Corporal punishment, or simply physical punishment we all have at least once or
twice been its victim or prey so to say. Now, when we hear about this the first
thing which comes in our mind is the ruler of the teacher, the stick, or either
the spat of our parents to us physically. The word 'Corporeal' has been derived
the from that Latin term 'Corpus' meaning body, i.e., "any kind of punishment
inflicted on the body".
Corporal punishment isn't new to India. It has been prevailing since ancient
times. H.N. Sreenivas Murty in his book History of India mentions the
punishments prescribed by Kautilya such as cutting of tongue, burning alive.
"The criminal punishment is rather severe and has been characterized as "eye for
eye and tooth for tooth". Not only in ancient India, but it was in medieval
period too, that 100 strokes of whip were prescribed for fornication, loss of
right hand for theft, etc.
Even today in many areas of the globe, corporal punishment remains a trend in
the field of child education, merely to make the child finish his work, do task,
for initiating discipline, etc. According to a report published by the American
Academy of Pediatrics, the academy states that there are three main reasons
why corporal punishment are used in schools. These include the belief that
adults have a right to discipline children, the philosophy of need for
discipline to build character, and the protection of the rights of teachers,
that they have right to do so for maintaining discipline and order.
Forms of Corporal Punishment
Corporal punishment can be mainly classified into three broad heads, which
include, the first one being physical, the second one mental, and the third one
Physical corporal punishment can be referred to as the punishment on body which
causes physical pain, harm or even discomfort. Looking at the list of examples
of physical corporal punishment is unending, however, some forms are as:
- Thrashing or spatting the child on back, slapping, or, spatting on head,
beating from objects such as scale or stick, pinching.
- Making the child sit or stand in uncomfortable position for a prolonged
period, such as with hands raised.
Whereas, Mental corporal punishment refers to non-physical punishment which can
take a toll on the mental and health's wellbeing of the person. Some of which
Downgrading a child in front of everyone.
- Scolding and humiliating the child in front of everyone.
- Constantly comparing the child in hope of motivating him.
Lastly, Discriminatory corporal punishment which means discriminating a
particular child either because of child's caste, creed, economic status,
occupation etc. It includes, but not limited to only these:
1. Dividing duties between children based on their looks such as selecting some
particular children for cleaning.
- Health and Mental Well-Being:
According to psychology, any small event can lead to mild or severe
effect on the mental wellbeing of a child, and so does corporal
punishment. Many Studies also suggest that physical punishment,
which includes spanking and hitting, can lead to an increase in
aggressive behavior and mental health issues. School corporal
punishment is associated with anxiety, decreased empathic behaviour, hostility, pessimism, depression, greater
disobedience, stubbornness, verbal aggression, and likelihood of lying.
A study titled. "Corporal Punishment and Elevated Neural Response to Threat in
Children," published in Child Development, observed the functioning of brains
of spanked children in response to environmental threats as to those of who were
not beaten. Their findings revealed that spanked children had a higher brain
reaction, implying that spanking can affect children's brain function in the
same way as severe types of maltreatment can.
Not only the mental health of the child may be disturbed but also
may result into the weakening of the child's personality, chances of
becoming anti-social, or being introvert may increase. Poor
self-esteem and low self-confidence can increase the likelihood of
poor academic performance. The child may have difficulty in
concentrating, which in turn can reduce his potential to excel
A study in Hungary found that among 68 "life events", school
corporal punishment was the strongest predictor of depression in
children. In more worst cases, a child may even contemplate
suicide. Parents are responsible for taking care of their children's
material needs, and be role models who facilitate the healthy
physical, mental, emotional and social growth of their kids.
In 2012, The Delhi High Court held in Kishor Guleria vs The Director of
Education Directorate of Education & Ors, that even minimal violence to
children could degenerate into an aggravated form of abuse or harm. A teacher
cannot always be mindful of how much force he (or she) is using against a child.
So, the strike or punishment may not be within "reasonable" limits.
Schools often apply an incorrect standard in cases of corporal
punishment. They examine the severity of the physical injuries
caused to a child when what needs to be understood is that any
physical force can be potentially disastrous for a child's health
both mentally and physically. According to the study, the stress and
anxiety brought on by corporal punishment can lead to
"school-phobia," which has a major negative influence on educational
results by increasing dropout rates, lowering retention rates, and
lowering academic performance. Children who have undergone such
abuse are more likely to engage in criminal activity as adults,
conduct violent crimes, and struggle with substance usage.
- Violence and Aggression:
Teachers frequently cane, slap, or duckwalk
students, and there have been instances of children being tied up to "correct"
them. Spanking has been shown to have a harmful influence on the brain and cause
children to withdraw. Some youngsters may come to see violence as an acceptable
means of enforcing obedience. They may resort to violence in order to elicit the
behaviour or behaviors they desire in others. In tender minds, this normalizes
"Even animals are protected against cruelty, our children surely cannot be worse
off than animals", said the Madras High Court's Justice N Anand Venkatesh
recently issued in [CRL. O. P. No 23120 of 2018] titled S. Jai Singh & Ors. Vs.
