Is It Legal for a Teacher to Beat a Student in India?

Law
09-May-2024
blog-img

In earlier times, “Spare the rod and Spoil the child” phrase was believed by many people in disciplining their children. Many countries have declared corporal punishment of school children as an official or unofficial form of institutional child abuse. Corporal Punishment is hitting a person as a form of punishment such as slapping, hitting, spanking, pinching, pulling, and hitting with objects. Researchers have believed that such a mentality has caused more harm to children rather than doing any good to them. The only advantage they could extract from it was immediate compliance with instructions by the children. A director of a Beijing-based research center has stated that adults set a bad example by resorting to violence to solve a problem. In India, schools have put a blanket ban on corporal punishments in schools, daycare, and alternative childcare institutions. However, there are no restrictions at home. It is also prohibited under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. Many people have contended that serious misbehavior calls for serious actions. However, the need to leave a strong impression on a child is no excuse for hitting, beating, or any kind of physical abuse.

Legal Framework on Corporal Punishment in India

History – In Tamil Nadu, kodandam was practiced as a punishment for boys. The meaning of “kodandam” means hanging errant boys upside down and thrashing. It was a brutal form of corporal punishment and sometimes, dried red chilies were burnt below them so that the boys bear both the beating and the intolerable smell of the chilies. Using iron rods, twisting the ear lobes, or beating the backs of children were some of the commonly followed practices to discipline a child.

In the year 2000, corporal punishment was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court of India, and in the year 2010, the Supreme Court banned corporal punishment through the Right to Education Act, of 2009. As per the Right to Education Act, of 2009, corporal punishments can be physical punishments, mental harassment, or discrimination.

Physical punishments involve punishing the child by inflicting physical pain on them, like “murga punishment”, which is holding of ears with hands passed under the legs, standing with the hands straight towards the sky, holding ears for long hours, making the children stand in the sun, running by carrying the school bag on the head, squeezing the fingers by putting a pencil in between and beating on hands and knuckles. Mental harassment was scolding, shouting, public humiliation, removing clothes for boys, calling them by name, expulsion, etc. Discrimination was majorly based on caste and economic background etc.

The following are the laws that are implemented to put in effect the prohibition of corporal punishments in India:

Indian Penal Code, 1850 

 It is pertinent to note that giving corporal punishments to children in school or at home might attract some serious sections under the Indian Penal Code, 1850:

  1. Section 305 – Abetment of suicide committed by a child
    This is considered to be a serious offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1850, when a child commits suicide which is abetted by some other person in furtherance of corporal punishment inflicted upon him.
  2. Section 323 – Voluntarily causing hurt
    This section addresses the act of causing harm to another person voluntarily and is a non-grave offense.
  3. Section 325 – Voluntarily causing grievous hurt
    This section deals with causing grievous hurt to another person voluntarily and is considered more grave than simple hurt. In many instances, due to corporal punishments, children get grievous hurt.
  4. Section 326 – Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means
    When children are beaten up with weapons or any objects by which they can be hurt it is considered to be an offense under the Indian Penal Code, 1850, and punishment can be given to the accused.
  5. Section 352 – Assault or use of criminal force otherwise than a grave provocation
    This section deals with assault or the use of criminal force in situations other than in response to grave provocation.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 

As stated above, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 differentiates corporal punishment into three parts - Physical Punishments, Mental Harassment, or Discrimination/ Negative Reinforcement. Section 17 of the act forbids any kind of punishment and mental harassment of children and whoever repudiates the provisions will be in danger of disciplinary actions under the provisions of the rules. The act also put an obligation on the government to guarantee that children have a place in a vulnerable environment in a place where they aren’t oppressed and kept from seeking after and finishing the instructions on grounds.

