Updated: Jun 7, 2020
Author: Kunal Sehgal
Student, II Semester, B.B.A.,LL.B., FIMT-School of Law, GGIPU
Access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law. In the absence of access to justice, people are unable to have their voice heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination or hold decision-makers accountable. The Declaration of the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law emphasizes the right of equal access to justice for all, including members of vulnerable groups, and reaffirmed the commitment of Member States to taking all necessary steps to provide fair, transparent, effective, non-discriminatory and accountable services that promote access to justice for all. Most of the time due to complex nature of our legal system, people finds themselves helpless in accessing justice because of their Legal Illiteracy. Legal awareness can act as a tool in that situation by bringing every person at the same footing when it comes to accessing Justice.
WHAT IS LEGAL AWARENESS?
Legal awareness, sometimes called public legal education, is the empowerment of individuals regarding issues involving the law. Legal awareness helps to promote consciousness of legal culture, participation in the formation of laws and the rule of law.
Public legal education, sometimes called civics education, comprises a range of activities intended to build public awareness and skills related to law and the justice system. This term also refers to the fields of practice and study concerned with those activities, and to a social and professional movement that advocates greater societal commitment to educating people about the law.
Anna-Marie Marshall explains that "in order to realize their rights, people need to take the initiative to articulate them. This initiative, in turn, depends on the availability and the relevance of legal schema to people confronting problems."This is because laws exist as part of a larger organizational ecosystem in which the interests of the organization as well as those of the actors become inextricably linked to the ways in which they are enacted.
Distinct from the education of students in law school seeking a degree in law (which is often simply called "legal education") and the continuing professional education of lawyers and judges (which is sometimes called "continuing legal education"), public legal education is principally aimed at people who are not lawyers, judges, or degree-seeking law students.
NEED & IMPORTANCE
Legal awareness can empower people to demand justice, accountability and effective remedies at all levels. Legal needs always stand to become crisis oriented because their ignorance prevents them from anticipating legal troubles and approaching a lawyer for consultation and advice in time. This magnifies the impact of their legal troubles and difficulties when they come.
Without (legal) literacy it is high chance that people can get intimidated and alienated from law. This may evolve into a situation which results in people coming into conflict with the law, or being unable to obtain help from it. Courts have acknowledged the barrier raised by a lack of literacy to asserting guaranteed rights effectively. Low literacy may block people’s access to justice. At times, literacy requirements have been used to block access to rights and benefits.
Methods to promote legal awareness
There have been many cases where governments have promoted long-term legal literacy missions or awareness campaigns. An example of this is institutions arranging legal literacy events like Legal Aid Fests, Camps etc.
Legal awareness is also achieved through camps, lectures, and interactive workshops or crash programs on the essential and elementary legal laws. Among the general public, many wish to spend time listening to scholars on contemporary issues that have significant bearing on the rights and livelihood of ordinary people.
Other methods are road shows, radio talks, street and theater plays, as well as the publication of relevant books, periodicals, posters, and charts that deal with particular laws, the distribution of pamphlets, brochures, and stickers, the display of paintings, illustrations in comics, and other ways to ensure publicity for various legal mobilization activities.
Strategically located display boards in public places (railway stations, bus stations, market places, in front of major government offices and police stations) are also used to help government officials, police, and the public to understand the spirit of law.
Various Acts, Topics and Schemes on which Legal Awareness is Most Needed
Acts & Topics: Engaging with Criminal Justice System - A guide for survivors of Sexual Violence, The Sexual Harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act and Rules 2013, Dowry Prohibition Act, Dowry Death , Child Marriages , Female Infanticide, Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, Prevention of Sati, Domestic cruelty , Abetment of Suicide , Plea bargaining, Molestation, Bigamy , Obscenity , Domestic Violence-Civil Remedies , Divorce , Restitution of conjugal rights etc.
Schemes: Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP), Mahila Samridhi Yojana (Micro Finance Scheme for women belonging to BC, New Swarnim Special Scheme for Women (Term loan for women belonging to BC), Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme, Central Victim Compensation Fund scheme (CVCF), UJJAWALA : A Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of trafficking and Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Victims of Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation Working, Women Hostel One Stop Centre Scheme, Women Helpline Scheme, Mahila Shakti Kendras (MSK), etc.
Legal Services Authorities Act
Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 was enacted to constitute Legal Services Authorities for providing free and competent legal services to weaker sections of the society to ensure that opportunities for securing justice were not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities and to organize Lok Adalat to ensure that the operation of the legal system promoted justice on a basis of equal opportunity. “Access to Justice” for all is the motto of the Legal Services Authorities.
BENEFITS OF LEGAL AWARENESS SCHEMES
EVERY INDIVIDUAL IN OUR COMMUNITY GET TO KNOW THEIR RIGHTS.
It empowers public to demand justice.
They promote Legal culture through various ways, such as, legal aid, mediation week.
Public get to know about the advantages of various schemes, that government announces and their rights in this.
Through legal awareness schemes, people get to know that, how things can be solved legally and they can get justice in right way. And built, confidence in people to to raise voice again the wrong things going on.
In country like, India, where Democracy pertains, it’s necessary for the people to know about their social existence and equality through the rules and regulations, rights & remedies, which most of them aren't aware of it.
LEGAL AWARENESS is not a charity or bounty, but is an obligation of the state and right of the citizens. The focus of legal aid is on distributive justice, effective implementation of welfare benefits and elimination of social and structural discrimination against the poor. It works in accordance with the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 which acts as the guideline of the rendering of free justice. The prime object of the state should be “equal justice for all”. Thus, legal aid strives to ensure that the constitutional pledge is fulfilled in its letter and spirit and equal justice is made available to the downtrodden and weaker sections of the society. But in spite of the fact that free legal aid has been held to be necessary adjunct of the rule of law, the legal aid movement has not achieved its goal. There is a wide gap between the goals set and met. The major obstacle to the legal aid movement in India is the lack of legal awareness. People are still not aware of their basic rights due to which the legal aid movement has not achieved its goal yet. It is the absence of legal awareness which leads to exploitation and deprivation of rights and benefits of the poor.
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