Lucknow: BJP MLA from Sarojini Nagar has proposed the enactment of a law that mandates legal education for school students to help them assert their rights and curb juvenile crimes that are witnessing a steady rise in the country.
Legislator Rajeshwar Singh, in a letter addressed to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, advocated for the policy measure as currently, there is no provision for compulsory legal education across different boards of education and schools in India.
"Merely the basics of political theory and the broad structure and functioning of the justice system in India are covered within the political science or civics curriculum in most schools, while a handful of schools offer 'legal studies' as an optional subject as the higher secondary level," Singh, himself a lawyer, wrote in his letter accessed by PTI.
He added that crimes being committed by juveniles in the country, especially in the age group of 16-18 years, are witnessing a steady increase.
4.7 per cent increase in juvenile crimes in 2021
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, there was a 4.7 per cent increase in juvenile crimes in 2021 with 31,170 cases being registered across the country as compared to 29,768 cases being filed in 2020.
He underlined that legal awareness has "significant implications" on the ability of people to effectively access the justice system and assert the rights provided to them.
Minister a former Enforcement Directorate (ED) officer
The MLA, a former Enforcement Directorate officer who probed major money laundering cases like the 2G spectrum allocation and alleged irregularities in awarding coal blocks, also said that the Right to Education provided under Article 21A of the Constitution "can only be meaningful if the education provided to everyone empowers them with information of their rights and duties." Pointing out that the ignorance of law is not an excuse, the introduction of a legal curriculum in schools is vital so that a major proportion of the population has access to legal education to "actualise the Constitutional vision of a fair and accessible justice system to all." Singh stressed that imparting legal education at the school level will have a "deterrent effect" on criminal acts done by juveniles.
"One of the primary causes behind high rates of juvenile delinquency is the lack of legal literacy amongst young adults," he said.
Quoting NCRB data on prisoners in India, he said as of 2019, there were 31,431 prisoners in the country who were students of class 10 or above but below the graduation level, whereas 8,874 of the prisoners were graduates.
"Evidently, many of the individuals that become embroiled in criminal activities have had access to the school system, this legal education could deter a majority of these individuals from such criminal activity," he wrote.
He said imparting basic knowledge of offences and the criminal justice system would "yield positive results and bring a positive change in the society, and would lead to lesser offences being committed by minors." Bringing legal education to the school system will make the youth aware of their legal rights and also deter criminal activities on their part, thereby having a ripple effect on reducing the overall burden on the judiciary, he said.
The MLA suggested that the school children be educated about relevant offences, including cyber crimes, consumption and possession of narcotics, ragging, piracy, rash and negligent driving, stalking and related sexual offences.
The letter has also been sent to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.