29 November 2022
By Rehan Piracha
ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Interior has passed an amendment bill to deter corporal punishment on children by declaring it as a crime.
In its meeting on November 28, the standing committee passed The Islamabad Capital Territory Prohibition of Corporal Punishment (Amendment) Bill, 2022, moved by Senator Walid Iqbal and Senator Sadia Abbasi. The bill broadens the scope of corporal punishment as well as the settings that may give rise to it. It also provides for a comprehensive mechanism for grievance redressal to effectively implement the law banning corporal punishment in the federal territory.
Parliament passed the corporal punishment prohibition last year but later some legal experts objected to its language. Senator Walid Iqbal told the committee that the bill aimed at banning corporal punishment on children by declaring it a crime. The committee unanimously passed the bill after a detailed deliberation.
The amendment bill has included any punishment involving coercive or threatening conduct in the definition of corporal punishment. Besides, formal and informal seminaries, deeni madaris and boarding houses have been included in the definition of institutions in the amendment bill.
“….Corporal punishment of children is prohibited in all its forms, at the workplace, in private and public educational institutions, including formal, non-formal, and religious, in care institutions including foster care institutions and rehabilitation centres, and in any other alternative care settings, in each case both public and private, and in the Juvenile Justice System,” reads the bill.
The bill inserts new sections for the establishment of competent authorities to receive complaints, conduct inquiries and fix penalties in public sector educational institutions, seminaries, and madrassas. The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training is to notify a committee for complaints of corporal punishment in state educational institutions. Similarly, the Wafaq-ul Madaris will notify a committee to handle such complaints in seminaries and madrassas. in all other cases of corporal punishment, the complaints are to be taken up by a committee notified by the Ministry of Human Rights.
The above will consist of three members of whom at least one member shall be a woman. A chairperson is to be designated among the committee members. The committees are to be notified within 30 days of the enforcement of the amendment act.
Procedure for complaints
A complaint under the Act can be filed with the committees in writing by the child on whom corporal punishment is inflicted or the parent of such child or such child’s next of kin.
The concerned committees have to decide on the complaint within thirty days of its receipt. It will communicate to the accused the charges and statement of allegations levelled against him within three days of receipt of a written complaint.
The accused is required to submit a written defence within seven days from the day the charge is communicated to him. If the accused fails to submit a written defence without reasonable cause, the competent authority shall proceed ex-parte against him.
The committees will have the power of a civil court and can summon and enforce the attendance of any person and examine him on oath. An appeal against the decision of the committees can be made to the Federal Ombudsman within 30 days.
Code of conduct
The bill directs the Ministry of Human Rights to devise a comprehensive system for the enforcement and monitoring of the law prohibiting corporal punishment in all places. The ministry is to develop a code of conduct for the prohibition of corporal punishment and make efforts to create the requisite deterrence and awareness amongst the stakeholders.