HC orders appointment of counsellors in all West Bengal schools
The Calcutta High Court Friday directed authorities to appoint counsellors in about one lakh educational institutions in West Bengal to help safeguard students against sexual abuse. Justice Nadira Patherya ordered that counsellors will have to be appointed to all educational institutions in the state in a phased manner within one year.
The judge observed that progress in implementation of a report by an amicus curiae, assisted by a court-appointed panel of educationists, on safeguarding pupils in educational institutions from sexual abuse needs to be monitored from time to time. Justice Patherya directed that the report placed by amicus curiae Phiroze Edulji be kept on record and steps be taken to implement its suggestions.
She directed the state and the Centre to file a progress report after six months. Upon placing the report before the court, additional advocate general Abhratosh Majumdar, who was representing the state, submitted that it would not be able to implement the recommendation regarding appointment of counsellors to every educational institution as the state has around one lakh schools.
He claimed that it will be difficult to find so many trained counsellors. The guideline proposed by the amicus curiae said, "Every school must appoint a person, who is an expert in child psychology, psychiatry or sociology and who has been actively involved in child welfare activities for a period of at least two years, as a counsellor for children in school."
The judge, however, said though the AAG has sought a relaxation in appointment of counsellors, a direction for the appointments was required to be passed in the interest of the children. The Centre on Thursday told the court that it was agreeable to the guidelines on safety of students in schools as proposed by the amicus curiae.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Kaushik Chanda told the court that Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 already provides for security measures of school students, but the government was, nevertheless, agreeable to the Standards of Procedure (SOP) proposed by the amicus curiae as an additional initiative. AAG Majumdar on Thursday also agreed to the SOP, while suggesting minor changes.
Justice Patherya had Wednesday asked the Centre and the West Bengal Government to convey their views on proposed guidelines to prevent sexual offences against pupils in educational institutions affiliated to central and state boards in West Bengal. The judge, while hearing a case relating to alleged sexual misconduct against two physical education teachers of a city-based school, had appointed lawyer Edulji as amicus curiae and formed a panel of educationists for suggestions.
The panel included educationists from six leading schools in the city, the chairperson of West Bengal State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) and representatives of UNICEF and National University of Juridical Sciences.
The amicus curiae submitted a 100-page report to the court on Monday suggesting formation of a nodal body under the SCPCR, which would work for spreading awareness among school staff, sensitise parents and set up a syllabus for awareness of staff, students and parents.It also suggested stringent background check of a person before appointing him or her to any position in a school.