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The High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Jabalpur has, in a case decided by it on 20th June, 2018, taken a protectionist view towards the teachers imparting education in schools. A petition was filed by the real uncle of the deceased, a minor girl of 15 years, against the Principal of the Government Excellence Higher Secondary School, Kotma, Annuppur, Madhya Pradesh, alleging that humiliation was caused to the deceased due to the scolding and slapping by the Principal, leading the deceased to commit suicide.

The question that came up before the Court was whether the act of slapping and scolding of the deceased by the Principal in front of her friends can prima facie be appreciated as being an abetment to commit suicide.

The counsel for the Petitioner placed reliance on section 107 (Abetment of a thing) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to call the act of the Principal as falling under the category of abetment by incitement. However, the Court held a different view and observed that “An act which constitutes a distinct offence by itself (an offence u/s. 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) in this case, if at all), cannot be construed as an act inciting another offence, which was never contemplated by the person to whom the original act is attributed to. Only such acts would be deemed to be an incitement, which by their very nature, whether by way of words spoken or otherwise, convey a clear and unambiguous direction to the person so incited, to act in a particular manner. Incitement, in the facts and circumstances of a case, may also mean the creation of such an environment around the person so abetted, that he is compelled to act in a particular manner and no other, which the person so inciting/abetting intended or had the knowledge that the person so incited/abetted would act in that particular manner.”

The Court held that the act of the Principal in humiliating the deceased was not done with the intention of inciting the deceased to commit suicide. The Court hence ruled that at the most the act of the Principal would only amount to an offence under section 323 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which is a non-cognizable offence, and no case can be said to be made out under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. On this count, the High Court dismissed the petition giving its reason for the same as below:

“The relief sought by the Petitioner has dangerous portents which could have wide ranging ramifications in the manner in which, education is imparted in this country. The Principal and teachers in a school don the mantle of a parent, during the time the child is in school. Like a parent, who would, and is expected to admonish and chastise the child when the child errs with the intention of correcting the child, so is a Principal and teachers at school expected to admonish and chastise students when they transgress the discipline of the school. Of course, it goes without saying that the days of “spare the rod and spoil the child” are long gone by, the same does not mean that the Principal and teachers at school, languidly watch and ignore the acts of indiscipline and indiscretions of a child. Correction by way of admonishment and chastisement, as and when required, still remains a sacred duty of those imparting education. Good education falls miserably short of meeting its avowed aims if the system of education fails to give back to the society, citizens of sterling quality who are law abiding in every manner and disciplined. Behind every person languishing in prison as a convict, are a man and woman who have failed as parents and a system of education that could not transcend the three “R’s”. Far more important than ensuring that students do well in the material world and arrive at important stations in life, is to ensure that contemporary mores and values are dinned into the students consistently. Brilliance without integrity and character is a social and national liability rather than an asset. It is this that schools must emphasize on and in doing so, admonishment and chastisement may form an integral part of that exercise. Yes, in the process, it may be natural for the child to feel a sense of embarrassment and perhaps humiliation, but it is these very emotions that would prevent the child from repeating its mistake. If upon such chastisement, a child is extra ordinarily sensitive and takes the drastic step of committing suicide and if the Principal is expected to be prosecuted for an offence under Section 306 of IPC, nothing can imperil education more. If students are expected to grow up in an environment, where they know that they shall not be chastised or spoken harshly to for any and every transgression of theirs, which has the propensity of breaking the discipline of the school, the society may wind up having young delinquents who ultimately grow up without having fear of the law on account of the free hand that they received during the schooling years.”

 

Surabhi Aggarwal

Senior Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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