Tamil Nadu

Madras HC laments absence of law to prohibit corporal punishment

Lamenting that no specific law had been enacted in the country so far to prohibit and eradicate corporal punishment despite it being a cruel practice, the Madras High Court quashed a criminal case booked against a physical education trainer, a headmaster and a school correspondent of a government-aided school for having allegedly caused the death of a student by making him do ‘duck waddling’ because he came late to school on January 17, 2018.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh said the Thiru Vi Ka Nagar police in Chennai had booked the trio under Section 304A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) but failed to collect enough material to make out the offence. He pointed out that even a doctor who conducted the post-mortem had opined that the child had died due to natural causes and that no opinion could be expressed on the exact cause of death.

“In order to sustain a charge under Section 304A of the IPC, there must be some material to show that there was an overt act on the part of the accused persons and that there is a proximity between the act of the accused and the cause of death. In other words, the act of the accused persons must be the causa causans (the immediate cause) for the death,” the judge observed and said the requirements were absent in the present case.

Nevertheless, stating that deciding the case led to a battle between his mind and conscience, Justice Venkatesh said: “The conscience was not willing to send away the second respondent [R. Murali, father of the child] with empty hands since he has lost his son … At times, it becomes important for the court to play the role of a conscience-keeper at least to achieve a moral satisfaction while disposing of a case.”

Though the petitioners — S. Jai Singh, Fa. Arul and Fa. Joseph Fernandez — had no legal obligation to pay any compensation to the family of the child, the court imposed a moral obligation and made them pay ₹10 lakh to the complainant with an observation that certainly, no amount of money could match the loss of a life. The judge said he could feel the lingering pain in the heart of the father who had lost his son.

Terming corporal punishment as “sadistic and inhumane”, the judge expressed shock over its continuance even now. He said the Abolition of Corporal Punishment in Educational Institutions Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2010, but in 2011, it was replaced with the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act of 2012, which does not prohibit corporal punishment.

Further, listing out various other initiatives, he said none fructified into a specific legislation against such punishment. He agreed with a 2001 Delhi High Court judgement, pronounced in Parents Forum for Meaningful Education vs Union of India, that when animals were protected against cruelty by way of a specific legislation, “our children surely cannot be worse off than animals”.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 7:37:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/madras-hc-laments-absence-of-law-to-prohibit-corporal-punishment/article34001384.ece

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