The year 2020 was marred by many incidents which incited our thought processes, be it the unending walks of the migrant labourers at the beginning of the announcement of the lockdown or growing number of cases of domestic violence and child abuse at home or the farmers protest towards the closing of the year (un)comfortably close to the power halls in Delhi. Each has been viewed and studied from the sociological lens, but it is equally vital to analyse the legal implications. A very familiar literary character from our childhood had remarked that “law is a ass – a idiot”. The author was Charles Dickens and the book was Oliver Twist.
The conversation was in regard to the acts of Mrs Bumble which the law must supposed to be under the direction of her husband in Victorian law and he would be more guilty between the two. In my understanding, an accepted definition is that law is system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. It has often been described as a science or a manner to dispense justice. As law is the ultimate instrument of social change, curiosity and yearn for knowledge would only pave the way for a more politically conscious generation.
Any education model strives to equip the learner to internalise and learn the fundamental precepts of the discipline; similarly legal education endeavours to make an individual understand his/ her rights and obligations or duties. Legalistically, a higher law which cannot be unilaterally changed (or amended) by a single legislative act and which captures the basic principles of the state, structure, processes and working of the government and fundamental rights of citizens (as well as some guaranteed to persons) are enshrined in a Constitution. A constitution therefore is a legal, social and political document. Among the many concepts and fundamentals, some are entrenched in absolute collective memory of civilised nations. These form the very basic of the need for legal education to be imparted for an awakened and educated society.
The concept of equality and non-discrimination, freedoms and liberty and the idea of justice could easily be equated to be the pillars for a democratic state in working. For a more informed citizenry, it is vital that education for the youth must capture the understanding of each of these ideas as they have been shaped through many movements and engagements in different contexts, ages and centuries; but which continue to be resolute.
The trifecta of concept of equality which subsumes non-discrimination, ideals of liberty and freedom to be firmed by the notion of justice are foundations for our diverse and multicultural society.
As noted, the concept of equality signifies a qualitative relationship hinging upon the correspondence between a group of different objects, persons, processes or circumstances that have the same qualities in at least one respect or a feature, though difference in other features. It is crucial to remember that ‘equality’ is different from ‘sameness’. As defined by the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, “The right to equal treatment requires that all persons be treated equally before the law, without discrimination. The principle of equality and non-discrimination guarantees that those in equal circumstances are dealt with equally in law and practice. ”The Indian Constitution in Art 14 guarantees equality before law or equal protection of the law to all persons. The article subsumes the principle of non-discrimination in its spirit and application. Thus, according to Prolawctor meaning that equality before the law means that among equals the law should be equal and should be equally administered, that like should be treated alike. Among many challenges, this fundamental right has seen many explanations and elucidations.
The other leg of the trifecta is the right to liberty and freedoms enjoyed by persons keeping in view reasonable restrictions. One such particular hugely debated freedom which came to limelight was with the right to freedom to practice ones religion with reference to the Sabrimala decision. The decision in 2018 held that the eons tradition and practice of the temple to exclude women due to their physiological state was held to unconstitutional as it violated the fundamental right to freedom of religion i.e. Article 25(1) of female worshippers. Under this umbrella of rights, freedom of movement, freedom from arbitrary detention by others, freedom of speech and expression, assembly and association among others. When drafting the Indian Constitution, the framers specifically carved a space for these as they are considered essential for the development of the personality of every individual and above all to preserve human dignity. As democracy in essence is a government by opinion, thus formulating public opinion must be secured and guaranteed to the citizens and residents of a democratic nation. The umbrella of rights included under the head are Articles 19- 22.
The last but not the least is the concept of justice as imagined in the preamble of the Constitution is social, economic and political. Succinctly put, justice is a concept of rightness, fairness based on ethics, moral, religion and rationality. Laws legislated and promulgated by the state must strive for achieving justice to various section of the society; courts must be established for eradicating injustice by creating access to secure their rights and by reprimanding for violation of this laws by providing remedy. Justice stands for rule of law, absence of arbitrariness and a system of equal rights, freedom and opportunities for all in a society.
Armed with the clear understanding of these precepts, individuals in a society are political aware and conscious of both their rights and obligations to the state and its instrumentalities. The demand for a greater transparent and accountable government is consequent which promotes a higher collective imagination for the polity. For a responsible and responsive nation to be built, understanding of the vital role in the governance mechanism is presumptive.
In this light, each education model at the secondary level must capture the basics of the constitutional processes to endeavour to sustain the democratic model of governance right from the block level.
Contributor: Amrita Paul
About our Writing Program Student
Amrita Paul is a Senior Programme Officer with the Prison Reforms Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. She has a Master’s Degree in Law (LL.M.) Human Rights from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. The primary focus of her work is to target unnecessary and prolonged detention of undertrials and work towards systemic interventions to prevent it. She loves watching movies and sitcoms (when she has time), cooking and creating new recipes, reading Christie’s and murder mysteries and appreciating music.
 Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution
 Article 22 of the Constitution
 Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution
 Article 19(1)(b) of the Constitution
 Article 19(1)(c ) of the Constitution
 Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th ed.