State & Anr. This case involves a student who passed away as a result of
receiving corporal punishment�a "duckwalk"�for being late to class. Despite laws
prohibiting these types of punishment, Justice Venkatesh found that they
continue to be used in educational facilities all around the country.
The societal belief in "owning children" appears to be at the heart of this
issue. In India, parents and teachers think that they are accountable for the
children in their care, but they also believe that they own the child entirely.
Once the caretaker, in this case, a teacher, believes that he or she has entire
ownership of the child, the caretaker sets out to control and manipulate the
youngster without comprehending that ownership does not have to be arbitrary and
The Indian Government passed The Right to Education Bill on 4th August 2009.
Becoming one of the 135 countries that provide free and compulsory education to
every child, this bill came to force on 1st April 2010. The Act under Chapter 4,
Section 17 (I) affirms that no child shall be subjected to physical punishment
or mental harassment. Section 17 (II) also states that whoever contravenes the
provisions of sub section (1) shall be liable to disciplinary action under the
service rules applicable to such person (Ministry of Law and Justice, 2009).
But as expected, unfortunately, there are several corporal incidents still being
reported even after the bill being passed like that of a seven-year-old girl
losing eye sight due to her teacher violently slapping on her face (New Delhi
Television Limited, 2010). Taking into account the time needed for
sufficient dissemination of such a bill to all private and public schools in
India that number up to 9,56, 609 (Ministry of Human Resource Development,
Government of India, 2000-01) one might realize the enormous task involved in
its implementation. No one knows the certainty to which the implementation of
the bill will be successful.
The central government in its The National Policy for Children 2013, passed
on 26th April, 2013, states that in education, the state shall "ensure no child
is subjected to any physical punishment or mental harassment" and "promote
positive engagement to impart discipline so as to provide children with a good
Corporal punishment is also prohibited by the Right to Free and Compulsory
Education Act 2009 (RTE Act).
Not only acts but advisories such as the one issued in 2014 by the Ministry of
Human Resources Development issued guidance ("Advisory for Eliminating Corporal
Punishment in Schools under Section 35(1) of the RTE Act 2009") that outlines
national law pertinent to corporal punishment in schools, international human
rights standards, steps that can be taken to encourage better child development
without recourse to corporal punishment, and the role of national bodies in
implementing the RTE Act.
Further, the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986/1992 also prohibits
corporal punishment. It states: Corporal punishment will be firmly excluded from
the education system.
Juvenile Justice Act
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 too contains
rules for child cruelty, Section 75 of the JJ Act prescribes punishment for
cruelty to child. Whenever a child is assaulted, abused, exposed or neglected in
a manner to cause physical or mental suffering by any person employed by or
managing an organisation, which is entrusted with the care and protection of the
child, the punishment would be rigorous imprisonment up to five years and fine
up to Rs five lakh. And, on account of the aforesaid cruelty, if the child is
physically incapacitated or develops a mental illness or is rendered mentally
unfit to perform regular tasks or has risk to life or limb, then imprisonment
may extend up to ten years.
Not only this, Section 82 of the JJ Act prescribes punishment for "Any person
in-charge of or employed in a child care institution, who subjects a child to
corporal punishment with the aim of disciplining the child, shall be liable, on
the first conviction, to a fine of ten thousand rupees and for every subsequent
offence, shall be liable for imprisonment which may extend to three months or
fine or with both.".
Harshly, corporal punishment is still prevalent in many areas of the country. No
one knows the certainty to which the implementation of these acts is being
However, at the same time, we should not only rely on these rules and acts for
stopping such crimes. The practice of corporal punishment on children is child
abuse and must end. People must be informed of the laws against corporal
punishment, but more significantly, we must have a zero-tolerance policy towards
all forms of violence against children.
But with the implementation of law rules and regulations, there is a precious
realm that must be addressed to eliminate abusive corporal punishment which is
that of the teacher-student relationship because without eliminating corporal
punishment the relationship can't be addressed. It is desired in every
educational institution, school, college or university, a close and cordial
teacher student should exist to serve as useful channel of smooth transmission
of knowledge between a teacher and student.
Written By: Aditya Dwivedi.
- The Role of Pediatrician in Abolishing Corporal Punishment in Schools. Pediatrics. 88 (1): 162�7.
- Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, 2021 (n19)
- 2 Csorba, J. et al (2001), "Family- and school-related stresses in depressed Hungarian children", European Psychiatry, 16, 18�26.
- Kishor Guleria vs The Director of Education Directorate of Education & Ors. LPA No.562/2012 https://indiankanoon.org/doc/11319514/
- Blamed For Their Parents' Poverty, 80% Of Marginalised Indian Children Experience Corporal Punishment In School, Tis Sanghera, IndiaSpend.
- S. Jai Singh & Ors. Vs. State & Anr. CRL.O.P.No.23120 of 2019. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/191770161/
- npcenglish08072013.pdf (wcd.nic.in)
- Section 17, Prohibition of physical punishment and mental harassment to child, RF&CE Act, 2009.
- The Right Of Children To Free And Compulsory Education Act, 2009 Clarification on Provisions, MoE, GoI.