NCERT Textbook - Understanding Laws Class 8 Notes | EduRev

Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters

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UPSC : NCERT Textbook - Understanding Laws Class 8 Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


Social and Political Life 42
Chapter 4
You may be familiar with some laws such as those
that specify the age of marriage, the age at which a
person can vote, and perhaps even the laws dealing
with buying and selling of property. We now know
that the Parliament is in charge of making laws. Do
these laws apply to everyone? How do new laws come
into being? Could there be laws that are unpopular
or controversial? What should we as citizens do under
such circumstances?
Understanding Laws
2015-16
Page 2


Social and Political Life 42
Chapter 4
You may be familiar with some laws such as those
that specify the age of marriage, the age at which a
person can vote, and perhaps even the laws dealing
with buying and selling of property. We now know
that the Parliament is in charge of making laws. Do
these laws apply to everyone? How do new laws come
into being? Could there be laws that are unpopular
or controversial? What should we as citizens do under
such circumstances?
Understanding Laws
2015-16
43
Understanding Laws
Q
Read the following situation and answer the questions
that follow.
A government official helps his son go into hiding because
his son has been given a ten-year jail sentence by a District
Court for a crime that he has committed.
Do you think that the government official’s actions were
right? Should his son be exempt from the law just because
his father is economically and politically powerful?
Do Laws Apply to All?
The above is a clear case of the violation of law. As you
read in Unit 1, members of the Constituent Assembly  were
agreed there should be no arbitrary exercise of power in
independent India. They, therefore, instituted several
provisions in the Constitution that would establish the rule
of law. The most important of these was that all persons in
independent India are equal before the law.
The law cannot discriminate between persons on the basis
of their religion, caste or  gender. What the rule of law means
is that all laws apply equally to all citizens of the country
and no one can be above the law. Neither a government
official, nor a wealthy person nor even the President of the
country is above the law. Any crime or violation of law
has a specific punishment as well as a process through which
the guilt of the person has to be established. But was it
always like this?
In ancient India, there were innumerable and often
overlapping local laws. Different communities enjoyed
different degrees of autonomy in administering these laws
Chapter 4: Understanding Laws
2015-16
Page 3


Social and Political Life 42
Chapter 4
You may be familiar with some laws such as those
that specify the age of marriage, the age at which a
person can vote, and perhaps even the laws dealing
with buying and selling of property. We now know
that the Parliament is in charge of making laws. Do
these laws apply to everyone? How do new laws come
into being? Could there be laws that are unpopular
or controversial? What should we as citizens do under
such circumstances?
Understanding Laws
2015-16
43
Understanding Laws
Q
Read the following situation and answer the questions
that follow.
A government official helps his son go into hiding because
his son has been given a ten-year jail sentence by a District
Court for a crime that he has committed.
Do you think that the government official’s actions were
right? Should his son be exempt from the law just because
his father is economically and politically powerful?
Do Laws Apply to All?
The above is a clear case of the violation of law. As you
read in Unit 1, members of the Constituent Assembly  were
agreed there should be no arbitrary exercise of power in
independent India. They, therefore, instituted several
provisions in the Constitution that would establish the rule
of law. The most important of these was that all persons in
independent India are equal before the law.
The law cannot discriminate between persons on the basis
of their religion, caste or  gender. What the rule of law means
is that all laws apply equally to all citizens of the country
and no one can be above the law. Neither a government
official, nor a wealthy person nor even the President of the
country is above the law. Any crime or violation of law
has a specific punishment as well as a process through which
the guilt of the person has to be established. But was it
always like this?
In ancient India, there were innumerable and often
overlapping local laws. Different communities enjoyed
different degrees of autonomy in administering these laws
Chapter 4: Understanding Laws
2015-16
Social and Political Life 44
among their own. In some cases, the punishment that two
persons received for the same crime varied depending on
their caste backgrounds, with lower castes being more
harshly penalised. This slowly began to change as this system
of law began to further evolve during the colonial period.
It is often believed that it was the British colonialists who
introduced the rule of law in India. Historians have
disputed this claim on several grounds, two of which
include: first that colonial law was arbitrary, and second
that the Indian nationalists played a prominent role in the
development of the legal sphere in British India. One
example of the arbitrariness that continued to exist as part
of British law is the Sedition Act of 1870. The idea of
sedition was very broadly understood within this Act. Any
person protesting or criticising the British government
could be arrested without due trial.
Indian nationalists began protesting and criticising this
arbitrary use of authority by the British. They also began
fighting for greater equality and wanted to change the idea
Another example of British arbitrariness was
the Rowlatt Act which allowed the British
government to imprison people without due
trial. Indian nationalists including Mahatma
Gandhi were vehement in their opposition to
the Rowlatt bills. Despite the large number of
protests, the Rowlatt Act came into effect on
10 March 1919. In Punjab, protests against
this Act continued quite actively and on April
10 two leaders of the movement, Dr Satyapal
and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew were arrested. To
protest these arrests, a public meeting was
held on 13 April at Jallianwala Bagh in
Amritsar. General Dyer entered the park with
his troops. They closed the only exit and
without giving any warning General Dyer
ordered the troops to fire. Several hundreds of
people died in this gunfire and many more were
wounded including women and children. This
painting shows troops firing on the people
during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
2015-16
Page 4


