The director and principal of a school were awarded a two-month jail term today by a Delhi court which convicted them for causing mental trauma to a seven-year-old student by sending her out of her classroom. The court said a child could not be thrown out of a class on the “whims and fancies” of the school authorities as the trauma of not being allowed to sit in a classroom was “immense”. The court also directed OPG World School’s director Kavita Chandra and principal Rajwant Kaur to pay Rs 2.5 lakh compensation each to the child, who was asked to leave her class following differences between her parents and the school authorities over an issue.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ankur Jain held them guilty of wilfully neglecting the child who was in Class 3 at the time of the incident in 2012 and causing her mental suffering under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act. It, however, allowed the plea of the convicts to suspend their sentence for a month and granted them bail to enable them to file an appeal against the judgement before a superior court. The offence entails a maximum of six months in jail under the old law which, after amendment, has been increased to three years. The court refused to accept the version of the school authorities that the child’s parents had asked for a transfer certificate (TC) and instead of collecting it, had sent the girl to school.
“The child cannot be thrown out at the whims and fancies of the school authorities. The theory of the child being not well also cannot be believed as the attendant/nurse from the infirmary was never examined to prove the factum of the child not being well,” the court said. Advocate Chandra Suman, who was representing the child, expressed satisfaction over the judgement and said it was the first of its kind. “We are happy. The verdict is the first of its kind. It is the first judgement under the JJ Act where action has been taken against school authorities for mentally harassing a child,” he said.
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An FIR was lodged in 2012 on a complaint filed by the father and an NGO alleging that the child had been ill treated and confined by the school management through school hours on April 4, 2012, to pressure the parents to withdraw her from the institution. The father had claimed the school acted against the child after he questioned it over an increase in school fees and accessory charges. The complaint alleged the child was kept away from her classmates and was wrongly confined to other places in the school where there were neither any children, nor was there any activity. The school director and principal, however, had claimed that the child was admitted to Nursery in 2008 and on the request of the parents, a TC was issued on April 23, 2012.
They claimed instead of collecting the certificate, the child was sent to school. As she was not feeling “comfortable”, and knowing her past history of asthma, she was sent to an infirmary to rest. The court, however, said the act of not allowing the child to sit in the classroom amounted to wilful neglect which caused unnecessary mental suffering to her. “… the trauma …is immense, once the child goes to school and is not allowed to sit in the classroom. Whatever may be the differences with the parents, the school authorities could not have allowed the child to be neglected,” it said.