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LAW AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION: HOW LAW CHANGES THE SOCIETY?

Introduction

Law is the governing principle for society when it comes to ensuring the sustainability of harmony and peace among community members. It brings consonance amid various sets of people who belong to different cultures and religions and follow varied lifestyles. Rules and regulations set by the law constrain people’s day-to-day unreasonable and unlawful behaviour.

This article is meant to focus on the changes that law has brought into how a society functions and how it has transformed the fundamental structures of society. It will illustrate how legal forces make people bend to their will when an association goes haywire. For decades, this stance has been supported by various case laws and precedents.[1] There have been numerous court judgments that had an impactful bearing on the way people function and behave with each other. Regulation should be credited for inculcating various humanistic values in the society that we live in. As the law is deeply connected with our political, economic, and social structures, the quest for social change requires crucial affiliation with the law.  Today’s realities of society are heterogeneous systems of all kinds of people who destabilize the balance of the natural culture. The law finds its strength in restoring the tenderness of disobedience in communities and making them live together cohesively. It’s here that the law helps maintain the morality of individual personalities and society.

HOW LAW CHANGES THE SOCIETY?

Numerous laws, case laws, acts, constitutional provisions, and precedents have evolved and remould society to accommodate the people’s present needs.

Indian Constitution, since its adoption, has acted as an effective tool for bringing social change. Part III of the constitution contains[2] some fundamental rights that have uplifted various sets of people, be it women, children, scheduled castes and tribes, or religious minorities. Protection granted by it has allowed the overturning of decades-old discriminatory behaviour against weaker sections of society to some extent. However, there is still a long way to go in achieving a just and equal society. To date, these rights are acting as a shield against authoritarianism and oppression and aiding organizations to modify themselves from old traditions and beliefs. Constituent assembly has clearly stated that the constitution can be amended to give rise to needed societal changes. Historical judgment in “Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala[3] has reiterated the same notion. In that case, in the ratio of 7:6, the bench affirmed that parliament has extensive powers to amend any article, including fundamental rights, except the basic structure of the constitution. This judgment had a wide-ranging effect on society as it saved democracy from danger and laid out how societal transformation would be regulated in the future. Thus, it remained one of the most vital judgments to that come out of our legal courts due to its far-reaching implications on society and the kind of protection it had provided to the people, which transfigured the community from the pre-independence era.

“Justice PN Bhagwati had once said that the responsibility of providing life and infusing blood into a structure of legislation to create a living element that can meet the needs of the society lies on the judges.[4]” Law will always require the assistance of lawmakers and holders of law to bring about the alteration. The world has seen many social issues that have hampered society’s well-being and progressive development. Courts with their power to interpret the laws and set a precedent have tried to bring transition in the community and to those hurdles in the way of growth.”

Look at landmark regulations, acts, and cases that brought a momentous societal change.

ABOLITION OF SATI PRACTICE

Sati was an age-old custom that was widely followed in ancient times.  It was the practice of self-immolation of Hindu women at their husbands’ funerals. The barbaric act was defended in the name of love by the ancestors.[5] Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the one who advocated the abolition of this tradition. After the propagation of arguments related to the practice by its proponents and opponents, it was ultimately exterminated from society through the Bengali Sati Regulation[6]. The regulation banned this act in all jurisdictions of colonial India. Many women were given a wholly new birth in the community. It began the fight for women’s rights and an era that laid a new pathway for women to walk on. This illustration shows us how the law has long brought a transitional change in the core of the commune.

CHILD MARRIAGE ACT

India being a diverse nation, followed several customs and traditions for ages. One of them has to be the practice of Child Marriage. Though this tradition is still prevalent in some parts of our country, “The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929[7]” has turned it down immensely. The above act was further amended in 2006 and became known as the Prohibition of the “Child Marriage Act,2006[8]” This practice was nothing less than an exploitation of the girl child. In various parts of the country, it obstructed the growth of girls, and they became victims of patriarchy. It suppressed their voices and confined them to the four walls of their homes. The sanctity of legal force was required for this legislation to bring about real change and carve out the roots of this evil practice. The act had a long-lasting impact, and it led to a steady shift in the course of child marriage. Slowly and steadily, the girl child started being considered a human rather than a commodity, the perception of society concerning a girl child went through a modification, and their growth received a much-needed push. 

