Legal Literacy for Social Empowerment
Jananeethi literacy mission for
Democracy and Good Governance
Executive Director, Jananeethi
Knowledge of law is power and helps self
Around 35% of
Article 39A of the Constitution of India gives a directive to the States to ensure that the operation of the legal system does promote justice on a basis of equal opportunity. It directs the State to provide free legal aid with the aid of suitable legislation or schemes. It also directs it to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen for reason of economic or other disabilities. If people are aware of their rights and duties, the delivery of justice and balancing of various interests in a society become so much easier. Increase in legal literacy ultimately develops into a transparent and accountable Government truly based on the ‘Rule of Law’. A fundamental postulate of our Criminal Procedure Code is that “Ignorance of law is no excuse’.
Legal literacy, therefore, is seen as a tool to bring about qualitative change at the grass-root level. It has been witnessed that better awareness of laws helps people work more effectively in diverse spheres. The failure of execution of many laws has been attributed to the beneficiaries' lack of awareness.
Jananeethi aims at radical changes in society, enabling the individuals and societies to become aware of their inherent human rights and civil liberties, so that people may live in dignity and freedom, free from fear and want. As a voluntary, non-sectarian, non-political, non-profit making and secular programme adhering to the sublime ideals and the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution of India, Jananeethi is intended and designed for the defense of life, dignity, liberty and other fundamental rights of the defenseless. It facilitates a process of accessing justice, governed by democratic principles and rule of law, focusing on the weak and vulnerable in the society.
3. TARGET GROUPS:
The services of Jananeethi are primarily intended for the victims of violence, corruption and gender-racial discriminations. The recipients of its legal literacy, however, are both the victims and the stake holders. They include – women, children, small peasantry, labour unions, unorganized workers, women’s groups like Kudumbasree, Self Help Groups, NGOs, Community Organizations, Police, Service providers, Clinical practitioners, Media persons, Elected women representatives to local bodies, Students, and Government servants.
4. JANANEETHI’S STRENGTH:
The strength of Jananeethi is its profoundly rich personal resource. Its members include retired judges, eminent jurists, successful practitioners in courts, law teachers, human rights defenders, researchers, social activists, authors, thinkers, journalists, civil servants and students of law and social sciences. The full time staff of Jananeethi comprises highly talented and deeply committed lawyers with experiences of more than five years in dealing with people of unforeseeable and irreversible problems.
5. STRATEGIES / APPROACHES:
The methods of dissemination of legal knowledge and information by Jananeethi vary in respect of other relevant factors. It conducts formal, class room based lectures to focused groups, but mostly have informal, unconventional settings (folk style) giving more stress on spontaneity and emerging needs. The outreach programmes belong to that category. For clarity and better understanding, let’s take each segment and discuss how it has been performed effectively.
a) Psycho-legal therapeutic counseling
The key words here are psycho, legal and therapeutic. Many of the victims, particularly those who have been sexually abused, physically battered and mentally tortured, will not be happy with mere legal remedy alone. Since their problem is multi-dimensional, there needs an integrated approach addressing the psychological, emotional, physical, social, conjugal, sexual and legal issues involved. Hence, for all practical reasons, the first step has to be psychological approach along with social support. Jananeethi provides services of clinical psychologists who will befriend with the victim so that feelings and emotions that bleed within are attended to with concern, love and respect. If medical assistance or care is needed, it would be done on priority basis. In case the victim needs a safe and comfortable place to stay without fear and threat, it would be done immediately. Once the victim is mentally stable and is disposed to listen to legal remedies and reparations, the law faculty of Jananeethi will start counseling the victim with respect to the violations and available remedies in law, both in statutory and common laws. This is a process and does not happen in one single session. The victim is steadily helped to be able to take recourse in law, but will continuously be supported and assisted by the law faculty of Jananeethi until the victim fees that she/he can manage without external assistance. The therapeutic course is complete when the person gets healed. Healing should primarily happen in memory that was filled with pain, shame, humiliation and indignation. Until healing takes place, justice is not done to the victim as we believe, justice heals.
b) Clinical legal education
Each petition / complaint received in Jananeethi office is a befitting case for clinical legal education. The purpose of Jananeethi is to help people resolve their problems and access justice, having been empowered through awareness generation and capacity building. The law faculty of Jananeethi takes ample time to assess, analyze, evaluate, explain and interpret to the petitioner/complainant the merits and demerits of his/her grievance/petition. We deem it our moral duty to instruct them with regard to all options before taking recourse to legal proceedings. More than a consultancy, it is aptly called a clinical service, going into every minute detail with its legal and social implications. Whether one should file a suit is ultimately the independent decision of each individual concerned. However, Jananeethi ensures that the person takes the decision having been fully aware of the legal implications thereof.
