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What is Corporal Punishment?

       Corporal Punishment is literally, “the infliction of punishment on the body”. A form of Corporal Punishment that seems to be the pivotal area of controversy is “infliction of Physical pain without injury”. Thousands of children are physically abused each year by someone close to them, and many children die from the injuries thus caused. Emotional scars are deeper than the physical scars for those who survive after the punishment. Corporal Punishment goes by a variety of names including, but not limited to beating, weeping, slapping, punching, kicking or throwing, cocking, biting and such other forms of treatment which are inappropriate to a child age.  Further the Corporal punishment is a discipline method in which a supervising adult deliberately inflicts pain upon a child in response to a child's unacceptable behavior.

      children punishmentFor instance, In June 2003, a class tenth standard student, Ram Abhinav, committed suicide in Chennai after he was beaten up by his teacher. Abhinav had not attended school on his birthday and had been punished by the teacher the next day. He left a suicide note saying he was "afraid of going to school again". Subsequently the State Human Rights Commission took up the issue. The government had then warned the schools against corporal punishment. Another incident which took place in Capital of this county, in April, 2009 one Shannoo Khan, a minor student of second standard at Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) primary school in Narela, North Delhi, died after allegedly punished by the class teacher for failing to recite English alphabet correctly. The class teacher, Manju, reportedly bashed her head on the table and made her stand in the sun. This barbaric incident believed to be responsible for her death after two days.

Kinds of Punishments in Schools

There are three types of Corporal Punishments in Schools, (i.e.,) Physical Punishment, Emotional Punishment and Negative reinforcement. The Physical Punishments are making children stand on Chair, wall, keeping the school bags on their heads, making them stand for whole day in the sun, and making them kneel down and do the home work. These are some of the examples the teachers take recourse to as a part of physical punishment to young students. The Emotional Punishment affects children much deeper than physical and other forms of punishments. For instance, scolding abusing and humiliating; slapping by opposite sex, making them stand at the back of the class, suspending them for a couple of days, removing the shirts of the boys etc. Over the years, several commentators like P.Sainath have highlighted extreme forms of verbal abuse of Dalit children. Furthermore the Negative Reinforcement is where the Children are mentally affected by these punishments. For instance, locking them in a dark room, making them clean the school premises, making them run around the school building, detaining them during the break and lunch, and deducting their marks are some forms of negative reinforcement against children.

Impact of Corporal Punishment in Schools

     Punishing or penal disciplining of children either at home or at school leads to three kinds of reactions, i.e., fear, hatred and anger. If a person is used to frequent physical torture during his or her childhood, it has been an impact on his adulthood as he starts beating his own children. In the similar way, beating affects children’s concentration in studies and the fear of punishments leads to a great number of dropouts. Corporal Punishment often leads to antisocial behavior. The brutal disciplinary processes hinder the psychological growth of a person. In December, 2012 an Eight year old boy lost vision in left eye after being thrashed allegedly by another boy at the instigation of two teachers of a government school when he refused to clean the class room. The 3rd standard student was beaten up in a brutal manner under the supervision of the two teachers and his eye got damaged and started bleeding. The teachers did not take him to a hospital, but confined him in the school, the whole day asking him not to tell anyone about the assault. The student’s father T. Thangapazham approached Hon’ble Madras High Court Madurai bench for seeking Rs 10 lakh for providing treatment to his eight-year old son. After hearing the pathetic stage of the small boy, the Hon’ble Justice K K Sasidharan ordered notice to State Education Department and two teachers, including the headmistress of the Government Middle School in Seelanayakanpatti, and the culprit who thrashed the victim with a broomstick and the same is pending before the Hon’ble High Court.

Laws against Corporal Punishments

    The principle of “Doli incapaxi” which means, there can be no Corporal punishment even under penal provisions. The Indian penal code also follows this principle. Section 83 of the IPC defines children between seven and twelve years as having immature understanding and under this provision a child cannot be subjected to physical offences. Section 89 of IPC protects an act by a guardian or by consent of the qualification act by a guardian or by consent of the guardian done in good faith for benefit of the child under 12 years. However, the same section says that this exception will not extend to the cases where such an act has caused death or is an attempt to cause death resulting in grievous hurt.

Criminal Liability

    Criminal Liability requires “bad intention” on the part of the one who commits an offence (here a teacher). But, if the teacher punishes the student with negligence and unreasonableness then the teacher cannot say that it was done in good faith. If a teacher exceeds the authority and inflicts unreasonableness punishment, he would lose the benefit of section 89 of the IPC which protects acts done in good faith. The teacher is liability under the law. If the teacherimpose harm or corporal punishment on children in schools could be against the general principles of civil liability, which may result in payment of damages in an action for tort, i.e., civil wrong; the general principles of criminal liability for assaulting, causing injury or harm resulting in prosecution under Sections 89, 319, 320, 349, 350, 351 of Indian Penal Code;   the definition of "service" under Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and deficiency of service may lead to an action before the consumer forum for compensation and the norms and procedure prescribed by the Government through Rules or Act, or judicial directions laid down by Supreme Court or High Court and furthermore it may also attract departmental action.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2000

      Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, provides punishment for cruelty to the juvenile or the child. Whoever, having the actual change or control over a juvenile or a child, assaults, abandons, exposes such juvenile or the child unnecessary mental or physical suffering, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extent to six months or fine or with both. The state legislatures in few states have given due recognition to the issue and introduced and amended legislations to abolish corporal punishment in law.

