Make Legal Literacy Compulsory for School Students

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What do Rakesh, a Grade 12 student from Sarvodaya Government Senior School and Maya a Grade 12 Student from a leading Public School in Delhi have in Common?

Both them of and many more students like them are unaware of the basic legal literacy that a 16-year-old should have.

To make my summer break more productive, I made good an opportunity provided by my school, and recently completed a moving Judiciary Internship, The Ali Naqvi Judiciary Internship organised by ITIHAAS takes forward eminent Lawyer Ali Naqvi's vision of helping young people understand the various facets of the Indian Judiciary system, their legal rights and duties as citizens.

This internship took me to places such as the Parliament House Police Station. I spent an informative and enriching day at the Parliament Street Police station where we learnt how law and order was maintained in the city. At the police station, I interacted with the police officials and learnt about filing an FIR, the procedure to arrest an individual as well as the ways and means of controlling a mob during protest. I also got to fill a sample FIR form. We also discussed certain important PIL (Public Interest Litigation) that changed the society.

I was shocked to see that none of us from a batch size of 100 plus interns, including me, had any knowledge about what is a FIR, how and when it is filled up. What is PIL. Their legal implications. How is a mob controlled? Who is the first point of contact in case of a bomb scare, robbery, rape etc to be reported to.

During the same Internship, I visited the Patiala House Courts. At the Patiala House court, I got the opportunity of witnessing court proceedings and interacting with the judges dealing with civil and family matters. It was an enriching and fruitful experience for me wherein I got a first-hand experience of the working of the judicial system of our country.

Met and interacted with Lawyer Santosh Kumar who is a Mediator at the Mediation Centre for Family Dispute and Divorce cases. Learnt about the informal methods of resolution and the ADRS -Alternate dispute Resolution system.

Again, none of us had any knowledge about the judiciary system of our country. It came as a shock to hear that there was a free of cost legal advice department where any citizen can avail free legal advice on any issue they wish to.

I last studied Civics at part of my Social Science in Grade 10 and completed the Board Exam. However, me and many more like myself are not aware of the basic legal literacy that governs our country. Should not a 16 -17-year old girl know whom to approach in case there is a rape-attempted at her or a serious ragging issue? Should not a 17-year boy know how to fill a FIR in case of a burglary in house or being a witness in a road accident?

Lack of knowledge about the basic legal and civil liberties, human rights, constitutional directives that protect the dignity, liberty and freedom of people manifests itself in the society in the form of problems such as child labour, human trafficking etc., that threatens the safety of all.

Due to lack of awareness on the part of young adults, for whose benefit laws are enacted, ignorance of rights and privileges under the law, they are unable to identify any wrong or injury caused to them as a legal wrong or injury capable of redress through the legal process.

It is, therefore, absolutely necessary to create legal awareness amongst the future adults. They should be aware of the laws of the land. It is all the more important that youth are educated about the laws so that they grow up to be law abiding citizens.

In the said backdrop, Legal Literacy Clubs in Schools and Colleges are expected not only to boost legal literacy but will also help in strengthening the capacity of youth to effectively advocate for human rights and Access to Justice for vulnerable population.