The Meghalaya High Court has rejected the plea of an owner of a prominent school in Tura to quash and set aside the order passed by the Sessions Judge on June 23, 2022 against her in a case of physical abuse of a 7-year-old girl student.
“The petitioner has failed to make out a case for interference with the impugned order dated 23.06.2022 passed by the Sessions Judge, Tura in Crl. Rev. No. 02/2022. Consequently, the prayer for quashing and setting aside of the entire proceeding of GR No. 59 of 2021 arising out of Tura Women PS Case No. 17(04)2019 also stands rejected. The impugned order dated 14.01.2022 of the trial court of the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Tura, merges with the order dated 23.06.2022 of the Sessions Judge and hence, needs no interference by this court. However, the impugned order dated 23.05.2023 passed by the learned trial court stands interfered to the extent it directs for framing of charges against the petitioner under Section 82(1) of the JJ Act in contradiction of the order dated 23.06.2022 of the Sessions Judge,” Justice B Bhattacharjee said in a judgement passed today.
Justice Bhattacharjee also directed the trial court of Judicial Magistrate First Class, West Garo Hills, Tura to proceed to frame charges against the school owner as per the order dated June 23, 2022 of the Sessions Judge and to complete the trial expeditiously without any further delay in accordance with law.
The brief fact of the case is that Sane Concieta B. Sangma is a co-founder of Aeroville Higher Secondary School, Tura and has held the post of headmistress in the school since 1995. In addition to teaching Economics in class X, Sangmaalso teaches Grammar to the students of class I and II of the school.
On April 25, 2019, a written complaint was filed before the Officer In-charge, Tura Women Police Station against Sangma by a woman alleging that her daughter aged about (seven years studying in class II of Aeroville Higher Secondary School, Tura, was physically abused by Sangma on April 24, 2019 in the school premises.
On the basis of the written complaint, the Tura Women PS Case No. 17(04)2019 under Section 323 IPC read with Section 75/82 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act) was registered and investigated into.
On the completion of the investigation, a charge sheet under the stated sections of law was filed on October 28, 2020 and the trial court took cognizance of the matter on January 14, 2022.
At the trial, a prayer for discharge was made on behalf of Sangma but the trial court after hearing the parties, passed an order on January 14, 2022 declining to entertain the prayer of Sangma and ordered for framing of charges against her.
The order was challenged by Sangma before the court of the Sessions Judge, Tura, in Crl. Rev. No. 02/2022 and the Sessions Judge by an order passed on June 23, 2022 held that Section 82 of the JJ Act is not attracted in the matter and modified the order dated January 14, 2022 to that extent.
In spite of passing of the order dated June 23, 2022 by the Sessions Judge, Tura, the trial court by its order dated May 23, 2023 again directed for framing of charges against Sangma under Section 323 IPC and Section 75 and 82(1) of the JJ Act.
Being aggrieved, Sangma filed a criminal petition before the Meghalaya High Court challenging all the orders and also for quashing and setting aside of the entire proceeding of the GR Case No. 59/2021 pending before the trial court.
While rejecting her petition, the High Court observed that a bare reading of provisions of Section 17(1) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 and Section 82 of the JJ Act make it clear that in the present days, corporal punishment is not recognised by law.
“The notion that a child has to be physically punished to maintain discipline stands replaced by the operation of basic human rights of a child and instead of corporal punishment, correctional methods are recognised in law. However, parents, teachers and other persons in “loco parentis” are entitled as a disciplinary measure to apply a reasonable degree of force to their children or pupils old enough to understand its purpose, but if the punishment is given out of spite or for some other non-disciplinary reason or if the degree of force is unreasonable, it is unlawful,” the High Court said.
The High Court also referred to the National Charter for Children, 2003 adopted by the Govt. of India vide Resolution No. 6- 15/98-C.W., dated 9th February, 2004, issued by Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The National Charter for Children, 2003 states: “9. (a) All children have a right to be protected against neglect, maltreatment, injury, trafficking, sexual and physical abuse of all kinds, corporal punishment, torture, exploitation, violence and degrading treatment. (b) The State shall take legal action against those committing such violations against children even if they are legal guardians of such children.”