LAW AS AN INSTRUMENT OF SOCIAL CHANGE
The society comprises of people, the people make the laws, so indirectly we can say that the people make the laws for themselves. The law and society are interconnected in a way that the laws are made by the people and for the people. There are different customs which are prevailing in different countries which do hamper the growth of that nation. Customs are to be followed in a way in which they do not restrict or burden the freedom of any person. Various customs and practices prevailing in the society look upon the law as an instrument of social change. There are many customs in a society especially in our part of the world which are discriminatory and always play a part in oppressing the weaker sections of the society.
Sati is the custom among Hindu communities where a recently widowed woman, either voluntarily or by force, immolates herself on her deceased husband’s pyre. This custom was formulating in India till the mid-1990’s. But this practice was abolished by the Bengal Sati Regulation in all jurisdictions of British India and was passed on December 4, 1829, by the then Governor-General Lord William Bentinck. Had there not been any law for the abolition of Sati, this practice would have been still in application. But the law changed the societal norm and quashed its manipulation.
The judiciary plays a very important role in using the law as a societal change. The Supreme Court has taken many important decisions in which the fundamental rights of the people were at the state of terminating because of the so-called ‘customs’, but the Apex Court made sure that the customs should not take the upper hand over the infringement of fundamental rights of the people.
Some instances where the law was used as an instrument of social change are:
- In 1795 female infanticide was declared illegal.
- In 1856 Hindu widows remarriage act was passed.
- In 1870 registration of birth was made mandatory.
- Inter-caste and inter religion marriages were made legal by the Special Marriage Act 1954.
- Right of women to inherit property was recognized by the Hindu Succession Act.
Deprivation of fundamental rights often results in social disorder. Article 32 is an important instrument of the judicial process to enforce social ordering which empowers the Supreme Court to issue directions or orders or writs for enforcement of any right conferred under the Constitution for securing social justice. Article 226 empowers the High Courts to issue writs against any authority of the State in order to enforce the Fundamental rights.
By acting as per the provision of Article 32, the Supreme Court has taken many major decisions and acted as a safeguard to the social justice and rights of the citizens. Some of the remarkable judgments taken for the betterment of the society taken by the Apex Court are upliftment of the backward class of the society, abolishing Bigamy, Bride Burning, issues of Bonded Labour, Caste System, Child labour, Child prostitution, Dowry death, Female Foeticide, harassment of women, crime against women, and immoral trafficking.
The decisions taken by the Supreme Court has definitely changed the social norms of the country and has changed the customs and old practices which were being carried on from a long time into the law which is logically correct and practicable. Also, also which are made by discontinuing or declaring the customs illegal are for the betterment and upliftment of the society.
Judiciary plays a remarkable role in making society safer for people and ensures social order. Since, the law is an instrument of social change, social justice, and social ordering, therefore if the law is implemented without discrimination and keeping all equal, the social change will not be a dream and law could play the most effective role in bringing about the social change.