Spare the Rod and Spoil The Child — a recent judgement by Bombay High Court at Goa reignites the debate
A school teacher has walked free after the High Court of Bombay at Goa quashed all charges levied by the Goa Children's Court. The 2014 case received the judgement by the single judge bench of Bharat Deshpande, in favour of Rekha Faldessai, a teacher at a South Goa school, who was convicted of causing ‘physical and psychological abuse’ to her minor girl students. Gaon Connection spoke with some teachers, teachers' association and sector experts and this is what they said…
गाँव कनेक्शन 4 Feb 2023 10:57 AM GMT
Two days back, on February 2, in a judgement pronounced by High Court of Bombay at Goa, Rekha Faldessai — 49-year-old teacher at the Government Primary School, Headland, Sada — has been acquitted of all the charges levied under Section 324 of IPC and Section 2(m)(i) punishable under Section 8(2) of the Goa Children's Act, 2003.
The teacher was convicted of voluntarily causing hurt to two minor girls, aged 5 years and 10 months, and 8 years and 10 months, respectively. She was accused of assaulting them with a stick, on March 28, 2014. Going through the judgement copy, Gaon Connection found that the charges put on Faldessai called the ‘beating’ a 'physical and psychological abuse' to the girls.
The conviction dates back to April 16, 2019, and was passed by the Goa Children's Court at Panaji, which was set up under the Goa Children Act, 2003. It sentenced the primary school teacher to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 and undergo imprisonment for 6 months.
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In his deposition in the court, the father of the girl, who filed the FIR, said that the teacher beat his younger daughter with a stick because she was drinking water from another girl’s bottle... When her sister, who was in another class, heard her crying she went to see what was happening and she too was beaten. These details are mentioned in the recent court order.
The order also quotes the statement of the investigating officer admitting that “search of the premises for the stick was conducted but not found.”
It further notes that “both the victims were sent for medical examination on the day of complaint itself and the reports show no injuries.”
Quoting the counsel of Faldessai, the recent order reads: “... if a teacher is put behind bars for such a trivial act and that too for keeping discipline amongst the students… it would be a disaster.” He added that “a teacher would then not be able to control the class in a proper manner, and the very purpose of the school and the teaching would suffer.”
It goes on to quote that “even if some physical force is used which is not going to cause any harm, injury or even insult to the child, and was used only with an intention to correct the child for the mistake committed, that would not constitute an offence and that too under IPC or under Goa Children's Act.”
The High Court of Bombay at Goa has quashed all the punishment imposed on Faldessai and allowed her to walk free.
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To Punish or Not To Punish
Gaon Connection spoke with some teachers and experts from the education sector to elicit their response to the recent order of the High Court of Bombay at Goa.
A primary school teacher from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh emphasised that though “punishment is required sometimes, it should always be the last resort to discipline a child. It should never be the first step to correct a child’s behaviour,” he said, wanting to remain anonymous.
“As per my experience of four years, it is the love and attachment for the teacher that brings a child to school. Especially in rural government schools where students are irregular or drop out frequently, having them come back to school is a challenge. Being fearful of one’s teacher would worsen the situation,” he explained. “The only way to keep children in school is for them to enjoy it,” he added.
He recalled a class five student Ankush, who was mischievous and reluctant to come to school.
“Ankush was punished frequently, but that was not fruitful. Only when I paid special attention to him, and consistently did that, did he settle down,” the primary teacher said.
The primary teacher strongly believed that it took trust between teacher, student and the guardian, to understand the intention of an educator. To know that a teacher’s intention is to correct and never hurt the child, is what makes a difference, he said.
Gaon Connection also spoke with Blanco Dias, Coordinator of Don Bosco Konkan Development Society (KDS), a collaborative organisation for the implementation of Childline 1098 in South Goa, who said that he stands by the recent court judgement.
“In my four-year association with the organisation, we haven’t found an intentional hurt caused by teachers to their students. There have been cases but as we went to inspect, the context wasn’t about child abuse,” Dias told Gaon Connection. Dias added that in this particular case of Rekha Faldessai, no one had approached KDS.
KDS is a part of Childline India Foundation, which is responsible for running childline services across iIndia. The government primary school Headland, Sada, where Rekha Faldessai taught, falls in South Goa, under KDS’s functioning area.
Meanwhile, Gaon Connection also reached out to teachers associations. Brajesh Pandey, district head of the Basic Teachers’ Association, Unnao, Uttar Pradesh said teachers were under strict scrutiny of their conduct with a child, and this put additional pressure.
Pandey said that there were times in a school when just two teachers handled five sections. “How does one expect them to control the behaviour of the child,” he asked. “It is a high pressure job and I believe punishments are at times key to making a better student,” he added.
A teacher, who teaches Class VI-VIII, in a rural government school, Uttar Pradesh, said, “I don’t think a teacher would hit a child to hurt. There is always a connection between the teacher and the student and if a ward has been punished, it is for behaviour correction.”
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Gaon Connection reached out to Sayonara Telles, President of Children’s Court, Panaji, but didn’t receive a response as she was out of office. The story will be updated once a response is received.
The Bombay High Court judgement ruled on similar lines. “Teachers are respected in society the most. They are the backbone of our education system. If they are under fear of such allegations for trivial matters and more specifically while correcting children, it would be difficult for schools to impart proper education or maintain discipline”, it noted.