There is subtle difference between literacy and awareness building. The training programmes of Jananeethi are twin edged – for legal literacy and legal awareness generation. Literacy means principles of common and statutory laws being taught in more systematically and in sufficient detail. It is administered in a structured manner based on a curriculum. Whereas awareness building is only on peripheral level and there is only a general understanding of a given set of rules and statutes. All outreach programmes of Jananeethi are intended for generating awareness and those workshops and short courses organized for different segments of society with clearly spelled out thematic inputs come under literacy mission.
For Legal Literacy:
The following activities are being conducted by Jananeethi for spreading legal literacy to enable individuals and groups to respond to violations of civil and human rights in a wider spectrum.
· Bare-foot lawyers/para-legal activists
Basic courses in elementary laws are conducted for public spirited young men and women to be trained as bare-foot lawyers. They have minimum educational qualification of 10+2 or above. They may be either members of NGOs or Community organizations, or social/environmental activists who would also like to take up legal / human rights issues. After one week’s crash program on the essential and elementary laws, they are given certificates and will be competent to identify violations of individual or community rights. If they are not able to sort out any complicated matter, such matters could be referred to the law faculty of Jananeethi. There will be refresher/updating programmes over and again depending the need. There may be para-legal workers specially trained in specific thrust areas like minorities, indigenous people, child rights, gender issues, right to information, consumer rights, torture and custodial violence etc.
Well educated and highly placed professionals too are often not conversant with provisions in laws and implications of their violations. Many do not know the nitty-gritty of several statutory laws and their applications. For example, the newly legislated Act for the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence is purportedly be complied with by a vibrant administrative machinery. However, the fact remains that vast majority of the officers and professionals like clinical psychologists, therapeutic counselors, welfare officers, social workers, institutional heads and academia are ignorant of their role and responsibilities as contemplated in the Act. Jananeethi takes pains to organize workshops to sensitize them with respect to such new generation legislations wherein the pro-active role of various stake holders are great significance.
· NGOs/Community organizations/service providers
Similarly, the Non-Governmental Organizations, Community based organizations, Faith groups, various service providers, trade unions, youth clubs and service organizations also have larger scope of improving the quality of life provided they are made conversant with respective legislations. There are many laws that may be successfully implemented only through the active participation of the larger public. For example – Consumer laws, Right to Information, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, Law on Human Rights Protection etc. Jananeethi has volunteered during these years to organize several sessions in a year for these groups to achieve these goals.
· Police personnel
· Elected women representatives to local bodies
Women have greater role in public and local governance. The Government of Kerala has recently amended the rules approving 50% of seats in local bodies. This phenomenal advancement of our polity is under challenge to prove its political wisdom by improving women’s performance in their official capacity as people’s representative. Hence Jananeethi for last few years have focused on elected women representatives by organizing special capacity building programmes for them specifically on successful implementation of welfare legislations in their constituencies.
· PG students of social work
Post graduate degree holders in
social work are supposedly to be placed in social welfare institutions and
department of social justice and empowerment. They as part of their academic
requirement need to keep abreast with social legislations of the country.
Jananeethi has volunteered to impart this knowledge to students of social work
For Legal Awareness:
Psychological studies have shown that the lecture method is one of the least effective means of communication and should be complemented by interactive teaching methods. There are wide varieties of teaching methods available to human rights educators apart from the usual lecture method. Jananeethi from own experiences has found that best way to teach human rights is to use folk school that involves participants and the content of the sessions will be determined by their own inputs.