ANNULMENT OF SECTION 377

Another exemplary example is the decriminalization of section 377[9]. This section criminalized sexual intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal. In a celebrated verdict of 2018, the Supreme court decriminalized this section. It ruled that consensual gay sex is not a crime and sexual orientation is natural, and one has no control over it. The judgment brought a revolutionary change in the mindset of people regarding homosexuals, and it opened the doors for the LGBTQ community in terms of opportunities. To some extent, society started treating them with respect and regarded their integrity. It led the way for the inclusion of homosexuals into society. A great many benefits and rights were granted to them due to this particular judgment. In every sphere of life, people started recognizing them with their own identities.

VISHAKA AND ORS. V STATE OF RAJASTHAN AND ORS

The case, as mentioned earlier, is yet another historical judgment that changed how women used to be treated in workplaces. The case has met some essential guidelines about the sexual harassment of women in different organizations and firms. Sexual harassment is one of the social evils that women have been experiencing at their workplaces since immemorial. This type of practice also violates the right of women under article 14 and article 21 and humiliates their self-respect.“The Supreme Court held a fundamental right to lead a dignified life, including freedom from sexual harassment at the workplace and put forward the guidelines to be followed by employees. After this case, the court well defined the term sexual harassment.”[10]As a result, the way women needed to be attended to change. Though legislation in this regard is still pending, the guidelines laid down brought out a different social atmosphere for women to work in. It provided a safety net for women and encouraged empowerment of themself.

CONCLUSION

To summarize, the law is frequently used as an instrument for social change. One of the most positive things about it is that it keeps altering itself to changing times and maintains stability when interconnection between different strata of society goes out of order. Examples of a few acts, cases, and judgments above have effectively shown us how the law is an essential element that governs society’s functioning. Be it a repudiation of article 377[11], the child marriage act,[12] and so on, all have led humanity to a brighter path. These laws have elevated ill-treated sections of society to a new level and has stimulated their inner self to move forward. Laws made the inclusion of these groups in society attainable and have holistically contributed to the changing attitude of the people. However, many social issues are left to be dealt with, which means the law is lacking somewhere in creating social change to its utmost potential. Therefore, it is imperative to strengthen the law and its system so that it can metamorphize society altogether while eradicating social evils.

Author(s) Name: Shaily Roy (National Law University, Jodhpur)

References:

[1]Samson Esudu. (2017). OnTheRelationshipBetweenLawandSocietyToday. On The Different Types of Law. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.grin.com/document/453478

[2]The Constitution of India , 1950

[3]Kesavananda Bharati vs State Of Kerala. (1973) 4 SCC 225.

[4] Rachit Garg. (2020, December 20), How can the Law be used as an instrument for creating social change. Blog.ipleaders.inhttps://blog.ipleaders.in/can-law-used-instrument-creating-social-change/

[5]Kanksha Raina. (2018, October 29). How did Sati Get Abolished In India?.Retrieved December 15,2022, from

https://feminisminindia.com/2018/10/29/sati-history-india/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20landmark%20moments,funeral%20pyre%20of%20her%20husband

[6] Bengali Sati Regulation,1829

[7]Rachit Garg. (2020, December 20). How can the Law be used as an instrument for creating social change. Blog.ipleaders.in https://blog.ipleaders.in/can-law-used-instrument-creating-social-change/

[8] Child Marriage Act, 2006

[9] Indian Penal Code, 1860, s.377

[10]Vishaka and ors. v State of Rajasthan and Ors. (1997) 6 SCC 241

[11] Ibid 9

[12] Ibid 8