Social and Political Life 42
Chapter 4
You may be familiar with some laws such as those
that specify the age of marriage, the age at which a
person can vote, and perhaps even the laws dealing
with buying and selling of property. We now know
that the Parliament is in charge of making laws. Do
these laws apply to everyone? How do new laws come
into being? Could there be laws that are unpopular
or controversial? What should we as citizens do under
such circumstances?
Understanding Laws
2015-16
43
Understanding Laws
Q
Read the following situation and answer the questions
that follow.
A government official helps his son go into hiding because
his son has been given a ten-year jail sentence by a District
Court for a crime that he has committed.
Do you think that the government official’s actions were
right? Should his son be exempt from the law just because
his father is economically and politically powerful?
Do Laws Apply to All?
The above is a clear case of the violation of law. As you
read in Unit 1, members of the Constituent Assembly  were
agreed there should be no arbitrary exercise of power in
independent India. They, therefore, instituted several
provisions in the Constitution that would establish the rule
of law. The most important of these was that all persons in
independent India are equal before the law.
The law cannot discriminate between persons on the basis
of their religion, caste or  gender. What the rule of law means
is that all laws apply equally to all citizens of the country
and no one can be above the law. Neither a government
official, nor a wealthy person nor even the President of the
country is above the law. Any crime or violation of law
has a specific punishment as well as a process through which
the guilt of the person has to be established. But was it
always like this?
In ancient India, there were innumerable and often
overlapping local laws. Different communities enjoyed
different degrees of autonomy in administering these laws
Chapter 4: Understanding Laws
2015-16
Social and Political Life 44
among their own. In some cases, the punishment that two
persons received for the same crime varied depending on
their caste backgrounds, with lower castes being more
harshly penalised. This slowly began to change as this system
of law began to further evolve during the colonial period.
It is often believed that it was the British colonialists who
introduced the rule of law in India. Historians have
disputed this claim on several grounds, two of which
include: first that colonial law was arbitrary, and second
that the Indian nationalists played a prominent role in the
development of the legal sphere in British India. One
example of the arbitrariness that continued to exist as part
of British law is the Sedition Act of 1870. The idea of
sedition was very broadly understood within this Act. Any
person protesting or criticising the British government
could be arrested without due trial.
Indian nationalists began protesting and criticising this
arbitrary use of authority by the British. They also began
fighting for greater equality and wanted to change the idea
Another example of British arbitrariness was
the Rowlatt Act which allowed the British
government to imprison people without due
trial. Indian nationalists including Mahatma
Gandhi were vehement in their opposition to
the Rowlatt bills. Despite the large number of
protests, the Rowlatt Act came into effect on
10 March 1919. In Punjab, protests against
this Act continued quite actively and on April
10 two leaders of the movement, Dr Satyapal
and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew were arrested. To
protest these arrests, a public meeting was
held on 13 April at Jallianwala Bagh in
Amritsar. General Dyer entered the park with
his troops. They closed the only exit and
without giving any warning General Dyer
ordered the troops to fire. Several hundreds of
people died in this gunfire and many more were
wounded including women and children. This
painting shows troops firing on the people
during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
2015-16
45
The word ‘arbitrary’ has been
used earlier in this book and
you’ve read what the word
means in the Glossary of
Chapter 1. The word ‘sedition’
has been included in the
Glossary of this chapter. Read
the Glossary descriptions of
both words and then answer
the following questions:
State one reason why you think
the Sedition Act of 1870 was
arbitrary? In what ways does
the Sedition Act of 1870
contradict the rule of law?
Domestic violence refers to the injury or harm or threat of injury or harm caused by an
adult male, usually the husband, against his wife. Injury may be caused by physically
beating up the woman or by emotionally abusing her. Abuse of the woman can also
include verbal, sexual and economic abuse. The Protection of Women from Domestic
Violence Act 2005 extends the understanding of the term ‘domestic’ to include all
women who ‘live or have lived together in a shared household’ with the male member
who is perpetrating the violence.
of law from a set of rules that they were forced to obey, to
law as including ideas of justice. By the end of the nineteenth
century, the Indian legal profession also began emerging and
demanded respect in colonial courts. They began to use law
to defend the legal rights of Indians. Indian judges also began
to play a greater role in making decisions. Therefore, there
were several ways in which Indians played a major role in
the evolution of the rule of law during the colonial period.
With the adoption of the Constitution, this document
served as the foundation on which our representatives began
making laws for the country. Every year our representatives
pass several new laws as well as revise existing ones. In your
Class VI book, you read about the Hindu Succession
Amendment Act 2005. According to this new law, sons,
daughters and their mothers can get an equal share of family
property. Similarly, new laws have been enacted to control
pollution and provide employment. How do people come
to think and propose that a new law is necessary? You will
read more about this in the next section.
How Do New Laws Come About?
The Parliament has an important role in making laws. There
are many ways through which this takes place and it is often
different groups in society that raise the need for a
particular law. An important role of Parliament is to be
sensitive to the problems faced by people. Let us read the
following story to understand how the issue of domestic
violence was brought to the attention of the Parliament
and the process adopted for this issue to become law.
Chapter 4: Understanding Laws
2015-16
Page 5


