To protect their child from becoming a victim of bullying and to seek legal recourse in the event of their child being bullied, parents need to be aware of various laws related to bullying.
By Sushma Sosha Philip and Susan Philip
Bullying is a problem that begins at an early age and goes on until adulthood. Often, the victims of bullying carry scars of their trauma throughout their lives. If your child is being bullied or if you receive complaints regarding your child bullying others, it is important for you to be aware of the laws made to curb bullying in India, so that you can nip this problem in the bud.
Bullying has become a major problem in the school and college systems of India today. In colleges, ‘ragging’ is considered a rite of passage, where senior students taunt and ridicule junior students in the name of ‘healthy interaction’. The performance of students in these ragging sessions determines how they will be treated for the rest of their time in college. In schools as well, students often target their weaker peers, often making fun of them for disabilities, their physical appearance or their academic performance. This phenomenon has gone beyond just fun and games as it results in many fatalities either by the victims committing suicide or during an incident of ragging or bullying. Thus, the Government of India has come up with certain laws in an effort to combat this issue. Some of the prominent ones are:
This report came out in 2007 listing out various recommendations to control ragging and bullying in schools and colleges. It is interesting to know that this report categorised ragging as an abuse of human rights. Following this report, various laws and regulations have been issued to curb this menace.
2.1 Anti-Bullying Committees: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) ordered the setting up of Anti-Bullying Committees in 2015, by issuing guidelines for prevention of bullying and ragging in schools. Various methods to deal with this menace have been suggested including warnings, suspension and in extreme cases, rustication/expulsion of the bullies. This circular suggests that anti-bullying committees be set up in schools.
2.2 Counsellors: The circular suggests that counsellors be engaged in schools where students have complained of bullying. If you receive complaints of bullying from your child or hear of instances of bullying in your child’s school, you can propose that the school engages a trained counsellor to deal with these issues.
2.3 PTA meetings: It is important to note that the circular recognises the importance of family background and the influence of parents in cases of bullying. Where your child has complained of bullying in school and even in instances where you have received complaints about your child, it is important that you go and speak to the teachers and parents of other children as a first step. This may make all the difference in your child’s school life and future.
3.1 UGC Circular: An anti-ragging notification was issued by the UGC in 2009 to address the brutal ragging faced by college students. The notification exhaustively defines ragging and calls for setting up Anti-Ragging Squads ands and engaging trained counsellors among other measures. Since this notification, ragging in colleges is better regulated; however, it has not completely ended.
3.2 Relevant Sections of the IPC: Most college students engaging in ragging juniors are over the age of 18. This means they are considered adults by the law, capable of committing criminal acts. Hence, they can be booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, depending on the result of their bullying. Some of the sections they may be found guilty under are Ss. 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation), Ss. 323 – 326 (causing hurt and grievous hurt and the punishments for the same), etc. In cases resulting in the death of the victim of bullying or ragging, the sections of the IPC dealing with culpable homicide (S. 304) and abetment of suicide (S. 306) may apply.
Technological advancements, though beneficial for the most part, have also increased the reach of bullies to a great extent. While earlier, children escaped from their bullies at the end of the school day, nowadays, bullying continues on social networking sites. This means that there is no respite for many children. The following laws have been directed at cyber-bullies;
4.1 Cyber-bullying among school children: The CBSE circular also recognises cyber-bullying as a form of bullying in schools and the methods mentioned in the circular to curb bullying also apply to cyber-bullying.
4.2 IPC: S. 506 and S. 507 of the IPC which deal with criminal intimidation may be applicable to cyber-bullies, depending on whether the bully is acting anonymously or not. S. 499 of the IPC which defines defamation may also be used if the cyber bully threatens to publish false information about the victim that may affect his/her reputation. An amendment to the IPC has included stalking, sexual harassment and harassment in general through electronic means in Ss. 354 A and D of the IPC. This may also apply to cyber-bullies.
4.3 IT Act: S. 66 E of the IT Act dealing with punishing violation of privacy may be applied to cases of cyber-bullying where the bully threatens to publish private communication or pictures sent to them by the victim.
4.4 The ReThink App: This is an app developed by an American-Indian teenager in an effort to curb cyber-bullying. In many cases, children or adolescents unthinkingly send out hurtful and bullying messages to their peers. This app recognises certain word patterns and prompts the user to rethink sending out the message. Its introduction has shown a drop in cyber-bullying cases. It may be a good idea to install this app in your children’s electronic devices so that they are prompted to watch their words as a matter of course.
While instances of bullying and ragging-related casualties continue to take place, it is important for you, as parents, to keep in mind these laws and regulations that come to your aid in case your child faces bullying or ragging in school or college. It is also recommended that you observe your children to see if they are showing any signs of either being the victims of bullying or that they have a tendency to bully. If you notice in time, you can take appropriate action without having to resort to a legal recourse.
Sushma Sosha Philip is a lawyer with experience in corporate law and IPR. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree from the University of Leiden.
Disclaimer: The article contains only general information about the laws. No part of this article constitutes legal advice of any sort and it cannot be relied on for any legal purpose.
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