‘Law’ in schools | Daily News

‘Law’ in schools

The Government has hit upon the bright idea of introducing law as a subject in the school curriculum. This in the hope that a sound knowledge of the law will make would be lawbreakers think twice before acting and also generally reduce the incidence of lawlessness in the country. The whole idea is to make the young aware of the repercussions of falling foul of the law, at least going by the statements of two Cabinet ministers.

Justice and Prisons Reform Minister Thalatha Athukorale has submitted a Cabinet memorandum to include law as a subject in the school curriculum. Addressing a meeting in Kahawatte, the minister said the need to impart a knowledge on the law has arisen because a large number of prison inmates are those who have not attended school while some others have got landed in jail due to ignorance of the country's laws. It is moot though a good education in the law is going to put people on the right path. This is because there are various complex problems that have to be addressed first.

To begin with, a good majority of the prison inmates referred to by the minister are those who have hardly seen the inside of a school or at best they are school dropouts. Hence, the question of study in the law does not arise in their case. It is social conditions and the environment they live in that has drawn them to a life of crime. Unemployment too is another factor that compels them to steal and engage in other illegal activity to sustain them in life. These elements have no time to think about such niceties as complying with the law when they are driven by such compulsions. What should therefore needs to be done is to take steps to reduce social inequalities and provide opportunities for economic emancipation to these segments, if crime is to be kept in check.

What makes the minister think that introducing law as a subject in schools will get the parents of otherwise would be felons to queue up to get their children admitted to the schools of this country? Besides, it is incongruous that the backgrounds of those doomed to end up in jail some day would be compatible with the study of a sublime subject such as law. A majority of them usually take after their male parents who are steeped in a life of crime.

The Minister's claim that some get landed in jail due to their ignorance of the country's laws too doesn't bear scrutiny. Today prisons are teeming with inmates who were well aware that the acts they committed were against the law. Surely a thief cannot be unaware that stealing is against the law. Besides, most of the crimes committed are acts of compulsion. No amount of education in the law can prevent even a well-bred individual resorting murder due to sudden provocation. Similarly, the massive acts of fraud that we hear of today and blue collar crime that is rampant are resorted to by persons of education and high social standing, who, no doubt, are well versed in the law. Nay, members of the legal profession, medical men etc. who had been in breach of the law are not unheard of. Certainly GMOA President Dr. Anurudhdha Padeniya could not have been unaware when he cast aspersions on the judiciary that he was in Contempt of Court.

Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam also spoke on similar lines as his ministerial colleague that an education in the law would make people comply with laws governing human trafficking, sexual harassment of children, flora and fauna protection and the Criminal Procedure Code that will be among the subjects that would be included in the curriculum. If the whole idea is to prevent persons transgressing these laws through providing an education in the law, it certainly will be an exercise in futility since those committing these acts are driven by urges, compulsions and sometime desperation. They are well aware of the legal consequences of their acts but commit them, all the same. No amount of tutoring in the law will prevent an individual let going an opportunity to benefit financially if it means flouting the law.

Well, both ministers should first turn the searchlight inwards and ask themselves if the law is being observed by our lawmakers themselves. Going by the recent happenings, one may be inclined to the belief that it is our lawmakers, read Parliamentarians, who are in need of a knowledge of the law and a heavy dosage at that.

Among those who conducted themselves in deplorable fashion in Parliament during the recent political crisis were a good smattering of lawyer MPs who went to the extent of even challenging, nay assaulting the guardians of the law who were protecting the Speaker.

If the ministers think that their theory is going to work, and Sri Lanka will be a nation devoid of lawlessness by introducing the study of the law into the school curriculum they should take their campaign to the very roots by commencing their project in Parliament from where all laws originate.


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