ConCourt confirms High Court ruling on corporal punishment

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE full bench of the Constitutional Court Wednesday confirmed a High Court ruling outlawing corporal punishment for juveniles.

The confirmation comes two years after the High Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for parents or teachers to subject juveniles to corporal punishment even when they misbehave.

Another High Court Judge, Justice Esther Muremba had ruled out canning of juveniles as part of judicial punishment and the decision has been awaiting confirmation at the Constitutional Court.

“The elimination of judicial corporal punishment from penal system is an immediate and unqualified obligation on the State,” ruled ConCourt.

“Judicial corporal punishment constitutes a serious violation of the inherent dignity of a male juvenile offender subjected to its administration.

“To emphasise human dignity is to engage with our conception of what it is to be human. It is also a point of closure. It is definitive and universal. It is not a value that tolerates either derogation or dissent. We recognise this in all sorts of areas including constitutional law.”

The ruling and confirmation effectively declares Section 353 of the Criminal Law Codefication and Reform Act invalid.

“The declaration of invalidity of Section 353 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act shall take effect from April 3, which is the date of delivery of this judgment. As of that date the section is struck down.

“With effect from 0April, no male juvenile convicted of any offence shall be sentenced to receive moderate corporal punishment. The prohibition shall appLy to sentences to receive moderate corporal punishment that have already been imposed and are awaiting execution,” read part of Con-court’s ruling.

The High court had also declared unconstitutional Section 69 (2) (c) of the Education Act which permits corporal punishment.

Sections 3 to 7 of the Education Disciplinary Regulations 1985 contained in Statutory Instrument 362 of 1998, was also declared to be in violation of the Constitution.

Constitutional law expert Tendai Biti, filed the court application at the High Court in 2016 on behalf of a parent whose child had been beaten by a teacher at Belvedere Primary School in Harare.

The High court then ruled that corporal punishment was inhuman.