A teacher scolding or inflicting reasonable punishment on a child in order to maintain school discipline would not constitute an offence, the Bombay high court in Goa ruled while overturning the conviction of a primary school teacher who was sentenced to one day in prison and a fine of one lakh for allegedly ‘beating’ two schoolchildren with a stick.
“In a primary school, this is quite normal. The teacher is bound to act accordingly and sometimes be a bit harsh in order to discipline the students and instil good habits,” the high court single judge bench of Bharat Deshpande ruled.
“The students are admitted to the school for not only the purpose of teaching but also to learn other aspects of life which include discipline. The purpose of the school is not only to teach the academic subjects but to prepare such students in all aspects of life so that in future he would be a person of good behaviour and nature,” the high court observed.
In 2014, the teacher was accused of ‘beating’ two girls, of age five and eight, because the younger girl was drinking from another student’s bottle after she had finished her own. When her sister came from another class to check on her, she was allegedly ‘beaten’ with a ruler in her hand by the teacher.
It seems that [the younger child] consumed water from the bottle of another student which is certainly against the discipline of the school and bound to receive complaints from the parents of other students.
In such circumstances, the accused, as a teacher, is obligated to act appropriately. “In order to maintain discipline in her own class, she may have to use reasonable force if the students are unable to understand the instructions and commit such errors repeatedly,” the court ruled.
The high court also stated that the use of a stick could not be established conclusively due to conflicting witness statements about whether a stick or a ruler was used.
“As far as the use of ruler or stick by the accused is concerned, the same has not been sufficiently established. Therefore, there is serious doubt about the use of any ruler or stick by the accused on that particular day,” the judge said.
“Teachers are respected in society the most. They are the backbone of our education system. If the teachers are in 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 civilised society needs a civilised young generation which would respect each other and would be considered as a future generation of the nation,” the high court also said.
The teacher had previously been convicted by the Goa Children’s Court in an order issued in 2019.