NEW DELHI: Parents who practice the dictum, 'spare the rod and spoil the child', had better watch out. The government is planning a legislation that will make meting out corporal punishment to a child an offence not just for educational institutions and care givers, but also for parents, relatives, neighbours and friends.
In other words, just like in the US, children in India will be able to take parents or relatives to court for "cruelty".
The proposed punishment for the first offence is one year imprisonment or a fine of Rs 5,000 that can be raised to three years' imprisonment for a second offence with a fine of Rs 25,000.
At present, guidelines issued by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) are the the only deterrent against corporal punishment.
The proposed Prevention of Offences against Child Bill 2009, which has been piloted by the women and child development (WCD) ministry, is in the final stages of approval and is likely to come up in Cabinet soon.
WCD minister Krishna Tirath confirmed the radical move. "There have been consultations on the bill and we are in the process of bringing it to Cabinet," she said.
The draft bill says, "Whoever intentionally inflicts physical penalty on a child for disciplinary purposes shall be punished for the offence of corporal punishment." Corporal punishment has been defined as violence, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment by any person including the child's family member, school, relatives, neighbours, friends, educational or care giving institutions, prisons and homes set up under the Juvenile Justice Act. Ragging is also covered under the proposed legislation.
The bill is expected to be an umbrella legislation that will bring all forms of exploitation of the child -- social, physical, sexual or economic -- under the law. It lays down clear penalties for children employed as beggars and prohibits all forms of child labour as domestic help or those forced in hazardous work.
Trafficking and sexual exploitation of children could lead to life imprisonment. Economic exploitation including forcing a minor into labour or to beg, giving children intoxicants or drugs, or exposing them to pornography have also been specifically defined in the bill.
The legislation has been on the anvil for some time now. The NCPCR has held consultations with civil society, NGOs, educational institutions and other organizations. The bill was then drafted in consultation with the solicitor general and is likely to come up in the monsoon session of Parliament.