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Juvenile Justice Act: Maneka Gandhi's ministry fails to criminalise ragging, for now

Sunday, 24 August 2014 - 7:05am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

The recent case of Adarsh Kumar Singh, who was found unconscious in a prestigious Gwalios school, has brought the issue of ragging to the forefront. Part of the reason that ragging on campus continues to persist is that there is no legislation or statuettes that make it a criminal offence. The women and child development ministry (WCD), under Maneka Gandhi, attempted to make up for the absence of ragging regulation by including provisions in the recently-amended Juvenile Justice Act (JJA), but failed to make a mark.

Ragging is currently dealt with as per the 2009 guidelines issued by the University Grants Commission.

The UGC issued the guidelines after 19-year-old Aman Kachroo was killed by four seniors in a medical college in a landmark case of ragging. The guidelines authorise the head of institutions to take stern action against senior students indulging in harassment of their juniors. However, these guidelines exclude schools. What's more, the guidelines do not uniformly define what constitutes ragging, nor do they recommend punishment for ragging. The perpetrators, if adults, are tried under normal laws under the Indian Penal Code (IPC),

In view of this, the WCD ministry introduced a section on ragging in the JJ Act. Tabled under section 83, it sought to punish students committing ragging to imprisonment of upto three years, imposition of a fine of Rs 10,000 and likely expulsion. It also sought to punish the management of institutions with reported cases to imprisonment of upto three years, and fine of upto Rs 1,00,000.

But the effort to push with this amendment was abandoned in face of objections from various quarters. "This is a standard process and came up due to an inter-ministerial debate. The issue of ragging was taken up by the ministry of human resource development, and even the IPC deals with it," said a senior official at the WCD ministry on condition of anonymity.

Aman's father, Rajendra Kachroo, said that the WCD ministry's effort was well-intentioned albeit half-baked. "If the ministry plans to tackle ragging through legislation, it should do so independently instead of bundling it with other legislation. Not doing so will limit the scope of ragging. At least the UGC guidelines have laid down comprehensive guidelines."

Meanwhile, a statement from Gwalior's Scindia school, where Adarsh, the son of a Bihar minister, was found in the dormitory on Wednesday, stated that a special committee set up by the school was investigating the cause of the incident. "Appropriate action will be taken following the findings in the matter," it read.

Corporal punishment section watered down
Another section that has been pulled down from the draft JJ Act relates to corporal punishment. Under section 82 of the original draft, "whosoever subjects a child to corporal punishment" and causes hurt is liable to be punished to a maximum of five years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,00,000.
The section would have made even parents liable for punishment but the law was dropped after different ministries objected, citing that the parent-child relationship should not be binded by laws that ape the West. The bill introduced in Parliament toned down the liability to only people "in-charge of or employed in a child care institution". The liability was also brought down to a maximum imprisonment to three months and the fine to Rs 10,000.

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