This article is written by Ishika Gupta pursuing BBA L.LB from Gitarattan International Business School. This article aims to highlight the rights and duties under parental and quasi parental authority.
Whenever there is a violation of any legal right or duty and legal damages have incurred the sufferer may bring action against the other under law of torts.
For this, the essentials must be present. However, there are various exceptions to this that include parental and quasi parental authority.
As per the Hindu law, father and mother are the natural guardians of children. A guardian is a person who takes care of minor and his property. From the birth of a child, parents acquire the rights and duties of a guardian by a natural relationship. It’s the duty of the natural guardians to maintain the child. There is equality of rights for both the parents in respect of children’s custody, education, control, correction and chastisement and upbringing.
A child’s future is in the hands of the parents. There are various restraints that need to be followed as per the necessities of society and for this, parents are given authority to control and correct them by either kind of force and such people are protected under the law of torts only if they act in a reasonable manner and for a good cause. However, what is deemed to be reasonable by the judges or jury changes as per time i.e. there is not an exact manner defined.
Rights under Parental Authority
There are various rights and duties under parental authority:
1) Right to custody: Custody is of two types. First is legal in which there is a right to make decisions for the child and another is physical which means the right and duty to provide housing and care to the child.
2) Right to determine the religion: Parents have the right to determine which religion the child will profess.
3) Right to education: It is the duty and right of the natural guardians to provide the necessary education to their child and help him in making his future bright.
4) Right to control: The parents can also restrict the movement of their minor child if they find it unfit for him and can also take actions against him in a moderate manner.
5) Right of supervision: The parents have the right to supervise and advise their children in life so they can do the right thing.
6) Right to protection and health care: The parents have the right and duty to protect their child from anything harmful and to provide basic healthcare.
6) Right to reasonable chastisement: Chastisement literally means a severe criticism or punishment. The parents have the right to punish the child in a reasonable and moderate manner.
Quasi Parental Authority
The Latin term “loco parentis” means ‘in the place of parents’. The people in loco parentis are called quasi-parents. However quasi parental authority comes with less rights and duties than parental authority. Parents when not in charge tend to delegate their authority to someone else who can take care of their child. For instance in schools, the parents delegate their authority to teachers and principal and they can take decisions for the child.
However, the law is that the parents and quasi parents both can administer punishment on a child for his good or to prevent him from hurting himself or any other person. They have lawful control over the children and can correct him at every point. Parents may also delegate their authority to a babysitter who for a particular time period takes care of the child, she acts as a quasi parent. Similarly, when the child is in the school the parents are deemed to delegate their responsibility to teachers.
Such kind of authority only allows the use of reasonable and moderate punishment but if it exceeds a limit the accused may, therefore, be liable for civil or criminal contempt.
Position under England and India
In England, a parent or quasi parent who has the lawful control or charge of a minor can correct the child and has the right to administer the punishment on the child as per the Child and Young Person’s Act,1933.
In Cleary v Booth ((1893) 1 Q.B. 465) the defendant was a school headmaster. Two boys fought on the way to school and the defendant administered punishment on them. The headmaster was held liable for assault and battery. However, it was held that he was not liable as the authority of teachers is not only limited to school premises but also outside the school. As per the jury, “there is not much opportunity for a boy to exhibit his moral conduct while in school under the eye of the master, the opportunity is while he is at play or outside the school”.
It is obvious that at home the parents have the control of children and at the school the teachers and principal but the main question is who is in charge between the school and house. It can be rightly said that here the authority is delegated to the teachers. They can not only correct them for their wrongs but can also administer punishment upon them. Hence in the above case, the boys fought out of the school and the headmaster had the authority to punish them.
In another case Eisel v Board of Education (1991), a student threatened school counsellors to commit suicide but they failed to inform the parents. This negligence by not providing knowledge to the parents was a loophole and since the school was in authority to control the child it should have informed the parents about the threat as said by Maryland High Court.
Hence as per the law in England the authority of school master is same as that of parents and he represents the parents in the matter of correction as held in Regina v. Hopley (1860) 2 F & 7 202) and Fitzgerald v. Northcote ((1865) 4 F & F 665).
In India, it has been held several times that a teacher plays a very important role in a student’s life. It has been well recognised over the years that quasi parental authority of a teacher comes with the inherent right to take disciplinary actions against the pupil and has been ingrained in the country’s philosophy as said in R.C. Thampan and Ors. v The Principal Medical College (AIR 1979 Ker 171).
In Laxmikant Shri-pat Bhandara v. C. R. Gerrard (AIR 1947 Bom 193), it was held that the schoolmaster has the power of chastisement over a pupil committed to his charge, arising from delegation by the parent or guardian.
The position and rights of a teacher have been deeply explained in the case of Sankunni v. Swaminatha Pattar. Venkatsubba Rao, J. said that the teacher cannot get away with the punishment with the excuse that the punishment has left no marks on the body, in one or another way if the punishment could have caused harm to life and limb of the child the teacher will be accused under the law of torts. However, in the above case, the 2 smacks given by the defendant were not held to be violent and were considered reasonable.
Hence it is clear that parental and quasi parental authorities come with certain rights and duties that need to be performed in the welfare of the child and to ensure there is a good upbringing of the child. With these rights comes the responsibility to show the child the right path and to correct him either by words or chastisement in a moderate manner. But this can’t be the excuse to skip the criminal or civil liability like assault, battery etc. The test of reasonability depends upon the courts. The punishment administered should be of such nature that a prudent man would have considered right.
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