Reprimanding students for indiscipline would not tantamount to provocation for suicide: SC

Reprimanding students for indiscipline would not tantamount to provocation for suicide: SC

October 6, 2021

Reprimanding a student for his indiscipline would not be tantamount to provoking a student to commit suicide unless there are repeated specific allegations of harassment, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

The apex court said that an old saying — spare the rod and spoil the child — may have lost its relevance in present days and Corporal punishment to the child is not recognised by law but that does not mean that a teacher or school authorities have to shut their eyes to any indiscipline act of a student.

The top court said it is a solemn duty of a teacher to instill discipline in the students and reprimanding a student for not being attentive or not being up to the mark in studies or for bunking classes or not attending the school is not uncommon.

The observations were made by the apex court while quashing an FIR against a school teacher accused under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code for abatement of the suicide of a class 9 student.

The disciplinary measures adopted by a teacher or other authorities of a school, reprimanding a student for his indiscipline, in our considered opinion, would not tantamount to provoking a student to commit suicide unless there are repeated specific allegations of harassment and insult deliberately without any justifiable cause or reason, a bench of Justices S A Nazeer and Krishna Murari said

The bench set aside an order of Rajasthan High Court which refused to quash an FIR against a Physical Training (PT) teacher who was accused of abatement of the suicide of the student,

The apex court said a simple act of reprimand of a student for his behaviour or indiscipline by a teacher, who is under moral obligations to inculcate the good qualities of a human being in a student would definitely not amount to instigation or intentionally aid to the commission of suicide by a student.

It is not only a moral duty of a teacher but one of the legally assigned duties under Section 24 (e) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 to hold regular meetings with the parents and guardians and apprise them about the regularity in attendance, ability to learn, progress made in learning and any other act or relevant information about the child, the bench said.

The apex court said that for alleged abetment of suicide under Section 306 IPC there must be an allegation of either direct or indirect act of incitement to the commission of the offence of suicide.

It said mere allegations of harassment of the deceased by another person would not be sufficient in itself, unless, there are allegations of such actions on the part of the accused which compelled the commission of suicide.

Further, if the person committing suicide is hypersensitive and the allegations attributed to the accused is otherwise not ordinarily expected to induce a similarly situated person to take the extreme step of committing suicide, it would be unsafe to hold the accused guilty of abetment of suicide, the bench said.

The apex court said that what is required is an examination of every case on its own facts and circumstances and keeping in consideration the surrounding circumstances as well, which may have bearing on the alleged action of the accused and the psyche of the deceased.

The top court was hearing an appeal filed by Geo Varghese against an order passed by the Rajasthan High Court dismissing the petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure seeking to quash the FIR at Police Station Sodala, Jaipur City (South) against him under section 306 IPC

The accused, a Physical Training Teacher in St. Xavier’s School, Nevta, Jaipur, and also a member of the Disciplinary Committee for maintaining overall discipline by the students of the School, was booked for an offence under Section 306 (abatement of suicide) Indian Penal Code.

The appellant was appointed as a Physical Training Teacher in St. Xavier’s School, Nevta in the year 2016. He was also a member of the Disciplinary Committee for maintaining overall discipline by the students of the School.

One student of Class 9 of the institution, unfortunately, committed suicide in the morning on April 26, 2018.

The mother of the deceased student lodged the FIR in question on May 2, 2018, before the concerned Police Station under Section 306 IPC after about 7 days of the suicide, alleging that her son committed suicide due to mental harassment meted out by the appellant.

The apex court noted that in the First Information Report and as also the statement of the complainant recorded by the police, no reasons or cause for the accused teacher to harass and insult the victim are spelled out.

The appellant having found the deceased boy regularly bunking classes, first reprimanded him but on account of repeated acts, brought this fact to the knowledge of the Principal, who called the parents on the telephone to come to the school.

No further overt act has been attributed to the appellant either in the First Information Report or in the statement of the complainant, or anything in this regard has been stated in the alleged suicide note, the bench said.

Even the suicide note does not attribute any act or instigation on the part of the appellant to connect him with the offence for which he is being charged, it said.

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