anti-bullying laws in India

In this article, Shivendra Pandey from NLU-O discusses Anti-Bullying laws prevalent in India.

This article is an endeavor to bring forth an overview of the state of Anti-bullying laws in India. These laws have been enacted to eliminate bullying in any form in different spheres like bullying at workplace, schools, cyberspace. That is why they are referred as “anti-bullying laws”. These are the key area of focus in this article. So far there are only some State laws which deal with bullying, however, there have been a persistent call for framing national law on bullying.

First, it is necessary to understand the term bullying. The Bar Association of India of India gave its definition as,

“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.”[1]

In India in the case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan[2], the Supreme first time dealt with issue of bullying and it laid down certain guidelines for the protection of woman employees from sexual harassment.[3] But it only dealt with bullying against men at workplaces. Further, there is a need to consider different types of bullying at workplaces. In the west bullying at workplace is recognized as violence in workplaces. Bullying can be in different subtle forms like invalid criticism, exclusion, false allegations, constant bantering, humiliation or unnecessary written warnings.

The most vulnerable to this plight are the subordinates in offices. This is a scenario in private as well as public sector. Most of the bullying is done by seniors, hierarchy plays a key role. To achieve targets supervisors have to force the employees to labor hard especially the young workers have to face most of the harassment due to higher expectations. Bullying and harassment at workplace lead to terrible effect on the health and well being and performance of the employees. In India, there is no special legislation against bullying at workplace.

Still, in India a worker can seek redressal under different provisions provided under the constitution of India, IPC, and C.P.C. The Indian Constitution under various articles provides labor rights. Though not in evident form but indirectly various articles protect the labour rights.[4] For instance, Article 14 of the Indian Constitution lays down the concept of Equality before law. In the case of Mewa Ram v. A.I.I. Medical Science[5] , the Supreme Court, held that

 “the doctrine of ‘equal pay for equal work’ is not an abstract doctrine. Equality must be among equals, unequal people cannot claim equality.[6]

Indian constitution through various articles21, 23, 24, 38, 39, 39-A, 41, 42, 43, 43-A and 47 provides an idea of what conditions should be provided by the employers.[7] However, some of these articles do not have binding effect which at instances hinders justice. Part 4 of the constitution talks about the duty of the state to promote social welfare and to make effective provisions for securing the right to work, providing education and public assistance in cases of employment, etc., which is subject to limits of its economic capacity, to make special provisions for just and humane condition of work and for maternity relief, etc.[8]

In the case of Consumer Education and Research Centre v. Union of India[9]

“Right to life includes protection of the health and strength of the worker is a minimum requirement to enable a person to live with human dignity. The right to human dignity, development of personality, social protection, right to rest and leisure are fundamental human rights to a workman assured by the Charter of Human Rights, in the Preamble and Arts.38 and 39 of the Constitution.”

Honorable Supreme Court laid emphasis on the Human Dignity of employees and it should be respected. However, after such precedents, we have cases like Pradhan v. State of Uttaranchal and others[10] and then Madan Mohan Singh v. State of Gujarat and another[11] and a close reading of these cases bring forth that the courts would be slow in holding such humiliations at workplace constitute abetment to commit suicide.[12] This again pose a necessity to legislate laws which define terms like “humility”, “harassment” and “administrative powers of superiors and their ambit”.

Further, article 23 acts as an shield preventing any form of forced labour and article 24 prevents employment of children below 14 years at hazardous places. Though, all these provisions under the Indian constitution protect interests of labor.[13] However there is a dire need for a specific legislation as it would bring clarity on different legal aspects of bullying, ease the judicial process as well lead to better working environment.

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Anti Cyber bullying laws in India

Cyber bullying is a practice that is causing hue and cry in the whole legal system but till date there are no special legislation to deal with cyberbullying in India. It is a new phenomenon which has arisen in this internet age. Cyberbullying can be defined as “The use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.”[14]. In India, there is no specific legislation which deals with cyber bullying but there are provisions like article 67 of IT Act which partially deal with such matters. Though, it was made to deal with matters related to e-commerce.

Cyber bullying can be in different forms, For example:

  • Posting any kind of humiliating content of the victim.
  • Hacking the victim’s account.
  • Sending or posting vulgar messages online.
  • Threatening to commit acts of violence.
  • Stalking by means of calls, messages, etc..
  • Threats of child pornography.

The Ryan Halligan Case of Vermont (2003) was the first case that dealt with the issue of cyberbullying in which the defendant was not held liable for cyberbullying the girl because of criminal law could not be applied in that matter. Recently, there have been several instances of cyber bullying of persons from LGBT group on facebook and other social media apps. Such acts make the victims depressed, isolated and sometimes even lead to suicidal tendencies.

According to a survey conducted by Microsoft about the global Youth found that surprisingly 53% of children have been bullied in India through different ways. This scenario is not just in India but in China, Australia, Europe and other countries. It is not just youths but people of all age groups face this problem and the biggest challenge is recognizing the bully on internet or cyberspace. The technological barriers act as a hindrance in dealing with such issues. Institutional infrastructure needs to be developed to deal with this set of bullying. In the present era of rampant growth of cyber bullying it is the biggest challenge for the legislators to deal with.

