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ANTI-BULLYING LAWS IN INDIA; ARE THEY REALLY EFFECTIVE?

Author:- Rutambhara Nayak

WHAT IS BULLYING AND HOW INGRAINED IT IS IN OUR SOCIETY

Childhood being the moulding years in a man’s life, it has the most impact on his lifestyle. What a man is inflicted with, gets reflected by him. Thus, someone who has been nurtured with love and kindness grows up to be a happy man whereas someone exposed to bullying, either grows up to a bully or remains a victim always. Bullying is an act of dehumanization undoubtedly but it is also essentially an act of imitation such that it has taken a perpetual shape in our society. As defined by the bar association of India,

“Bullying means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees. It is further defined as unwanted and repeated written, verbal, or physical behaviour, including any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, by a student or adult, that is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment; cause discomfort or humiliation; or unreasonably interfere with the individual’s school performance or participation; and may involve but is not limited to: teasing, social exclusion, threat, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, theft, sexual, religious, or racial harassment, public humiliation, or destruction of property.”

Bullying in India can be understood as Dassanan Raavan. That is, it has more than one faces and difficult to be defeated. Bullying is not just limited to schools, seniors ragging their juniors as a trend in college but also in the later stage of work-life, bullying is an integral part. Parents and teachers, unknowingly bully their children while they think they are correcting and wanting better for their kids, this attitude of a parent or a teacher instills a feeling of being ‘not enough’ which the child carries forward and accepts the other forms of bullying in life without even acknowledging it to be wrong. Surprisingly enough, bullying is just another product of hierarchy, which forces us to always race to be at the top and makes us do whatever we can to reach there, even at the cost of others lives.

LAWS AGAINST BULLYING

Bullying in Schools and Colleges

  1. The UGC had constituted a four member committee chaired by Prof K P S Unny of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in response to a Public Interest Legislation, filed by the Vishwa Jagriti Mission for curbing the practice of ragging which gave The 1999 Report. It had a PPP (Prohibition – Prevention – Punishment) approach for the colleges to follow, suggested certain guidelines for prevention, law for prohibition and strict enforcement for punishing the offender. With regard to prohibition, it recommended enactment of Central and the state laws, making ragging a cognizable offence and identifying the perverse forms of ragging under such law(s). It also suggested several “punishments” according to the severity of the offence. It had also recommended that an anti-ragging movement should start from the date of publication of advertisements for admissions; advertisements should also carry the message in respect of ban on ragging, and the consequences of violation.

  2. Then came the Raghavan Committee that proposed its guidelines in consonance with the 1999 Report, it was constituted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Special Leave Petition No. 24295 of 2006, University of Kerala vs Council of Principals of Colleges [with SLP (C) No. 24296-24299 of 2004, W.P. (Crl) No. 173/2006 and SLP (C) No. 14356/2005] headed by Shri R.K.Raghavan, former Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Following this, the CBSE Schools were directed by the HRD Ministry to form anti-ragging committees, appoint counselors and conduct PTA regularly to deal with bullying.The schools also included punishments varying upto rustication against bullying. Similarly, UGC also served guidelines to all the colleges across the country to follow the anti-ragging rules in their respective universities. Stated in Section 2 of UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Education Institutions, 2009, the universities which do not abide by such rules would be brought to task and even UGC could forfeit their recognition.

Cyber Bullying

  • The Ryan Halligan Case of Vermont (2003) was the first case that dealt with the issue of cyber-bullying in which the defendant was not held liable for cyber-bullying the girl because of the reason that criminal law could not be applied in that matter. In India, there is no specific legislation dealing with the same. However. there are certain provisions of the subsisting statutes like the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and IT Act, 2000 which are applied in the case of Cyber Bullying.

Workplace Bullying

  • In India, in the case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997 6 SCC 241), the Supreme Court for the first time dealt with bullying at workplace and laid down certain guidelines for the protection of woman employees from sexual harassment. But there are no specific laws which gives rise to the need to consider the subtle forms of bullying like invalid criticism, exclusion, false allegations, constant bantering, humiliation or unnecessary written warnings which are relevant in a workplace. Bullying can be in different subtle forms . It does not deal with the non-sexual harassment which has a greater existence in workplace bullying.

The exact provisions under the Constitution of India, IPC and other statutes that can be brought into action in the above mentioned situations are needless to mention as it is the lawyer’s creativity and the court’s decision which finally decide the justification and relevance of it. What is more important is the evaluation whether these laws are able to suffice to the need of the hour.

INSUFFICIENCY OF ANTI-BULLYING LAWS

These are the laws on pen and paper without any operative outcome as we do not even acknowledge most of the acts as bullying. There isn’t any specific law against it which describes, defines for us the meaning and manifestations of it. The ragging culture rampant in colleges under the garb of healthy interaction and the group-ism trend of schools would end after these guidelines was what was expected but what has been normal for so long, could certain rules change it? Bullying has probably just changed it forms, the gravity of the incidents reduced but has bullying stopped? Do we not come across cases of suicide due to bullying? We do. The problem of bullying being penetrated in our society, needs to be extracted from where its roots are.

Moral education is definitely a subject in the school curriculum but in the same class, the teacher and a group of academically strong students make fun of a boy who scores less comparatively, what about academic ridicule as a form of bullying, are these reported and dealt with? Since, its a ragging-free campus, your seniors in college ask you to dance and sing as a part of introduction, you were not interested, you didn’t do it and spent the rest of your college life unnoticed. Just those who obeyed them could be in their good books. Can this attitude be dealt under law? Is it even identified as cyber-bullying, those numerous messages that a girl does not dare to read from strangers on social media? Is the option of ‘Report and Block’ sufficient? Is there a specific provision which deals with the bullying of a male employee in a workplace? These are very few of the questions that will probably remain unanswered if the right kind of a treatment is not devised for this persisting problem.

CONCLUSION

We don’t realize that what we experience remains with us forever and has an important role in shaping us as humans. Thus, acceptance of what we experience is important. A child should be brought up in such a surrounding where he is not exposed to any kind of discrimination or stereotypical expectation. To be able to achieve this, regular sensitization programme and awareness programme be conducted. Instead of waiting for a complaint to be registered and ten taking an action, teachers, parents and others be trained to anticipate bullying. First and foremost, acknowledging the issue of Bullying, understanding that no such behaviour that makes you uncomfortable is normal and then being okay to take help is what will help the existing guidelines and laws to do their job. Without the awareness of the mass, whatever laws exist now will remain to be inoperative and a need to change won’t ever be felt.

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