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A petition seeking notification and implementation of guidelines for fixing accountability on schools for the safety of children has been filed in the Supreme Court.
The petition has been filed by NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, run by Nobel prize winner Kailash Satyarthi.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi with Justice Deepak Gupta issued notice to the Central government on May 6.
The petitioner has prayed for a direction to the Central government to notify and implement the Fixing Accountability of School Management towards Safety and Security of Children in School-Guidelines (Accountability Guidelines). The Accountability Guidelines lays down the responsibilities of school management towards ensuring the safety and security of children in schools, both government and private.
The Accountability Guidelines, prepared by the Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MoHRD) in consultation with the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), have not been notified yet.
The cause of action for filing the present petition has arisen because despite there being various laws relating to child safety and security along with the recent Draft Accountability Guidelines, there is no confidence in the implementation of these laws, the petition states.
The petition cites various examples of crimes against children in schools.
“On 30.01.2016, a 6 year old boy student was found dead and floating in the water tank inside a school premises. It has been quite a while since this tragic mishap, but still it is unclear as to who is really responsible and accountable. It appears to be the negligence on part of the teacher to have left the young boy unattended which should consequently make the school accountable.
Similarly, as per the recent news published in Hindustan Times in January 2019, a class 8 girl student at a tribal residential school in Odisha was allegedly raped 8 months ago and delivered a baby in the toilet of the hostel.
The petition states that despite a number of policies and law in place, the implementation of the same is not satisfactory. Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012, Section 17 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, etc are few such statutes.
A conjoint reading of the above provisions makes it apparent that there are various laws towards the safety and security of children, but the implementation of the same is what is sought, the petitioner contends.
Invoking Article 21 of the Constitution of India, along with the Right to Education enacted, the petitioner says that schools need to protect their students from various hazards.
“That the Constitution of India provides for the protection of children from all kinds of exploitation and abuse and guarantees their physical, social, psychological and moral well-being including a mandate for protection of every citizen’s various fundamental rights including Right to Education the Right to Life and Personal Liberty and the Right to Equality.”
The petition also makes a point against corporal punishment meted out to students in schools and avers that fear of corporal punishment often leads to students avoiding school or dropping out. This form of punishment not only amounts to abuse but is also violative of Right to life with dignity.
The petitioner has sought notification of the Accountability Guidelines so that schools, both government and private be held responsible and consequently accountable for any lapse on their part regarding the safety and security of children in school.
The petitioner has further prayed that a direction be issued to mandatorily implement the Accountability Guidelines in all cases of hardships upon children who are in schools, both government and private
The Court issued notice after brief submissions by the petitioner. The petitioner was represented by Senior Counsel HS Phoolka and Advocate Jagjit Singh Chhabra.