Our country is a democratic country as well as a welfare state. “Rule of Law” is the edifice on which the democratic structure has been built on. “Rule of Law” means everybody is equal in the eyes of law. In spite of this solemn principle, every day we hear news about instances of atrocities committed against women and children, excesses by law enforcing agencies, harassment of citizens by officials, cheating by seller of goods, exploitation of the weak, stories of discriminations and deprivation in the society besides heinous crimes like rape, murder, looting, etc.
In most of the cases the victims accept these suffering silently by ascribing them to fate or are afraid to protest on the grounds of further reprisals.
The fact is that many times people are not aware of the law and the rights such laws confer for their protection. The Directive Principles of the constitution lays down the guidelines for the welfare of the socially and economically neglected section of the society.
A number of laws have been enacted to contribute to the welfare of the socially and economically downtrodden population of the society. However, the benefits of these provisions are not reaped by them due to lack of awareness about the same.
Every country has prescribed Rights and Duties for its Citizen. The Citizens need to be aware about their Rights, the related legal provisions and processes. Coupled with this knowledge, they are also required to know how to realize their rights and entitlements. On the reverse side, there are certain duties and prohibitions which are cast upon people and that need to be observed so that they do not transcend the barriers and get into trouble for the same.
The lack of legal awareness is not, unfortunately, confined to illiterates. Even educated person are often not aware about their Rights and Duties. A country can progress only when all its citizens are well aware of their Rights and know to exercise their Rights. This empowers citizens to demand justice and seek remedies for wrong done to them. Such a position would bring greater harmony, accountability and transparency at all levels which is sine-qua-non for progress and development. The examples of Europe and USA are noteworthy in this respect. They present a picture of a more just society than many of the developing countries in the world.
The Constitution of India has outlined the Fundamental Rights of Citizens under Part III of our Constitution. Similarly, the Duties of the Citizen have been enshrined therein. Any violation/deprivation of the same can be enforced through High Court/Supreme Court under Art 32 and Art 226 of the Constitution. Natural justice provides that no person can be coerced into giving evidence against him. It is in this background Supreme Court of India has ruled that ‘Narco Analysis’, ‘Brain Mapping’, ‘Polygraph Testing’ tantamount of self incrimination and violation of Section 20(3), in the case of Smt. Selvi and others v. State of Karnataka, AIR 2010 Educated and uneducated citizen are often not aware about the process relating to arrest by police.
Before arresting somebody, police has to show the warrant, if the offence is bail able or not. Any person arrested has to produce before a magistrate within 24 hours. Before conducting a search in somebody’s house search warrant has to be given. In case relating to seizure of Passport of Maneka Gandhi, the court observed that such station Action cannot be arbitrary and the reasons of seizure need to be given to the concerned person. A host of laws have been enacted for the welfare and exercise of positive discrimination in favor of the neglected section of the society. For example-: Hindu Marriage Act, Untouchablity Act, Dowry Act, Engagement of Child Labor, Child Marriage Act, Domestic Violence Act, Consumer Protection Act.
For expeditious disposal of the grievances of citizen’s, legal institutions like Lok Adalats, Family Courts, Mahila Courts, Consumer Courts, Ombudsman, District Legal Service Authority, etc have been created. These institutions have been established on the basis of dictum “Justice delayed is Justice denied”
For the progress of the country where everybody lives in harmony with others, ensuring a just society there is an urgent need for spreading legal awareness amongst people. The idea behind spread of legal information is that people are empowered before the need to seek Legal Aid arises and if the need for legal aid does arise then at least the people armed with newly acquired legal information can use the information in the best possible way. In order to promote the legal awareness following step should be taken-: •Increase in the literacy rate in the country. In our own country also because of high literacy rates people from Kerala are more conscious about their legal rights than other states. •Societies like ‘SEWA’, ‘MARG’, ‘ICARE’, ‘CRY’, etc have been doing a pioneering work in creating legal awareness among people.
Such work needs to be encouraged. If other governmental an non-governmental organizations come up with such ideas then making people aware of their rights and duties and delivering justice would not be a difficult task. •Legal classes can be held in schools and colleges, with the aim of training the student also in turn can spread the same to their parents and friends. Particularly, women and girls can be enlightened on various legal protections and procedures to approach Police Station and courts for protection of their rights and obtain remedy for their problems. •Along with the legal acts, people need to be sensitized about various welfare schemes of the Government, functioning of the Legal Service Authority, the enacted provisions regarding free legal aid and services.
Legal reforms which are long overdue in our country should be expedited. This would enable the judicial system to cut away lot of practices and procedures which delay the process of administration of justice. Most of the laws in our country owe their origin to colonial days and need to be reframed and simplified. The mind set for formulation of laws couched in legal jargons, clauses, sub-clauses not easily understood by the citizens has to change. Laws outlined in simpler terms can be easily comprehended by common people and would contribute towards enhancing legal awareness among citizens. Economically, India is having a sustained growth. The country is on the threshold of a developed country, an elevation from the status of a developing economy. In this scenario, the need for legal awareness amongst the citizen is very much necessary. With citizens conversant with their rights and duties, the presence of justice and fair play in the society, transparency, accountability would enable the country to make bigger strides in this economic development. Being a democracy is an advantage in this regard.