Physical Force Used Only To 'Correct' Schoolchild Is Not An Offence: Bombay High Court Acquits Teacher In Corporal Punishment Case

Update: 2023-02-03 13:59 GMT

In a corporal punishment case, the Bombay High Court held that use of some physical force by school teacher, with no mala fide intention, only to correct the child does not constitute an offence under Section 324 of the IPC or Section 2(m) of the Goa Children's Act, 2005.

Justice Bharat P. Deshpande of the Goa bench, while quashing a schoolteacher’s conviction for hitting two children's hands with a stick, observed that teachers are the backbone of our education system, and it would be difficult to maintain discipline in school if they are constantly under fear of trivial allegations.

The teachers are respected in the society at the most. They are the backbone of our education system. If the teachers are under fear of such allegations for trivial matters and more specifically while correcting children, it would be difficult for conducting schools thereby giving proper education and more specifically maintaining discipline. A civilized society needs civilized young generation which would respect each other and would be considered as a future generation of the nation,” the court held.

The court said that school is not just for academic learning but also to learn other aspects of life including discipline.

The court relied on Emperor v. GB Ghatge and distinguished between a moderate punishment and the assault under Section 323 IPC or a physical assault under Section 2(m) of the 2005 Act.

"Only because teacher scolded a student or even inflicted some reasonable punishment, would not in any manner constitute offence as it has to be kept in mind that such measures were taken by the teacher only and only for the purpose of maintaining the discipline of the school and to correct a child who is misbehaving or committing mischief which is detrimental to the discipline of the school and affecting other students."

The Goa Children's Court had convicted the teacher under Section 324 (voluntary causing hurt) of IPC and under Section 2(m)(i) (child abuse) punishable under Section 8(2) of the Goa Children's Act for hitting two children aged almost 6 years and 9 years.

The teacher was asked to pay a fine of ₹10,000/- in connection with the offence punishable under Section 324 of IPC. She was further sentenced to undergo simple imprisonment for one day and to pay fine of 1,00,000,  under Section 8(2) of Goa Children's Act, 2003

Justice Deshpande did not believe the testimonies of the children and the complainant as they contradicted each other. The school teachers had deposed that no ruler or stick is used by any teacher including the appellant in the school. Thus, the court expressed serious doubt about the use of ruler by the appellant on the day in question.

“One thing is admitted by both these witnesses/victims that PW2 consumed water from her water bottle and thereafter she also consumed some water from the bottle of another student. Only on seeing this, Accused scolded PW2 and told her to bring sufficient water for herself in her water bottle. This incident is quite normal in a primary school. In order to discipline the students and to inculcate good habits, the teacher is bound to act accordingly and sometimes be a bit harsh,” the court noted.

The court added, “In order to maintain discipline in her own class, sometimes, she has to use reasonable force if the students are not able to understand the instructions and are repeatedly committing such mistakes.”

The court said since the victims were both below 12 years of age at the relevant time, Sections 88 (Act not intended to cause death, done by consent in good faith for person’s benefit) and 89 (Act done in good faith for benefit of child by consent of guardian) of the IPC were attracted.

It also noted that the Goa Children's Act provides a special procedure with regard to violations of ban on corporal punishment under Section 4(12).

It further observed that under Section 24(3) of the Act, only the competent authority can take cognizance of and try such offenses and Section 30(3) specifically excludes the powers of the competent authority from the Children's Court's jurisdiction. Thus, children's court does not have the jurisdiction to try cases of corporal punishment punishable only with fine, the court held.

"In the present matter, the offence as alleged against Accused/Appellant is basically coming within the purview of Section 4(12) of Goa Children's Act wherein corporal punishment is banned in all schools. Admittedly, there is no definition of corporal punishment found in the said Act. Therefore, we have to fall back with the dictionary meaning," said the court.

It added that as per Black's Law Dictionary, corporal punishment is "physical punishment as distinguished from pecuniary punishment or a fine; any kind of punishment of or inflicted on the body". "In the light of above, when such incident happened in the school, though it is prohibited under Section 4(12), the procedure which has been provided under the Act as discussed above and more specifically in Section 14, needs to be followed," it said.

The court said that even if a complaint is directly filed with the police authorities, the proper procedure would be to approach the competent authority. After conducting necessary enquiry under Section 14, the competent authority can take necessary action. If it is of the opinion that an FIR needs to be registered, it will inform the police, the court added.

“it is also the duty of the investigating agency i.e. the police to conduct a preliminary inquiry or direct the complainant to approach competent authority i.e. Directorate of Women's and Child Development whenever there are allegations regarding corporal punishment and more specifically during the school hours. If such procedure is followed, it would avoid and restrict the matters which are directly filed before the Children's Court specifically with regard to such allegations of physical abuse by the teacher only with an intent to correct a child and to discipline,” the court further held.

The court held that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that the teacher used any stick or ruler on the children. Further, both children improvised to cover their own mistakes and mischief in school, the court observed.

“To my mind, the present matter is squarely attracted under the provisions of Section 89 of IPC as even if it is considered that the teacher/accused used some physical force, it was only to correct the child, with no malafide or other intentions,” the court said.

Advocate Arun de Sa represented the appellant and Additional public prosecutor Pravin Faldessai represented the State.

Case no. – Criminal Appeal No. 30 of 2019

Case title – Rekha @ Vidhila Faldessai v. State

Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Bom) 73

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment


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