Social and Political Life 42
Chapter 4
You may be familiar with some laws such as those
that specify the age of marriage, the age at which a
person can vote, and perhaps even the laws dealing
with buying and selling of property. We now know
that the Parliament is in charge of making laws. Do
these laws apply to everyone? How do new laws come
into being? Could there be laws that are unpopular
or controversial? What should we as citizens do under
such circumstances?
Understanding Laws
2015-16
43
Understanding Laws
Q
Read the following situation and answer the questions
that follow.
A government official helps his son go into hiding because
his son has been given a ten-year jail sentence by a District
Court for a crime that he has committed.
Do you think that the government official’s actions were
right? Should his son be exempt from the law just because
his father is economically and politically powerful?
Do Laws Apply to All?
The above is a clear case of the violation of law. As you
read in Unit 1, members of the Constituent Assembly  were
agreed there should be no arbitrary exercise of power in
independent India. They, therefore, instituted several
provisions in the Constitution that would establish the rule
of law. The most important of these was that all persons in
independent India are equal before the law.
The law cannot discriminate between persons on the basis
of their religion, caste or  gender. What the rule of law means
is that all laws apply equally to all citizens of the country
and no one can be above the law. Neither a government
official, nor a wealthy person nor even the President of the
country is above the law. Any crime or violation of law
has a specific punishment as well as a process through which
the guilt of the person has to be established. But was it
always like this?
In ancient India, there were innumerable and often
overlapping local laws. Different communities enjoyed
different degrees of autonomy in administering these laws
Chapter 4: Understanding Laws
2015-16
Social and Political Life 44
among their own. In some cases, the punishment that two
persons received for the same crime varied depending on
their caste backgrounds, with lower castes being more
harshly penalised. This slowly began to change as this system
of law began to further evolve during the colonial period.
It is often believed that it was the British colonialists who
introduced the rule of law in India. Historians have
disputed this claim on several grounds, two of which
include: first that colonial law was arbitrary, and second
that the Indian nationalists played a prominent role in the
development of the legal sphere in British India. One
example of the arbitrariness that continued to exist as part
of British law is the Sedition Act of 1870. The idea of
sedition was very broadly understood within this Act. Any
person protesting or criticising the British government
could be arrested without due trial.
Indian nationalists began protesting and criticising this
arbitrary use of authority by the British. They also began
fighting for greater equality and wanted to change the idea
Another example of British arbitrariness was
the Rowlatt Act which allowed the British
government to imprison people without due
trial. Indian nationalists including Mahatma
Gandhi were vehement in their opposition to
the Rowlatt bills. Despite the large number of
protests, the Rowlatt Act came into effect on
10 March 1919. In Punjab, protests against
this Act continued quite actively and on April
10 two leaders of the movement, Dr Satyapal
and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew were arrested. To
protest these arrests, a public meeting was
held on 13 April at Jallianwala Bagh in
Amritsar. General Dyer entered the park with
his troops. They closed the only exit and
without giving any warning General Dyer
ordered the troops to fire. Several hundreds of
people died in this gunfire and many more were
wounded including women and children. This
painting shows troops firing on the people
during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
2015-16
45
The word ‘arbitrary’ has been
used earlier in this book and
you’ve read what the word