· Outreach programmes (folk school)
In association with women’s neighbourhood groups like Kudumbasree, ICDS network, Self Help Groups etc. Jananeethi organizes few hundred awareness generation programmes in a year for women of low income families focusing on legal protection for women available in the land and the means and method to avail them. Thus several thousands of women are addressed annually.
The dynamics of each session is simple. It begins with interactive session on their experiences in respect of sexual abuses at home and in society, gender discrimination and sexual harassment at work place, dowry related violence, female foeticide, women’s right to property and maintenance, the newly passed Act for the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence etc. The participants can bring in any issue they feel relevant to the context. It leads to sharing of views and opinions including their apprehensions of the consequences. Invariably this ends up in a detailed discussion on the respective laws and their implications and means of implementation. In case someone needs deeper insight or personal assistance, she will be invited to Jananeethi office. So also, if there is any serious issue/complaint that needs exhaustive analysis and follow-up, that too will be brought before the law faculty of Jananeethi.
· Street theatre, Road shows, Reality shows
As mentioned earlier, Jananeethi is looking for the most effective means of communication to rural settings. We have found that the theatrical presentation on the street; stills and visuals representing or highlighting either a theme or a problem or a call for action; presentation at the reality shows are highly appreciated by wider sections of people. It has direct access to people, people do not need to spare extra time or expenses but something that reflect their own life are re-enacted before them, wherever they are. Jananeethi, again, has used these methods predominantly to sensitize the gender concerns and rights of children against exploitation and abuse.
· Public lectures, Radio talks, FM Radio etc
There is explicit interest
expressed by senior citizen to attend public lectures followed by an
interactive session. Many wish to spend few hours in the after listening to scholars on contemporary
issues that have significant bearing on the rights and livelihood of ordinary
people. Jananeethi during its nearly two decades of existence has organized
several series of lectures in the city for general public, some of them were
rated as the best attended public debates of the year. For example, following
to the demolition of Barbari Masjid at Ayodhya in the State of
· Creation of legally literate & litigation-free zones
This has been an innovative approach of Jananeethi towards spreading general awareness of various legal provisions and fundamental principles of common and particular laws among people and to invite public attention to abide by rule of law and statutory regulations. Creation of litigation-free zones means resolving all existing disputes and cases in courts and police stations and in such other government, semi-government offices in a spirit of cooperation and trust, as mutually agreed upon. During the pre-settlement talks and counseling, people are made aware of their rights and duties as perceived in respective laws. A legally literate village means, at least one member of a family in the village has under gone thorough training on the preliminary laws and rules. There must be an express intent of the people to abide by norms and general rules.
· Public interest litigations
Jananeethi takes every Public Interest Litigation as an opportunity to impress the respective groups or communities on the need of such litigation, its justification, the scope and possible consequences of its end results. This is, of course, a long process but a sensible method of enabling people to be responsible to what they are talking about. Normally Jananeethi takes the matter in issue to the concerned communities for shaping some public consensus. This obviously is an educative process.
· Human Rights Advocacy
Jananeethi Desk for human rights plunges into action when a human right violation is reported. This refers to custodial torture and violence, violations of indigenous people’s rights, attack on environment, human trafficking, corruption in public offices etc. Lots of spade works will be required before launching a massive resistance. This also presupposes substantial public awareness generation activities in the designated areas and communities prior to the launching of a campaign.
· Negotiated settlement of disputes
Negotiated settlement disputes constitute the major activity of Jananeethi and one of the primary objectives of the organization. In the case of the negotiated settlements, the decision is finally taken by the parties concerned in the presence of Jananeethi law officers, and other legal consultants if any. However, the parties stand to be assisted in the process by lawyers so that they do not make errors in law. One of the significant advantages of the program is that the parties themselves become mediators in similar situations in their own communities/villages.
The presence of Jananeethi makes impacts:-
Jananeethi has been recommended
by the District Administration, State Social Welfare Department, State Legal
Services Authority and such other institutions like the
Jananeethi publications are intended to be strong means of legal education to the general public on selected topics. They also invite public debate and provide larger platforms for further deliberations.
