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Parents spared the rod

- Jail for corporal punishment dropped from bill

New Delhi, Aug. 19: A provision allowing jail terms for parents and teachers who physically punish children has been dropped from the bill to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, introduced in Parliament two weeks ago.

The bill’s draft had proposed up to three years in jail and a fine for errant parents and imprisonment between six months and 10 years for teachers and school management officials, depending on the extent of the child’s injuries.

But the current bill, which will come up for House discussion in the next session, has limited its glare on corporal punishment to “childcare institutions” — anganwadi centres, playschools, orphanages and shelter homes.

Offenders will face a fine and up to three months in jail, but if those in charge of running these institutions hush up such incidents, they can be jailed for up to three years and fined Rs 1 lakh.

Ragging too has been left out of the bill’s ambit, so the offence will continue to be dealt with under the education regulators’ existing “guidelines” and Indian Penal Code sections that are not specific to the crime.

The corporal punishment relief for parents and teachers came after several ministries raised concerns when the cabinet discussed the draft on August 6. The human resource development ministry argued that the Right to Education Act already dealt with corporal punishment, so duplication was unnecessary.

But while the RTE Act bans corporal punishment, it does not mandate punishment for parents. Teachers and heads of school managements face “disciplinary action under the service rules applicable to such person” but no jail terms.

The cabinet, however, noted that penal code sections dealing with causing hurt and grievous hurt can be evoked against both corporal punishment and ragging, with jail terms of six months to seven years.

“In any case, it would have been impossible to prove child beatings against parents or relatives,” a human resource development ministry official said.

That the RTE Act applies only to children aged 6 to 14 was a source of misgivings among some ministry officials, though. The limited scan on “childcare institutions” under the new bill applies to all minors from age zero to 18.

Some 40 countries — mostly developed nations — now jail parents and teachers for physically punishing children.

The draft had looked to turn ragging into a specific penal offence, mandating up to six months’ jail and suspension. If the victim was incapacitated or emotionally damaged, or faced a danger to his life, the punishment would have extended to three years with expulsion.

But the human resource development ministry again argued that the University Grants Commission, All India Council for Technical Education and some state governments had already set anti-ragging guidelines.

Most of these recommend expulsion for those who rag. Any institution that covers the offence up risks cancellation of its accreditation.

“Besides, the Supreme Court’s 2007 directions in the matter are widely seen as guiding principles on the menace of ragging,” the ministry official said.


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