suicide. The child had been canned repeatedly by the school’s principal, and after four days of the incident, he was found hanging in his room. The investigation was related to whether the caning of the principal had led to the child killing himself and as per the maximum doubt it had been said that it was the principal who had canned the student for which he had taken such serious steps.

In the case of Ganesh Chandra Shaha v. Jinraj Somani (1965), it had been decided that if a teacher who had caned the student and had inflicted blows on the fist thus causing bodily injury and loss of a tooth was held to be criminally liable even though the defence of the teacher was that he was acting in good faith and for the benefit of the child. It is said that if the teacher exceeds their authority and inflicts bodily injuries then they would be liable under Section 88 of IPC and the defence of good faith would also not be allowed.

Kishor Guleria v. The Director of Education Directorate (2012)

The case of Kishor Guleria v. The Director Of Education Directorate (2012), revolves around the issue of corporal punishment in an educational setting.

Facts:

Kishor Guleria was employed as a Physical Education Teacher at New Era Public School, Mayapuri, New Delhi, since 1983. He was charged with gross misconduct for administering corporal punishment to students and was accused of physically touching parts of the girls’ bodies, which was considered sexual abuse. 

Judgement

The Delhi High Court upheld the decision of the Delhi School Tribunal, which dismissed Guleria’s appeal against the disciplinary action taken by the school. The court found that Guleria’s conduct was criminal in nature and attracted penalties under the Indian Penal Code. It was concluded that the punishment of removal from service, which did not disqualify him for future employment in any recognized private school, was not disproportionate to the misconduct. The case underscores the legal and ethical stance against corporal punishment and the importance of upholding the dignity and rights of students in educational institutions.

Hasmukhbhai Gokaldas Shah v. State Of Gujarat (2008)

The case of Hasmukhbhai Gokaldas Shah v. State Of Gujarat (2008), pertains to a judgement delivered by the Gujarat High Court on November 17, 2008.

The appellant, Hasmukhbhai Gokaldas Shah, was a supervisor at the school and Arvindbhai Purshottam, was a student belonging to a scheduled caste who allegedly tampered with the appellant’s scooter, which ignited. The appellant thereafter abused and kicked the student. The entire incident was considered indiscipline on the part of the student and the father of the student was made to sign an apology. The student ended up committing suicide. 

The appellant was convicted by the trial court for offences under Sections 323 and 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 3(1)(x) and 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The appellant was sentenced to various terms of imprisonment for the different offences, including life imprisonment for the offence under section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Additionally, the court directed that a portion of the fine collected be paid to the original complainant as compensation

Ambika S. Nagal v. State Of Himachal Pradesh (2020)

Incident:

In the case of Ambika S. Nagal v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2020), on September 24, 2012, two school girls were found to have fallen from a cliff near Navbharat at Kala Dhaank, Shimla. They were declared dead upon arrival at the hospital.

FIR:

An FIR was registered on September 30, 2012, against the mathematics teacher (Ambika S. Nagal) and the principal of the school for abetting the girls to commit suicide under Section 306 IPC.

Investigation Outcome:

The investigation concluded that no case under Section 306 IPC was made out against the Principal or Ambika S. Nagal. However, evidence suggested that Ambika S. Nagal had slapped the deceased girls, leading to charges under Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, and Section 323 IPC for causing mental and physical suffering by assault.

Court’s Decision:

The High Court’s judgement focused on the charges of corporal punishment and the rights of the child. The court concluded that there was no case made out under section 306 IPC for abetment of suicide against the petitioner. 

Conclusion

Punishment has always temporarily stopped behaviour. But when we punish, the thinking or learning brain of that person is not functioning. The moment an attack happens, irrespective of whether it is physical, emotional, or anything else, it affects the upper brain which is responsible for learning.

Corporal punishment usually results in some form of injury and has massive psychological effects. Corporal punishment in schools is embarrassing and shameful for children and it also includes mental torture. Some alternatives can be used instead of corporal punishment, such as detention. Detention is used in the way children and teachers spend time doing homework or providing tuition, and in this way, teachers can counsel students instead of punishing them.

Corporal punishment is an act of violence against a child that has no place in modern society. It can cause the child long-term physical and psychological damage and can lead to negative behaviour. Corporal punishment is an ineffective way to discipline a child as it does not teach them how to be responsible, it teaches them to fear their parents. It also does not provide a child with a sense of justice and fair play as they may feel that they do not have a say in their punishment if they do something wrong. If we are serious about the rights and well-being of our children, corporal punishment must be banned in all forms once and for all.

All forms of corporal punishment are a fundamental breach of human rights. Prohibiting corporal punishment is a fundamental human rights obligation. Legal measures for a total ban on corporal punishment are essential for stopping such punishments in families, schools, and caregiving institutions. It’s important that the government develops a national policy on corporal punishment and formulates and implements appropriate legislation to eliminate all forms of violence against children including a total ban on corporal punishment. Corporal punishment should no longer be perceived by parents, teachers, or caregivers as a legitimate measure of child-rearing, disciplining, or education. Such a paradigm shift alone can ensure total elimination of corporal punishment and we have a long way to go.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the instruments commonly used in corporal punishment for children?

Instruments like bae hands, objects such as belts, paddles, or odeon poon.

What is physical discipline?

Physical discipline is a punishment method used by schools, parents, etc. that use force with the intention of causing physical hurt or pain.

What are the effects of corporal punishment on children?

Corporal punishment can increase children’s behavioural problems. This increases negative outcomes, including physical and mental health, and increased aggression.

Are there alternatives to corporal punishment?

Yes, many forms of nonviolent discipline can be effective, like positive reinforcement, setting clear expectations, and logical consequences.

References

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