By Colombo Telegraph –
Human rights activists are appalled at the statement of Mohan Pieris, the de facto Chief Justice, made recently when he declared open a Circuit Court at Manampitiya, that some persons file fundamental rights cases even for trivial reasons. According to a Daily Mirror report, Mohan Pieris has stated that some even file fundamental rights cases when a teacher twisted a boy’s ear.
An academic well-versed in human rights law, who spoke to Colombo Telegraph on the condition of anonymity, said that twisting the ear of a pupil is corporal punishment which has been banned by the Department of Education.
A child rights activist told Colombo Telegraph that Mohan Peiris’ statement would be an encouragement to teachers who still violate the circular of the Department of Education banning all forms of corporal punishment. There have been cases of teachers targeting particular students for various reasons ranging from caste issues to resistance to sexual advances. A child psychologist said that Mohan Peiris had given an open license to school teachers to violate Departmental regulations on corporal punishment. There have been cases of school children refusing to go to school because of being targeted by particular teachers. Some children may even be driven to suicide, the child psychologist warned.
A human rights lawyer told Colombo Telegraph that Article 11 of the Constitution prohibits not only torture but also cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. Twisting the ear of a student in the view of the entire class may be degrading to the student concerned although another student may not feel bad about it. In any case, corporal punishment is on the way out all over the world. The provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Sri Lanka is a party, is also important for child punishment, as Article 19 states: “Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation.”
In January 2005, the Supreme Court of Nepal declared that parents, other family members and teachers no longer have a defence for “minor beating” of a child under the Children Act 1992. The Court issued a directive order to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, asking them “to pursue appropriate and effective measures to prevent physical punishment as well as other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment or abuse being imposed or inflicted on, or likely to be imposed or inflicted on children”. The decision followed an application made by the Center for Victims of Torture. Section 7 of the 1992 Act, protecting children from cruelty and abuse, stated that “any act by the mother, father, family member, guardian or teacher to scold the child or give him/her minor beating for the sake of his or her interests shall not be deemed to violate this section.” The words “or give him/her minor beating” were declared null and void by the Court, as being inappropriate and contrary to the Constitution.
A child rights activist stated that the National Child Protection Authority should immediately take up the matter with the Government. Mohan Pieris should be impeached for encouraging the violation of the Constitution, the rights activist stated.