Guwahati: The Assam government on Monday introduced a tough legislation banning corporal punishment in schools with provision for prosecuting errant teachers, including suspension and even termination from service.
The Assam Corporal Punishment for Educational Institutions (Prohibition) Bill, 2010, would be placed before the Assam assembly for a final nod when it meets March 2 for its Budget session.
"The final draft is ready and we just want the nod of the assembly before it becomes a law," Mohsin Ali, Assam director of secondary education said.
The decision to introduce the bill follows a recent Unicef study that gave Assam schools the dubious distinction of topping the list of Indian schools where corporal punishment and humiliation of students were rampant - 99.56 percent of students in Assam schools were victim of corporal punishment.
And more recently, the state was rocked by a bizarre incident of a Class 8 student in Guwahati attempting to commit suicide by jumping from the second floor of the institution alleging punishment and humiliation for speaking in Assamese inside the school.
Once this bill becomes an act, a teacher could be prosecuted on a criminal charge, suspended from service, and even face termination of service, if found to have indulged in corporal punishment.
"No court lower than a court of judicial magistrate of the first class shall take cognisance of and try an offence under this act," Ramen Barpatragohain, a legal counsel who helped in drafting the bill, said.
"No court shall take cognisance of an offence except under a complaint in writing made by or at the instance of a victimized student."
Other penalties under the act include withholding of increments or promotion, demotion in service, besides even removal from job.
"There would be provisions for appealing against any order or action," the legal counsel said.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had earlier taken a serious view of corporal punishment saying such things need to be banned.
The issue came up for serious discussion last year at a workshop titled "Discipline with Dignity - Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools of Assam", organised by the Law Research Institute, the Gauhati High Court and Unicef in Guwahati.
Despite the menace, not all students, however, protest. Many parents prefer to remain silent, lest the academic careers of their wards are hampered.
Another northeastern state of Mizoram ranks second in the list of Indian schools where corporal punishment is rampant.
The Unicef study highlighted the instance of a Class 9 student in Mizoram who refused to continue her studies after she was beaten on her bare bottom by a teacher in front of her classmates.
Though the school authorities later apologised to her parents and sacked the erring teacher, the hapless girl refused to go to that school again and the trauma continued to haunt her in a new school she was admitted to.