‘Human Rights’ in Malayalam
published by Jananeethi in the year 1998 is perhaps the first authoritative
reference book in Malayalam on training of police personnel based on human
rights. Edited by Dr.N.R.Madhava Menon, a
celebrated legal luminary of international repute, the book contains articles
by eminent scholars in various dimensions of police training. This book is
considered to be a text book widely used by police training institutions in the
· Monthly journal
From the year 1994, Jananeethi publishes a monthly journal in Malayalam, and it could be viewed as a link between the bench and the public. In the early years, each volume of the journal was devoted to a particular topic and the relevant law with its amendments was elaborately discussed in the respective volume. Further, important court judgments in by the high courts and Supreme Court in respect of the relevant law were also published for the benefit of the readers. Later, the journal has become human rights critique of the government and public institutions. The main objective of the journal is to give the true and unbiased interpretation major events in the country affecting the people, their life, property and the environment consistent with the national and international laws and covenants. It is the judicial officers in Kerala who look for the arrival of the journal with interest. Often, the healthy criticism of the judiciary by the Jananeethi from peoples’ perspective has been complimented by members of the Bench.
· Other Publications
Jananeethi in last 18 years of its service to the public has published several booklets, Pamphlets, brochures, folder, stickers, display boards, posters and charts dealing with particular laws, their applications in society and legal implications in the event of their violations. Thousands of wall-charts were prepared by Jananeethi in the year 2004 on topics like i) your rights when arrested, ii) rules regarding bail, iii) traffic rules, iv) accident claims, v) offences against women, vi) sexual harassment at work place, vii) ragging a criminal offence, viii) consumers’ rights, child rights and x) your right to information and were freely distributed in the community. People took them home and hanged on wall so that they could refer to them time and again. Huge display boards were prepared on Supreme Courts directives on rights of a person under arrest, and sexual harassment at work place. The boards were fixed at strategic places of public activity like railway stations, bus stations, market places etc. and in front of major government offices and police stations. This has helped government officials, police and the public to understand the spirit of law and the mind of the judiciary regarding such offences.
6. MAJOR INTERVENTIONS:
In addition to the above given account of legal literacy programmes directly operated by Jananeethi at different realms of society, every intervention it makes in society – be it based on human rights, gender, environment, democratic institutions, social justice, civil society movements, domestic violence, therapeutic jurisprudence etc – is always a case of legal education. Jananeethi is justified in getting involved in a public cause either to protect or promote an existing legal right or to establish the need of a legislated social order for the full achievement of human life. This has been proved right in the case of the first PIL of Jananeethi on behalf of Gopi, who had been brutally tortured to death in police custody in 1989, in the matter of 75000 Indian adolescent girls who had been rescued by Jananeethi from being trafficked for sexual trade in 1995, in the initiatives of protecting land, air and water from industrial pollutants and land mafia, in the relentless fight against dowry related violence and sexual exploitation, in the campaigns against child labour, capital punishment, war, nuclear installations, globalization etc., in launching helpline for women, children and old age in distress, in providing legal aid and support to victims of natural and man-made disasters, organizing care and support to people living with HIV/AIDs and many more. In short, every initiative of Jananeethi is a case of legal literacy designed/intended for specific groups/communities/institutions.
Jananeethi’s efforts for legal literacy and legal awareness are an odyssey through various successful interventions and interactions by diverse participants who work for change of mind and change of character in our social milieu. Through its large network of legal literacy programs and activities Jananeethi is pursuing two related but distinct missions. First, it seeks to reform society by changing the mindset of future litigants for choosing not to go for hazardous, time-consuming, expensive course of adjudication by preferring Alternate Dispute Redressal as a matter of principle. Second, it seeks to create a more robust "rule of law culture" by educating members of the public about their legal rights under domestic and international law. An educated public that is willing and able to demand that government act in a fair, transparent and law-based manner can help achieve peaceful change. Jananeethi, hereby, envisions a world where people everywhere have the opportunity to access justice and join the knowledge economy that governs their every day activities.
