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Legal Basis

This topic covers the information related to Legal Basis for eliminating Corporal punishment in schools

International Law

  • Article 28(2) of UN CRC requires the State parties 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 Convention.”
  • Similarly, Article 29(1) (b) of the Convention emphasises 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”.
  • Further, Article 37(a) of UN CRC requires States Parties to ensure that “no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
  • This is complemented by Article 19(1) of the Convention, which requires States to– “Take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.” Article 19(2) lays down that– “Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.”

Relevant Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 21 of the Constitution of India which protects the right to life and dignity includes the right to education for children up to 14 years of age2 . Corporal punishment amounts to abuse and militates against the freedom and dignity of a child. It also interferes with a child’s right to education because fear of corporal punishment makes children more likely to avoid school or to drop out altogether. Hence, corporal punishment is violative of the right to life with dignity.
  • Article 21A of the Constitution provides that “the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.” This fundamental right has been actualised with the enactment of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
  • Article 39(e) directs the State to work progressively to ensure that “… the tender age of children are not abused”.
  • Article 39(f) directs the State to work progressively to ensure that “children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.”

Indian Penal Code (IPC)

Several provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relating to varying degrees of physical harm and intimidation can be used to prosecute perpetrators of corporal punishment against children in an institutional setting. These include, inter alia:

  • Section 305: Abetment of suicide committed by a child;
  • Section 323: Voluntarily causing hurt;
  • Section 325: Voluntarily causing grievous hurt;
  • Section 326: Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means;
  • Section 352: Assault or use of criminal force otherwise than a grave provocation;
  • Section 354: Outraging the modesty of a woman;
  • Section 506: Criminal intimidation;
  • Section 509: Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman;
  • Till recently, the provisions of Sections 88 and 89 of the IPC were invoked to explain the power teachers exercised when inflicting corporal punishment. These two provisions in the chapter on ‘General Exceptions’ cover harms that may be caused without penal consequence. Section 88 exempts an act from being treated as an offence when the harm was caused “to any person for whose benefit it is done in good faith”. Section 89 exempts acts “done in good faith for the benefit of a person under 12 years of age ... by or by consent, either express or implied, of the guardian or other person having lawful charge of that person.” However, contrary to Sections 88 and 89 of the IPC, the Gujarat High Court in its judgement Hasmukhbhai Gokaldas Shah v. State of Gujarat, 17 November 2008, has clearly stated that “corporal punishment to child in present days ... is not recognised by law”. Further, India is a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The standard of ‘the best interests of the child’ is now a part of domestic law. In 2006, the Committee on the Rights of the Child explained this obligation further when it reiterated, in General Comment No. 8, “the right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment”.
  • In theory, corporal punishment is covered by all the provisions under Indian law that punish perpetrators of physical harm. While these provisions make no distinction between adults and children, in practice, corporal punishment in schools and other institutions tends not to be prosecuted because it is widely accepted socially and regarded as legitimate. So the provisions highlighted in this section, the criminal provisions in particular, have the potential to be used in situations of corporal punishment, but rarely are

RTE Act, 2009

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which has come into force with effect from 1 April 2010, prohibits ‘physical punishment’ and ‘mental harassment’ under Section 17(1) and makes it a punishable offence under Section 17(2). These provisions read as follows:
    • 17. Prohibition of physical punishment and mental harassment to child – (1) No child shall be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment.
    • (2) Whoever contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be liable to disciplinary action under the service rules applicable to such person.
  • Sections 8 and 9 of the RTE Act place a duty on the appropriate Government and the local authority to “ensure that the child belonging to weaker section and the child belonging to disadvantaged group are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds”.
  • The RTE Act does not preclude the application of other legislation that relates to the violations of the rights of the child, for example, booking the offenses under the IPC and the SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 is an important statute that criminalises acts that may cause a child mental or physical suffering.

  • Section 23 of the JJ Act, 2000 states as follows: “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.”
  • Section 23 covers the actions of anyone who has “actual charge or control over” a child. While Section 23 is likely to be applied most often to personnel in childcare institutions regulated by the JJ Act, it arguably applies to cruelty by anyone in a position of authority over a child, which would include parents, guardians, teachers and employers.

Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

  • Some provisions of 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.

Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955

  • Various provisions of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 can be used to prosecute a person/ manager/trustee as well as warrant resumption or suspension of grants made by the Government to the educational institution or hostel on the ground of untouchability

Source: The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

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