Updated: Aug 16
“.. That no man of what estate or condition he be, shall be put out of land or tenement, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disinherited, nor put to death, without being brought in answer by due process of law..”
Statute 28 of Edwards III, 1354
How much more pleasant life would be, if we did not have laws/ we would have all the freedom to do anything we pleased, such as drive as fast as we liked, go into a public house whenever we liked, go and do whatever we wanted whenever we felt like it. And just imagine, no police or traffic wardens telling us what and what not to do and perhaps best of all no need to study law at college. Why is it then that in our society there are so many rules and regulations governing our everyday lives?
In answering these questions we have to realise one of the main purposes of law is to protect individuals and their property from the irresponsible and anti-social conduct of others. Yet there are some laws which do not protect the individual rights of those who appear to have been unfairly treated. It, in fact, protects the right of the other person to discriminate against them, for instance in a case where a person is turned down for a job because he belonged to a particular region or sect. there are also areas of law which are designed to give rights to, and to impose duties on the individual.
One of the first things that any legal system must do is to protect individuals from the possibility of physical injury and death. Our legal system dopes this in two principal ways. First, it creates certain criminal offences to outlaw any conduct which puts a person’s life or body at risk. Thus we have the well-known offences of murder, manslaughter, assault and rape. Without such offences there would be nothing to deter those inclined to act in a violent way, from doing so and no way of punishing those who have physically harmed others. The second way in which the law seeks to protect life and limb is providing legal action by which an injured person can sue who has harmed him for damages i.e., compensation for money.
After the protection of the individual’[s life and body, the next most important role of the law is to protect the individual’s property. The law does this in two principal ways. First, it creates a large number of criminal offences which outlaw certain forms of behavior which interfere with a person’s right to enjoy his property, e.g. theft, burglary, arson or criminal damage. Second, it allows for a large number of actions which an individual can take to protect his property, like legal action against trespass. Law also seeks to protect the individual’s interests in property by regulating agreements or contracts.
In recent years many Acts in Parliament have been passed to give additional protection to those who are in a vulnerable position in society, such as consumers, employees and the poor.
In a developed society individuals do not find a home by squatting but must acquire it in a legally recognized manner. The law has to provide rules which enable them to acquire a home and set out what rights and duties they have in respect of that home.
Furthermore, in a caring society, the state must provide humane methods of housing people who are unable to find homes for themselves. This can be achieved by providing conveyancing laws and laws of ‘landlord and tenant’, by requiring local authorities like DDA, GDA, HUDA to provide houses, by providing night shelters and free housing for the homeless, by providing tenants with protection against unlawful eviction by unscrupulous landlords.
In the very least, the poor should not be evicted from pavements and slums without providing them with an alternative dwelling.
In any civilized society people pay for what they need and want, with money. People acquire their money in many ways i.e. by inheriting it, selling possessions or receiving income from property, such as rent, but a vast majority of people rely upon money from earnings to sustain their lives. People must therefore sell their labour to enjoy a reasonable life. Consequently, society must provide a framework within which each and every individual can obtain employment and rules which regulate the relationship between employers and employees. Whether or not employment is available, is determined mainly by political and economic factors, but he relationship between employee and employers is governed by laws. Laws attempt to provide for those who are unable to support themselves by invalidity pensions, industrial injuries benefit, compensation for those who have been injured by another’s negligence, retirement pensions, contributory provident fund schemes.
It is generally regarded as a right that all people should be able to develop their potential by mean of appropriate education, irrespective of their financial means. Law makes provision for those who wish to pursue recognised courses of further and higher education in colleges and universities by subsiding education and making it very cheap. School education is free in Government and Corporation Schools.
In all advanced societies it is recognized that individuals have certain rights which must be recognized like the right of free expression and freedom of assembly. The right not to be imprisoned without a proper trial and conviction. The right to vote in general and local elections and the right to belong to political parties and other pressure groups in society.
Although we have laws protecting those who are in employment and providing financial benefits for those out of employment, there is no legally recognized right to work. People find fulfillment in different ways, some, through their work, some through their families and loved ones, some through religion and some through leisure activities. In a civilized and caring society the individual has the right of self fulfillment. The United States Constitution recognises the right to the ‘pursuit of happiness’.
This is a fundamental human right which should receive greater recognition by the law. It is the duty of the Governments to take all the positive affirmative steps that are needed to be taken to life the handicaps that flow from already existing inequalities and to make people more equal than they are by providing them with food, clothing, shelter and free legal aid. This is the barest minimum that we want the Government to achieve and provide in the shortest possible time. But ultimately we would say with revered Martin Luther King, Junior, that:
When we allow freedom to ring from every town and every hamlet, from state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when…. Black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro Spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God Almighty, We are free at last.”
Author: Navin Kumar Jaggi