Law encompasses every sphere of life and society. So, knowledge of law is indispensable for every citizens of a country. Common perception of the mass people about law and legal system is that, judges and lawyers form the core of justice system. When law is violated or law is misapplied or abused or laws are not consistent with the constitution of the country, it is the task of the administration of justice to bring the violator or wrongdoer to book or declare the law unconstitutional. But the judges and the lawyers are not the only actors in the administration of justice. Administration of justice of a country addresses the concerns of each and every person living in that particular country.
General principle of law in Bangladesh is Ignorantia juris non excusat, i.e. ignorance of the law is no excuse. More specifically, a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content. Article 21 of the Constitution of Bangladesh says that, it is the duty of every citizen to observe the Constitution and the laws, to maintain discipline, to perform public duties and to protect public property. At the same time, to enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law has been guaranteed as fundamental right. Preamble to the constitution enumerates that the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, equality and justice, political, economic and social, will be secured for all citizens. So, for the purpose of enjoying the rights as guaranteed in the constitution and at the same time for performing public duties and maintaining discipline you must know the laws.
However, the primary, secondary and higher secondary level of education in Bangladesh contains no mandatory legal education. Chapter 15 of the National Education Policy, 2010 talks about development of legal education. This is all about law students of universities and law colleges. It does not have any strategic plan for inclusion of legal education in primary, secondary and higher secondary level. Moreover, right to education is enshrined in international instruments such as UDHR and ICCPR.
In Bangladesh, many crimes are committed without knowledge of consequences. Recurrent road accidents are happening in Bangladesh because in most of the cases, drivers or commuters are found to be ignorant about road safety laws. All government and non-government instructions are governed by laws of the country. If people are made aware of the law, they will surely be aware of their rights in these institutions. Ignorance in most cases makes people deprived of rights that he or she is entitled to. For establishing rule of law and creating a conscious civil society, legal education deserves importance.
The 2010 Policy further affirms that to realise a society which is free from exploitation, the significance of legal education cannot be ignored. Primary knowledge about laws and legal system of Bangladesh will be a strong tool to ensure the fundamental rights. Recently, in a discussion held at The Daily Star, young lawyers recommended that people be made more aware of legal remedies available at local and district levels, so that every matter is not brought to the higher courts. They further suggested making people aware of sectoral laws and policies -- including those dealing with medical and educational services, banking sector, road safety, consumers' rights and food safety.
To insert primary legal education in the national curriculum, the incumbent government can form a committee comprising of legal experts from judges, university teachers and lawyers. This committee, after proper scrutiny, will formulate guidelines for inclusion of primary legal education in the national curriculum in an easily comprehensible manner. There may be two separate books for secondary and higher secondary level respectively. Introducing legal education at school-level will be a significant step for making people conscious and empowered.
Sheikh Sadi Rahman
Senior Law Research Officer at International Crimes Tribunal, Bangladesh.