Centre for Advanced Legal Studies and Research, (CALSAR), Thiruvananthapuram

  Legal awareness a responsibility

In the words of John Dewey, the American Philosopher,

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself”.

But is our education complete today? I have been a student all my life, trying to gather knowledge from all walks of life. In the pursuit of knowledge, I joined Law School to get a degree in Law and Legislation. That is when I understood that our education system has left a few areas of knowledge that remain hidden to the students. One such is Law and Legal studies.

The Legal maxim in Latin says:

“Ignorantia Juris non excusat”

Which means the ignorance of the law is never an excuse accepted in front of the court of law. But how aware are we? Leave alone the future generation, even in our generation, legal knowledge is limited. I am reminded of one of my lecturers, Adv. Shibukumar’s words: “To be a law-abiding citizen, you just need to know the right and wrong” The question is whether you are aware of the rights, privileges, and freedom. With every right, and freedom comes great responsibility and accountability. Recent agitations and demonstrations against laws and legislations too have shown that just a few in those crowds knew about the law about which the demonstrations were for.

Career oriented education

Let’s consider the choices in front of a child to choose a career. Professional fields would enumerate Engineering, Medicine and to a few Chartered Accountancy and a very few “Law”. Do the students know about the fields when they choose or is it their parents who choose the same for them. There are no hereditary factors that determine the course for a child to choose a career path. The flair and interest need to be searched for in the child and directed to the desired field. Neither Sir Issac Newton nor Thomas Alva Edison were sons to scientists. Charles Martin Hall who invented a way to extract Aluminium only wanted to be rich, as his life was poverty-stricken, and was not a son of an inventor. This enunciates the need for awareness at an early age.

Choices understood

How would you know about the likes of a student? At least a basic awareness program should be given to the children so that they can test the waters and be sure about what their liking is. The advantages of introducing the Constitution and Fundamental  Rights and the way it was drafted, the people behind it, the pain taken to draft the same will make him aware of the ways of redressal or be proud of a nation with the longest written constitution by Dr. Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar and the team of eminent personalities. Thus we can instill in them, a sense of pride about the nation and the makers of it.

Why Law in schools other than Law Schools

Even if there is no deep knowledge about the sections or chapters of the code, we need to give them an idea about the law of the land. The basics of Legal studies, or a superficial knowledge of the penal code or the legal system, would instill lawfulness as a virtue. When the law says a child below the age of 7 cannot have “mens rea”, a guilty mind or a reason for a crime, the children from the age of 8 should know the law. Hence ideally law supports legal education from school. The following would be an ideal step-by-step approach in introducing law in schools:

Children’s Rights, Human rights, Basics of the preamble, an idea about the fundamental rights – Right to freedom of speech and expressions, fundamental duties, how to respect the nation’s insignia, how rights of an Indian are protected, the concept of crime and punishment, stories from or autobiographies of famous legal personalities like Dr. BR Ambedkar or Abraham Lincoln, the difference between custom and law, the scope of advocacy, how laws are made (basics of legislation), or at least what fines are according to traffic rules with its basics. These are just a few subjects that can be introduced at a middle school level for the children to have an idea about the legal system. Advocates and Judicial officers should take an effort to give talks at the school level for them to have someone look up to.

A few words to conclude…

Ut est rerum omnium magister usus – Julius Caesar.

If experience is the best teacher, then let the children of tomorrow experience it now.

  • Kriss Venugopal (Krishnan AV)
Share :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *