Amendment to be put before Union Cabinet soon

The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development has proposed banning corporal punishment and bringing in stringent punitive action against offenders. It has suggested a maximum imprisonment of up to seven years in case they are found guilty of “repeatedly using any punishment in which physical force is used with the intention of causing some degree of pain or discomfort to the child.”

A senior Ministry official said, “We have prepared a note for the Union Cabinet, proposing amendment to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act that seeks to include a new section on corporal punishment, which defines such punishment commensurate with the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for ‘hurt’ and ‘grievous hurt’ offences. The proposed amendment is to be put up for Cabinet approval soon.”

The Ministry, in the note, has proposed a jail term of up to one year or fine or both in case a child is hurt and emotionally distressed. For every subsequent offence, the offender could be imprisoned for up to three years.

The official added: “However, in case the punishment has caused the child grievous hurt or severe mental trauma, the offender could be liable for rigorous imprisonment of five years and fine. Repeated offence could invite a maximum jail term of up to seven years and fine. Also on second conviction, the caretaker [schoolteacher/ staff at child home or orphanage] would be dismissed from service.’’

A ‘Study on Child Abuse’ conducted by the Ministry in 2007 revealed that almost 65 per cent of children suffer corporal punishment in schools, despite it being banned by many State governments, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal and Gujarat. Two out of three schoolchildren reported facing corporal punishment, says the study.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Shantha Sinha said: “The Commission carried out a survey last year in seven States across the country where we found that 99 per cent of the students interviewed were punished by their teacher. We support the Ministry’s initiative to bring about a total ban and introduce legal action against offenders. There is an urgent need to take strong action when the gravity of the crime and violence inflicted on the child causes him/her extensive physical, emotional and mental trauma. The legal action should, however, be complemented with awareness programmes for the caregivers [teachers, parents, staff at children’s homes, ashrams, hostels etc.] enabling them to use non-violent methods of dealing with a child.”

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