Anti-bullying laws in India for schools and colleges

In India there is no separate legislation to deal with bullying at school level. Bullying is prevalent at school level in India, especially in boarding schools. However in 2015 HRD ministry directed CBSE schools to form anti-ragging committees at school level also putting severe punishments to students indulging in bullying and the punishment may vary to rustication in rarest of rare cases. There should be notice boards warning students from involving in ragging or bullying.

The Raghavan committee report recommended that teachers and the principal shall be held liable if any act of bullying takes place in the school premises.[15] In the case of University of Kerala v. Council, Principal’s colleges, Kerala & others[16]

Now the Question arises, why should the Indian penal laws not apply to a school? You may say that the school boys are only in late teens but do not forget that there are several crimes in various cities including murders which are committed by teenagers today[17]

These words raise a serious question on the safety of the youths of the country.

Similarly, UGC has laid guidelines to all the colleges across the country to follow anti-ragging rules in their respective universities and the universities which do not abide by such rules would be bring to task and even UGC could forfeit their recognition.[18] The government of India enacted special regulation to curb bullying at higher education institutions – “UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Education Institutions, 2009”. A student may also have criminal liability under different sections of the criminal procedure code of India.

References

[1]Anti-bullying laws in India” Bar Association of India, 2015, < https://www.indianbarassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Anti-bullying-laws-in-India.pdf> Accessed on 16 April,2017.

[2] AIR 1997 SC 3011.

[3]Right to dignity at workplace: Need for a legislation” by Pattabhi Ramarao Kovuru, Maupatra articles, http://www.manupatra.com/roundup/374/Articles/Right%20to%20dignity%20at%20work%20place.pdf

Accessed on 16th April,2017.

[4] Ibid.

[5] AIR 1989 SC 1256.

[6] Ibid.

[7]protection of labour rights under indian constitution” Shrut Brahmbhatt <http://www.gnlu.ac.in/bc/PROTECTION%20OF%20LABOUR%20RIGHTS%20UNDER%20INDIAN%20CONSTITUTION_Shrut%20Brahmbhatt.pdf> Accessed on 17 April,2017.

[8] Ibid.

[9]  AIR SC (1995) 922 para [10].

[10]  SCC (2012) 9  734.

[11] ALD (Cri) (2010) 861 (2).

[12]Right to dignity at workplace: Need for a legislation” by Pattabhi Ramarao Kovuru, Maupatra articles, http://www.manupatra.com/roundup/374/Articles/Right%20to%20dignity%20at%20work%20place.pdf

Accessed on 16th April,2017.

[13]Protection of labour rights under indian constitution” Shrut Brahmbhatt  http://www.gnlu.ac.in/bc/PROTECTION%20OF%20LABOUR%20RIGHTS%20UNDER%20INDIAN%20CONSTITUTION_Shrut%20Brahmbhatt.pdf  Accessed on 17 April,2017

[14] Oxford Dictionary.

[15]Anti-bullying laws in India” Bar Association of India, 2015, < https://www.indianbarassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Anti-bullying-laws-in-India.pdf> Accessed on 16 April,2017.

[16] (2011) 14 SCC 357.

[17] Ibid.

[18]  Section 2 UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Education Institutions, 2009.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. […] jurisdiction addresses bullying and is supportive of people being bullied. Click here to know the anti-bullying laws in […]

  2. Now a days it not easy to deduct the cyberbullying among kids. Parents should be vigilant enough to protect kids from cyberbullying. The organizations / schools also should have the onus to implement strong cyberbullying protection policies. I have recently published an infographics. Let me know if you are interested in publishing it in this page as I think it would add value to the readers.

  3. @Riya.
    U should bring your case under sexual harrassment. In each and every department after Vishaka judgement by Supreme Court of India, there is required to be an anti sexual harassment cell. You can take help from them or file a complaint. You can also raise your voice before women Commission.

  4. India has no waterproof legal system especially for Workplace Bullying. Workplace Bullying happens more rampantly than US. However no one dares the Employers or takes legal assistance as the legal system is worse than hell. The Lawyers short change their clients and the party which has money and muscle power wins eventually. This is the reason no one dares the system. The one who dares is punished.

    It will take at least another 30 years for India to catch up with US legal system.

  5. Hi , i am into a corporate job ,i have recently gone thru a sexual & mental harrasment case by my manager the same was suppressed by my organisation & the culprit was just given warning & left free. Post that & even during the petiod since i had complained i have been going thru mental harrasment & humiliation in the org. So looking at the condition i had changed my department but things did not end there as he had threatened me to finish my career ; thru his collegues he started influencing my current manager to sack me ..& even where i go for interview he influence to not recruit me .
    i go thru the humiliation everyday ,my organisation has been biased towards seniors & has taken no action instead supporting them .. i am completely depressed & have lost all confidence in myself & even tried to kill myself . Is there any way out ? What shall i do ?

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