In this modern world, society has become a very complex mechanism. On one hand, society guarantees full freedom and liberty to all individuals, but on the other hand, it needs a certain mechanism to curb and regulate the behaviour of individuals. After all, freedom must come with responsibility. There are many gaps and holes that exist in society and it is in filling these gaps where the law comes into play. Everyday, the legislature in our country is engaged is discussing various laws, which it believes will be for the betterment of the society. But a simple enactment of a law is just the first step in ensuring a safer society. The crucial aspect is how well the enacted law has been implemented and if people are actually even aware of it. The next step is if the implemented law is being properly adhered to by the people. How much regard or disregard do the people have for the law. If the law is not being followed, that can only be put down to faulty implementation. Thus, this article aims to put light on the fact that is the law in books in consonance with how it is being followed.
One of the biggest examples where wide disregard for the law has been shown is that concerning child labour. Child labour has been a menace that has been prevalent in Indian society for many decades. The first measure to tackle this problem was taken by the Government in 1979, where the first committee to study the issue of child labour, known as the Gurupadswamy Committee was set up. After studying the issue in detail, the Committee was of the opinion that as long as poverty existed, child labour would continue to be a menace and any legal recourse undertaken to completely eliminate child labour would not be a practical proposition.
Based on these recommendations, the Government enacted the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act in 1986. The Act prohibits the employment of children in certain specified hazardous occupations and processes and regulates the working conditions in others. The list of hazardous occupations is constantly modified and expanded under the recommendations of the Child Labour Technical Advisory Committee, constituted under the Act.
However, the manner in which this law is being followed is for all to see. It is as if the law was never there. You will still find children below the age of fourteen years working in glass blowing units or making fireworks, which have probably been put right at the top in the list of hazardous occupations. Some children are forced to work by their parents in order to receive some extra income whereas children who are either orphans or have been abandoned by their families have no choice but to fend for themselves. These children are made to work for long hours at a stretch, with breaks being given for frugal meals. As a result, the children end up being ill nourished. Another way people employing child labourers circumvent the law is by saying that the labourer is a distant family member.
Thus, though the Government has taken various measures in trying to regulate this menace, there are various loopholes in the law that need to be filled. This issue once again brings to light the question of free and compulsory education, especially to children in rural areas. Also, a proper law implementing mechanism needs to be established in villages as punitive actions for violation of these laws is almost non-existent.
One can cite many examples where it is seen that the law is not being followed. Some of them, though not discussed in detail, are ragging, which has now been declared illegal, alcohol consumption by minors and under age driving.
Now just because a certain law has been enacted, does it mean that that law is right and is going to truly serve the purpose of the people?? Very often, we come across laws which make us question as to whether it is actually benefitting the society and its individuals. As St. Augustine rightly said, “An unjust law is no law at all.” There are some laws which violate certain moral values and principles.
A perfect example of this is the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005. It was passed by the Chhattisgarh assembly in December 2005 and notified in March, 2006. It signifies legislation enacted in the garb of security and protection, leading to increased repression and suppression of people’s rights.
The CSPSA has been one of the most draconian national security legislations to have ever been enacted. It authorises the police to detain a person for committing acts which ‘show a tendency to pose an obstacle to the administration of law.’ The Act also goes on to state that any person whose actions encourage disobedience of the established law, it will be considered to be unlawful.
The primary objective of enacting the CSPSA was to combat the Maoist threat in the region. But with time, it became evident that this legislation was meant to suppress all political dissent in the state. The Act prohibits the media from carrying reports of any kind of ‘unlawful activities’, thus violating basic principles of freedom to speech. The reason why the CSPSA has been so controversial is that Maoist groups were already banned and declared unlawful organisations after the 2004 amendment to the Unlawful Activities Act, 1967. So the main purpose of the Act was to give unlimited authority to the Government.
One of the most controversial incidents concerning the CSPSA was the arrest of human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen, on the charges of acting as a courier between jailed Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal and businessman Piyush Guha, also charged of having links with Maoists. Amnesty International issued a call to the Government of Chhattisgarh to ‘immediately release Dr. Sen and end the harassment of other human rights defenders in the state.’ Dr. Sen, as a human rights activist, was always very critical of the state Government for the innumerable violations of human rights in the state and often spoke out against them. Thus, this Act gave the Government the authority to get back at him in order to stop him from exposing the fallacies in the state administration. Hence, this example shows that the law in books need not always be the ideal tool to bring justice.
Thus, it can be seen how law can be manipulated by its makers. Law is a man made mechanism and so can be made, unmade, modified and changed according to the whims of man. So, regardless if you are a student of law or a layman, it is imperative not only to know about the law but also think about the law, its implications, its pros and cons and speak out against the unjust laws. That is how justice can truly prevail in the society.