Teacher administering moderate and reasonable force to enforce discipline in classroom, can be exposed to criminal prosecution? Kerala HC answers

Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: While explaining that inflicting corporal punishment on a Child by a parent or teacher is forbidden, Dr Kauser Edappagath, J., observed that,

“Hurt of a less serious crime is not forbidden when inflicted in the reasonable chastisement of a child by a parent or by a school teacher.”

A criminal revision petition had been filed by the sole accused on the file of Lower Court under Sections 397 read with 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure challenging the charge framed against her.

Background

Accused/Revision Petitioner was the class teacher of Standard VI and de facto complainant was a student in the same class. The 4th respondent was his father.

It was stated that due to enmity towards 3rd respondent for the delay in taking out a textbook, the revision petitioner attempted to beat him with the intention to cause hurt, with a cane, but 3rd respondent suddenly turned his face up, the butt of the same touched his right eye corneal and thus the revision petitioner committed the offences punishable under Section 324 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

Lower Court opined that there was ground for presuming that the revision petitioner had committed the offence and framed charge against her under Section 324 of the Penal Code, 1860 and Section 23 of the JJ Act.

The instant revision petition was preferred challenging the above.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Expressing that, A prima facie case against the accused is said to be made out when the probative value of the evidence on all the essential elements in the charge taken as a whole is such that it is sufficient to induce the Court to believe in the existence of the facts pertaining to such essential elements or to consider its existence so probable that a prudent man ought to act upon the supposition that those facts existed or did happen, High Court stated that at the stage of consideration of an application for discharge, the Court is required to consider whether there are sufficient grounds to proceed against the accused.

The broad test to be applied in the present matter is whether the materials on record, if unrebutted, makes a conviction reasonably possible. [State of Bihar v. Ramesh Singh, (1977) 4 SCC 39; Union of India v. Prafulla Kumar Samal (1979) 3 SCC 4; Dilawar Babu v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) SCC 135; Sajjan Kumar v. CBI, (2010) 9 SCC 368; State v. A. Arun Kumar, (2015) 2 SCC 417; Mauvin Godinho v. State of Goa, (2018) 3 SCC 358; and State v. S. Selvi, (2018) 3 SCC 455].

From the catena of decisions, the principle that can be culled out is that, “if evidence, which the prosecution proposed to adduce to prove the guilt of the accused, even if fully accepted before it is challenged in cross-examination or rebutted by defence evidence, if any, cannot show that the accused has omitted the offence, then there will be no sufficient ground for proceeding with the trial.”

What led to the present case?

In the case at hand, the revision petitioner being the class teacher tried to bring the noisy class into silence and discipline by making a cane sound, beating it on the table.

Further, she stated that, when all the students sat silently and properly, the 3rd respondent alone was sitting under the bench looking for something. Seeing this, she with bonafide intention to call the attention of the 3rd respondent to the class, without the intention to beat him or cause hurt to him, tried to touch his right-hand elbow portion with the cane. Simultaneously the cane butt touched his right eye corneal portion gently. 

“Parents at home and teachers at school are most important influences in one’s life.”

High Court expressed that, “Paddling children or inflicting disproportionate corporal punishment on them either by a parent or a teacher is, no doubt, forbidden.” 

As per Section 17 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 no child shall be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment.

“Hurt of a less serious crime is not forbidden when inflicted in the reasonable chastisement of a child by a parent or by a school teacher to whom the parent has delegated or is deemed to have delegated his authority.”

In Court’s opinion, a teacher who without malicious intention administers a moderate and reasonable force to a pupil to enforce discipline in classroom/school cannot be exposed to criminal prosecution or fastened with penal liability.

The cane used by the teacher was used in the ordinary course to control noisy class so as to maintain discipline. Hence the same cannot be considered a dangerous weapon. In order to attract Section 234 of OPC, hurt by means of dangerous weapons should be caused voluntarily.

The case record revealed that the teacher had no intention at all to cause hurt to the 3rd respondent.

With regard to ‘assault’ under Section 351 IPC, it was nothing more than a threat of violence exhibiting an intention to use criminal force and the ability and intention to carry out the threat into execution. The prosecution records did not disclose that the revision petitioner did make or express any words or gesture to threaten the 3rd respondent. 

Nothing on record depicted that the teacher caused any mental strain to the 3rd respondent.

High Court held that, revision petitioner’s act could not be said to be with malicious intention to cause hurt to the 3rd respondent. The facts revealed that she exercised her authority reasonably and in good faith and the prosecution allegations, even if admitted as true in their entirety, would not make out offence either under Section 324 of IPC or under Section 23 of the JJ Act.

Therefore, the revision petitioner was discharged, and the criminal revision petition stood allowed. [Jaya v. State of Kerala, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 544, decided on 24-1-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner:

BY ADVS.

          SRI.T.K. SASINDRAN

          SRI.T.S. SHYAM PRASANTH

For the Respondent:

BY ADV SRI.K.I.SAGEER

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.