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

As per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, any person who is under the age of 18 is a youngster. The act defines corporal punishment as subjecting a toddler to physical punishment by a person which involves the deliberate infliction of pain as a penalty for an offense or in the name of discipline or reformation. As per the act, a committee known as the Child Welfare Committee and a board known as the Juvenile Justice Board is set up by the authorities. Section 82 of the act deals with corporal punishment and states that any person in charge of or employed in a childcare institution, who subjects a child to corporal punishment in the name of discipline, will be liable on the primary conviction to a fine of 10 thousand rupees and, for each subsequent offense, for an imprisonment of 3 months or both.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) 

The NCPCR guidelines prohibit the use of corporal punishments in any form, whether physical or emotional, in schools or any other institutions. It has directed schools to create a safe and secure working space where children are nurtured without any form of violence or torture. It also advocates training programs for teachers, administrators, and staff members to raise awareness about the harmful effects of corporal punishments and alternative disciplinary methods. Further, schools are being urged to take prompt and appropriate disciplinary actions against any member who practices corporal punishments and encourage them to adopt positive disciplinary strategies that focus on constructive and non-violent methods of behavior management.

Landmark court cases related to Corporal Punishment

Vishwa Lochan Madan vs Union of India (2010) – In this case, the Delhi High Court had issued guidelines prohibiting corporal punishments in schools and instructed all states and Union Territories to follow them strictly. The verdict emphasized was laid on the fact that every child has a right to be treated with dignity and respect and corporal punishment violated this right.
Nilabati Behera vs State of Orissa (1993) – This case deals with the issue of custodial violence which resulted in the death of a person and is not directly related to corporal punishments practiced in educational institutions. The Supreme Court of India has ruled out that the state must protect the fundamental rights of an individual, including the right to life and dignity.
Mohini Jain vs State of Karnataka (1992) - While the primary focus is on the right to education, this landmark case before the Supreme Court of India reaffirmed the principles of human dignity and the state’s obligation to provide a conducive and healthy environment for children to grow up, protecting their physical and psychological well-being.

Impact of Corporal Punishment on Children

While some people might consider it necessary to beat or punish a child as a disciplinary measure, it is not always the solution. Reasons like anger, frustration, anxiety, or hatred towards a child are the ones that give rise to such violent acts by parents as well as teachers. Some So many parents don’t think corporal punishments are bad and will purposely ask the teacher to hit or beat the child if they are involved in some wrongdoing to keep him or her disciplined. However, what they don’t understand is that corporal punishments not only leave physical marks on the body of a child, but they gravely affect their tender minds, which are in their development stage, and can have a long and adverse impact on them. Such an impact often gives rise to anxiety, fear, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, violent behavior, depression, and even suicide sometimes.

The worst cases are those wherein children are made to believe that such brutality is normal or an essential part of a child’s growth years. A parent who has been subject to corporal punishment is more likely to inflict the same on the other person or the next generation and the cycle keeps continuing. The personality of such children becomes aggressive, violent, and bullish, dominating the inferior and considering all such acts of violence as fair.

Alternatives to Corporal Punishment

Given the fact that corporal punishments are causing serious concerns and harm to children rather than good, we need to look for alternatives to corporal punishments as a way to discipline the child. There cannot be a fixed or exhaustive list of measures to take to achieve the end goal, but the following can be practiced for starters:

  1. Firstly, it is important to build a good rapport with the child from an early age so that communication comfort can be developed from a very early stage on a personal level for teachers. It can be hard given the number of students they have to manage. However, it has been considered as the most effective measure for teachers and both parents.
  2. Secondly, being vocal about the consequences of the act that the child indulges in is also an effective form of parenting, and it helps well in teaching the values and lessons to a child and helping them develop in a more nurturing and caring way.
  3. The last option could be restraining them from availing their privileges or their favorite pastime that he or she enjoys the most, to teach the value of the consequences of actions to them in life.
    Communication is the most effective alternative to corporal punishment. If a child is comfortable enough to come to you and speak about what’s going on in their mind, many wrongful actions can be avoided or if committed, the solution to cure them can be figured out. It is high time that parents realize that it's okay to be naughty and commit mistakes when you are young, because you learn from your own mistakes and childhood is the time when one should experience everything.

Conclusion

It is a sad fact that corporal punishments still prevail in India to a greater extent in rural and backward areas, mostly due to a lack of effective measures being taken or awareness not being spread about them. Statutory bodies should implement more measures to work efficiently and effectively and with the current regime and law towards the eradication of corporal punishment. Hopefully, we will achieve zero corporal punishment cases in India one day. Further, more training programs should be introduced to tackle the problems of behavior management.