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article imageIndian laws unable to protect children from school punishments

By Subhabrata Das     Apr 18, 2009 in World
The teacher allegedly blamed for 11-year-old student’s death has not been charged with murder as her intention was possibly not bad. It seems Indian law ministry is dilly-dallying from years in making laws to save children from cruel punishments.
On Friday, Shannoo Khan, a minor student of class 2 at Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) primary school in Narela in north Delhi, India, 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 — a barbaric incident believed to be responsible for her death after two days.
Teacher’s intention was not bad
However, Delhi police reportedly pressed charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304-II of Indian Penal Code. According to some of the Indian legal experts like Harish Salve, Sushil Kumar, K T S Tulsi and Manoj Taneja, as there was no proof of beating against the teacher it is possible that the teacher had no intention to inflict grievous injury that could lead to the student's death. Salve said: "It's definitely a case under Section 304-II which is also stringent as the punishment can extend to 10 years imprisonment."
According to these legal experts, the teacher should get the benefit of doubt as she could not be said to have the intention of causing the child's death by making her stand in the sun or through inflicting punishment.
Brutal punishment is common in Indian schools
Violence against children in the form of corporal punishment is an everyday incident in the schools throughout the country. According to Shireen Miller, Policy and Advocacy Director of Save the Children India, incidents like physical torture and killing of pupil by teachers are quite common in India. He said: "As a study we conducted with the Ministry of Women and Child Development (2007) shows, two out of every three children in India suffer physical abuse from their teachers at school. One of the key reasons for these shockingly high figures is due to a lack of legislative guarantee, which ensures safety against such abuse of children in schools."
The study also showed that teachers mostly prefer to use corporal punishment instead of other alternative/positive disciplining techniques and this is the key reason behind high dropout cases in the schools. Last month in Tiruchi, Tamil Nadu, a 6-year-old girl, Sri Rohini, a student of St Maria Annai Primary School, died after her teacher allegedly hit on her head, locked her up in a cupboard and later threw her into a water tank. In November 2008, in the central state of Chhattisgarh, a teacher blinded a six-year-old girl by inserting a pin into her right eye after she failed to answer a question in class. A few more cases happened in 2008 could be found here.
There is no such law which bans corporal punishment in India
Despite of numerous incidences of horrifying tortures in schools Indian law makers failed to implement a single law prohibiting corporal punishments in schools. Except a few states like Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Chandigarh, Goa and Delhi, corporal punishment in schools is allowed in India. However, beating students in the name of corporal punishment is still quite frequent in states like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
Although the National Policy on Education (1986, modified 1992) states that "corporal punishment will be firmly excluded from the educational systems," there is no national prohibition in law of corporal punishment in schools.
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 — it’s very ambiguous. If it’s in the best interest of a child in school, then one can sort of condone this act.”
In December 2000, the Delhi High Court ruled that provisions for corporal punishment in the Delhi School Education Act (1973) were inhumane and detrimental to the dignity of children. In 2000, Supreme Court has clearly said: "children are not subjected to corporal punishment in schools and that they receive education in an environment of freedom and dignity, free from fear."
However, despite the best effort from the Supreme Court and NCPCR, legislation or schemes related to school children are easily ignored as they are not supported or enforceable by law. In 2007, NCPCR issued some guidelines for the school managements which said corporal punishment should include slapping, rap on the knuckles, kneeling down for hours, running in the school grounds, hitting with a scale, pinching and being locked in a classroom for hours. However, most of the schools did not bother to follow even these guidelines.
For past three years an attempt to bring in a legislation in favor of school children has been shuttling from one ministry to another. Recently Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) had prepared an umbrella legislation for every kind of offense against children, but Law ministry thinks proper amendments in Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure would be adequate. On the other hand, home ministry thinks a separate law for children could solve the whole issue. As a result, the draft is still lying over the WCD table.
However, according to child rights activists, all of these measures to tackle the issue of corporal punishment would be meaningless unless there is a conscious change in societal attitude toward children.
In India, education infrastructure is already struggling with basic issues like food, sanitation, building, etc. and it is quite obvious that a problem like corporal punishment in school is not likely to get priority in the foreseeable future.
More about India, School, Corporal Punishment, Girl died, Delhi
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