SC reaffirms Corporal Punishment ban | Daily News
Orders State, school teacher to pay Rs.650,000 compensation to student for slapping incident

SC reaffirms Corporal Punishment ban

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered the State and a school teacher who slapped a child across the face to pay compensation of Rs.650,000 to the child for causing permanent auditory impairment.

The Supreme Court observed that a total of Rs.650,000 as compensation has to be paid within six months from the date of the judgement.

The Supreme Court held that a 15-year-old student’s Fundamental Rights have been violated by the respondents due to punishment in the form of Corporal Punishment that occurred at Puhulwella Central College in Matara.

The Supreme Court three-judge-Bench comprising Justice Sisira de Abrew, Justice Murdu Fernando and Justice S. Thurairaja made this order pursuant to a Fundamental Rights petition filed by the parents and the victimized child challenging the infringement of their Fundamental Rights.

In his judgment, Justice S. Thurairaja observed that Fundamental Rights of the Child Petitioner enshrined in Article 11 of the Constitution have been violated by school teacher Jayantha Prema Kumara Siriwardhana (first respondent) and the State.

On February 13, 2017, the Child Petitioner attended school as usual. The first and second periods of the day had been allocated for Agriculture. The Child Petitioner was made part of one of three groups in the class and was directed to plough the plant nursery at the school.

The Child Petitioner had felt fatigued and had sat on a half wall near the plant nursery for a short amount of time prior to resuming this activity.

While he was washing his hands, two students had approached him and told him that the first respondent asked him to come to his office.

The 1st Respondent also admitted this and added that on seeing the child petitioner seated on the culvert during the previous period, summoned him and reminded him that the Principal had previously warned them not to sit on that specific culvert as it was dangerous and questioned him as to why he had done so even after the warning.

The first respondent then questioned the Child Petitioner asking “where were you sitting” and slapped him across the face. The Petitioner states that the blow landed on his face, upon his left ear. The Petitioner had felt excruciating pain, severe discomfort, and was disoriented. The Petitioner had then been chased out of the classroom by the first respondent.

The Child Petitioner had then been in his class and remained in excruciating pain. When the first respondent was informed of the Child Petitioner’s situation, the first respondent had said “don’t take it so seriously”.

Thereafter, the Child Petitioner informed about the incident to his class teacher. The teacher has responded saying “It will pass. Now don’t go home and exaggerate it and tell your parents”.

The report from the Audiology Department had made the comment that there is normal hearing in the right ear, but

that there is Mild Conductive hearing loss at low frequencies in the left ear.

“Sri Lanka as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has understood the need to curb the widespread use and acceptance of Corporal Punishment.

This evolution in mindset can be viewed through the development of laws through the enactment of amendments to existing laws, circulars exhibiting the attitude of the Ministry of Education as well as the changing attitude expressed in Judgements, in regards to Corporal Punishment,” Justice Thurairaja observed.

The Petitioners had invoked the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction under Article 11 of the Constitution for an alleged violation of the Child Petitioner’s Fundamental Rights, the provision which reads as “No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Counsel Thishya Weragoda with Sanjaya Marambe, Sewwandi Marambe, Meinusha Gamage and Sashya Karunokalage appeared for the petitioners. Counsel Harishke Samaranayake instructed by Namal Premardana appeared for the first respondent. State Counsel Swasha Fernando appeared for the Attorney General.

“I must also recognise that the elimination of the practice of Corporal Punishment may not be achieved through isolated incidents, but a profound understanding by those entrusted with the care of children that violence is not a justifiable means to the end of discipline. Cruelty, violence, physical harm, particularly in the view of setting an example is condemned by all major faiths of our country,” Justice Thurairaja added.