The government has put its foot down against corporal punishment and ragging1 and is proposing changes in the law that would send offenders to up to seven years in jail. To protect children in educational institutions, the government has for the first time defined corporal punishment and ragging in the proposed changes to the Juvenile Justice Act, which is being renamed as the Child Justice (Care, Protection and Rehabilitation of Children) Act.
For corporal punishment, a jail term of up to a year is being proposed in cases of simple injury and emotional distress to the child. For subsequent offences, it would be three years. A second conviction would also mean dismissal from service.
A five-year imprisonment has been proposed if a child is grievously hurt or subjected to severe mental trauma. A repeat of such an offence would invite a seven-year term.
Corporal punishment affects almost every other child in India. A 2009-10 survey by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights among 6,700 students in seven states saw around 99% of them confirming punishment at the hands of their teachers.
Tough measures have also been proposed to check severe ragging — up to two years’ imprisonment, a fine of Rs. 10,000 or both. Ragging by an institution’s staff would put them at the risk of dismissal and a bar on working with children in the future.
The women and child development ministry has also proposed a new section in the law to cover ragging inside as well as outside the institution.
The tough new provisions are intended to also protect children in government-run childcare centres. The jail terms proposed are higher than those under the Indian Penal Code.
The proposed changes, which were shared with the states last month, also provide for a three-year jail term if children are pushed into any religious service that hampers their “holistic development”.
“The aim is to put a check on converting children into religious slaves, such as devdasis,” said a senior government official. The level of the crime would be decided by the juvenile justice board in each district of the country.
1. RAGGING is a practice in educational institutions in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that involves existing students baiting or bullying new students. It is similar to the American phenomenon of hazing. It often takes a malignant form wherein the newcomers may be subjected to psychological or physical torture.