Jananeethi & Jananeethi Institute,
Mannuthy Post, Thrissur 680651,
Tel: +91-487-2373479; Fax: +91-487-2373281
 Jananeethi is a registered Charitable Society under provisions of the Travancore-Kochi Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Act, XII of 1955 founded in 1992 for legal aid & assistance, protection and promotion of human rights, psycho-legal counseling services and clinical legal education. A non-political, non-sectarian, non-profit making and voluntary organization, Jananeethi aims at radical changes in society, enabling the individuals and societies become aware of their inherent human rights and civil liberties, so that people may live in dignity and freedom, in consonance with the true dictates of humanity in its widest scope and dimension.
 Economic Survey 2004-05, Economic Division, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, quoting UNDP Human Development Report 2004;
UNICEF. "India Statistics". http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_statistics.html. Retrieved 2009-03-27
 Article 39A of Indian Constitution reads as follows: The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
 Ignorantia juris non excusat or Ignorantia legis neminem excusat (Latin for "ignorance of the law does not excuse" or "ignorance of the law excuses no one") is a legal principle holding that 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.
 Kudumbashree, the State Poverty Eradication
Mission (SPEM) was launched by Government of Kerala in 1998 with the active
support of Government of India and NABARD for wiping out absolute poverty
within a period of 10 years. The project is implemented through Local Self
Governments empowered by the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments. The
slogan of the
 Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 was brought into force by the Indian government from October 26, 2006. The Act was passed by the Parliament in August 2005 and assented to by the President on 13 September, 2005. It meant to provide protection to the wife or female live-in partner from domestic violence at the hands of the husband or male live-in partner or his relatives, the law also extends its protection to women who are sisters, widows or mothers. Domestic violence under the act includes actual abuse or the threat of abuse whether physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic.
 The Kerala Legislative Assembly on
 Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) with its network of Anganawadis covering more than 3000 Community Development Blocks in the country is perhaps the largest Women and Child Development scheme being implemented anywhere in the world. The basic purpose of the ICDS scheme is to meet the health nutritional and educational needs of the Poor and vulnerable infants, pre-school aged children, and women in their child bearing years. The scheme seeks to meet these objectives by delivering an appropriate combination of six basic services to children aged under six, pregnant women and nursing mothers: Supplementary Nutrition, and Health Education, Immunization, Health Check Up, Referral Services and Non - Formal Pre-School Education.
Dr. Sukumar Azhikode is a writer, critic and orator, acknowledged for his contributions to Malayalam literary criticism and insights on Indian philosophy. Azhikode's most famous work is Tatvamasi (1984, Malayalam), an authoritative book on Indian Philosophy, Vedas and Upanishads. Thathvamasi has won twelve awards including the Indian Sahitya Akademi Award, Kerala Sahithya Academy Award, Vayalar Award and the Rajaji Award.
 The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (typically abbreviated GATT) was the outcome of the failure of negotiating governments to create the International Trade Organization (ITO). GATT was formed in 1947 and lasted until 1994, when it was replaced by the World Trade Organization in 1995. The Bretton Woods Conference had introduced the idea for an organization to regulate trade as part of a larger plan for economic recovery after World War II. The GATT's main objective was the reduction of barriers to international trade. This was achieved through the reduction of tariff barriers, quantitative restrictions and subsidies on trade through a series of agreements.
 N.R. Madhava
Menon (born May 4, 1935 in Trivandrum,
is a legal educator from India. He was instrumental in setting up the National Law School of India
University in Bangalore, and was its founder-director. He has also been the
founder-VC of West Bengal
National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) in West Bengal,
run on the NLSIU
model. He was the first Director of the
was a student of
Gopi, S/o Thankappan was 21 years of age in 1989 and was very enterprising
young man with sound habits. He was member of a political organization but had
to resign for genuine reasons. This earned him the wrath of his political
opponents who cooked up a false case against him. The Cherthala police summoned
Gopi to the police station on
 In 1995
Jananeethi filed a Public Interest Litigation in the High Court of Kerala
 The interminable and complex court procedures have propelled jurists and legal personalities to search for an alternate to conventional court system. Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), thus conceived, was being increasingly acknowledged in the field of law and commercial sectors both at national and international levels. Its diverse methods have helped parties to resolve their disputes at their own terms cheaply and expeditiously. Justification of ADR in law lies in Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code of India, and Article 52 (d) of the Indian Constitution.
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