     The Goa Children’s Act categorically states in Sec 4 (2) ‘Corporal Punishment is banned in all schools.’ Many State Education Acts have been amended as well, particularly in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The ‘education departments’ in many states have also issued orders and circulars, with the Government of Puducherry (Pondicherry) starting as early as 2001. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, has recently written to all State governments to abolish the practice of corporal punishment in all educational institutions. It is noteworthy that they have made a connection between corporal punishment and children dropping-out of school. This is an important admission.

UN Convention on Child Rights

    Article 28 of Convention says that education is a right and Article 29 says that the purpose of school education should be to assist the child in developing his or her personality, talents, mental and physical abilities to his/her fullest potential. Article 3, 18 and 36 of the Convention talks about parental and adult responsibility in the private sphere and the right to protection from exploitation. Article 19 provides for measures to protect children from all forms of physical abuse and imposes an obligation on member states to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse. The convention clearly says that there must be a specific law and policy to curb domestic violence and battery of child by parents. Parents and teachers are legally accountable for violence and abuse of authority against children. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child replaces the concept of parents’ rights with “parental responsibilities”, including the right and responsibility to protect the rights of children themselves. 

Need to prohibit the corporal punishment by law

      India, being a signatory to UN convention on child rights, is under an obligation to prohibit corporal punishments from schools. There should neither be physical nor mental punishment to humiliate children. Stress, strain and an intimidating atmosphere are worst impacts of corporal punishment. Suicides are major consequences of corporal punishment in schools. State governments should enact appropriate laws and rules to save the children from violence.

Directions and Punishments

       The Supreme Court may have banned corporal punishment, but teachers in Tamil Nadu continue to think up innovative ways to teach their students a painful lesson. In fact, teachers in this state vehemently opposed the removal of ‘corporal punishment' from the Tamil Nadu Education Rules. In December 2000, a committee was set up to look into the Tamil Nadu Education Rules, which, despite being updated till 1998, remain absurd. Till recently, corporal punishment was considered legal by exception. Rule 51 specified: "Corporal punishment shall not be inflicted, except in a case of moral delinquency such as deliberate lying, obscenity of word or act or flagrant insubordination, and it shall be limited to six cuts on the hand and administered only by or under the supervision of the headmaster." Thus, a headmaster could `legally' beat a student merely by quoting the circumstances specified under Rule 51.

An eighth student of Manaparai school near Trichy district, Tamil Nadu lost one of his eyes as a result of punishment given by a teacher. The teacher had caned the schoolboy on November 11, 2002 for not completing his homework. The cane fell on a geometry box from where a metal compass took off and pierced the victim’s eye. The Hon’ble Madras High Court Madurai Bench convicted the teacher and observed in the order “It is not in dispute that the victim boy sustained injury on his right eye and it is true that the teacher attacked him. All this would only go to show that the accused had committed the offence under Section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code,” Inflicting physical punishment on a child is against his or her right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This was held by Delhi High Court in a public Interest Litigation which was filed by the Parents Forum for Meaningful Education (AIR 2001 Delhi 212).

     Several State governments have also passed government orders to stop the Corporal Punishment. Notwithstanding these orders, little seems to have changed in the class rooms. The teacher should have the confidence in them that they can mould children without any corporal punishment. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has given various guidelines with regard to the corporal punishments in schools. When teaching becomes coercive, students will neither have proper education nor any discipline. Whenever incidents of Corporal Punishment take place in schools, the National Commission for Protection of Child (NCPCR) as well as National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should take cognizance of such cases and must necessary intervention.             Dr. Shantha Sinha, the chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), said: “Currently, there is no law that bans corporal punishment under the Indian penal code and it’s very ambiguous.

Children are precious resources of the nation

      Children with high self-esteem are more successful because they are willing to try. They are happier because they feel good about their abilities to cope with failure. They have better relationships with their parents because they know their parents believe in them. Parents can do a lot to build their children’s self-esteem. They can recognize their children’s efforts, even if they’re not perfect, support their children when they fail and encourage them to keep trying. Children are precious resources of the nation, and therefore they are entitled to get education in an environment of freedom and dignity, free from fear.  

(Image courtesy: Outlook India)

- R.Karunanidhi,   Advocate, Madras High Court Madurai Bench, Madurai- 625 023 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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