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School CP - December 2000

Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 2 December 2000

Delhi schoolkids to be spared the rod

By HT Correspondent

Ilustration: Arya Praharaj

SPARE THE rod and spoil the child. Even in this, the 21st century, the medieval truism still has many champions among school teachers, school administrators and even parents. But the Delhi High Court on Friday may have forced them to rethink.

In a landmark judgement, the Delhi High Court struck down the provision for corporal punishment provided under the Delhi School Education Act. The court held that the provision violated the constitutional right guaranteeing equality and protection of life and personal liberty.

The ruling came in the wake of a petition filed by the Parents Forum For Meaningful Education.

A division bench of Justice Anil Dev Singh and Justice M.K. Sharma, in their 23-page judgement, also struck down other provisions in the Act that run contrary to the National Policy on Education adopted by the Centre in 1992.

"The national policy, in tune with the International Convention on Children, has adopted a child-centred approach, where corporal punishment has no place in the system of education. Even otherwise India, being a signatory to the Convention, is obliged to protect the child from physical or mental violence or injury while the child is in the care of any person, maybe educational institution, parents or legal guardian," the bench held.

The court, while rejecting the Delhi Government's contention that retaining the provision was necessary to discipline students, said: "We cannot agree. We have chartered a different course and in doing so we have been guided by the Constitution."

The Act provides for awarding corporal punishment to a student for certain acts defined under it, besides his expulsion and rustication if he is above 14. (The Act, however, bars physically weak children from being punished physically).

The Act provides for up to ten cane strokes on the palms of a student. The punishment has to be noted in his or her conduct register.

On the use of physical force against children by teachers, the court said: "It defeats the very purpose for which the punishment is applied. Infliction of body pain as penalty for indiscipline on a child may make him submissive, while others may learn that the punishment is an accepted mode of ensuring compliance of one's wisdom by others.

"Brutal treatment of children can never inculcate discipline in them. Obedience exacted by striking fear of punishment can make the child adopt the same tactics when he grows up for getting what he wants... the child has to be prepared for responsible life," the bench said.

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