means in the Glossary of
Chapter 1. The word ‘sedition’
has been included in the
Glossary of this chapter. Read
the Glossary descriptions of
both words and then answer
the following questions:
State one reason why you think
the Sedition Act of 1870 was
arbitrary? In what ways does
the Sedition Act of 1870
contradict the rule of law?
Domestic violence refers to the injury or harm or threat of injury or harm caused by an
adult male, usually the husband, against his wife. Injury may be caused by physically
beating up the woman or by emotionally abusing her. Abuse of the woman can also
include verbal, sexual and economic abuse. The Protection of Women from Domestic
Violence Act 2005 extends the understanding of the term ‘domestic’ to include all
women who ‘live or have lived together in a shared household’ with the male member
who is perpetrating the violence.
of law from a set of rules that they were forced to obey, to
law as including ideas of justice. By the end of the nineteenth
century, the Indian legal profession also began emerging and
demanded respect in colonial courts. They began to use law
to defend the legal rights of Indians. Indian judges also began
to play a greater role in making decisions. Therefore, there
were several ways in which Indians played a major role in
the evolution of the rule of law during the colonial period.
With the adoption of the Constitution, this document
served as the foundation on which our representatives began
making laws for the country. Every year our representatives
pass several new laws as well as revise existing ones. In your
Class VI book, you read about the Hindu Succession
Amendment Act 2005. According to this new law, sons,
daughters and their mothers can get an equal share of family
property. Similarly, new laws have been enacted to control
pollution and provide employment. How do people come
to think and propose that a new law is necessary? You will
read more about this in the next section.
How Do New Laws Come About?
The Parliament has an important role in making laws. There
are many ways through which this takes place and it is often
different groups in society that raise the need for a
particular law. An important role of Parliament is to be
sensitive to the problems faced by people. Let us read the
following story to understand how the issue of domestic
violence was brought to the attention of the Parliament
and the process adopted for this issue to become law.
Chapter 4: Understanding Laws
2015-16
Social and Political Life 46
April 1991: A typical day at their office...
Throughout the 1990s, the need for a new law was
raised in different forums.
In 1999, Lawyers Collective, a group of lawyers, law students and
activists, after nation-wide consultations took the lead in
drafting the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill.
This draft bill was widely circulated.
Kusum and Shazia work for a
women's organisation. They
remember the journey of how
the Protection of Women
from Domestic Violence Act
got passed.
October 2006
Shazia, did you read today’s
newspapers? Isn’t it a great
day for women?
Not just women. Violence-free homes
will benefit everyone. Kusum, it’s taken
such a long time to get this law passed.
In fact, it began with establishing the
need for a new law.
I need advice. My husband beats me
up. I haven’t told anyone so far. I feel
so ashamed. I can’t go on like this
anymore. But I have nowhere to go.
I am being
ill-treated by my
son and daughter-
in-law. They
verbally abuse me. I
have no access to
my bank accounts.
They may even
throw me out.
I do not want to go to
the police. I just want
to stop the violence.
I just don’t want to
be thrown out of the
house I am living in.
Unfortunately
the existing law
is a criminal one
and does not offer
these options.
 We’ve heard testimonies of several women.
We’ve seen that women want protection
against being beaten, the right to continue
living in a shared household and often
temporary relief. We need a new civil law to
address this issue.
The law should cover any women
living within a shared domestic space.
They should be protected from being
evicted from the shared household.
What about some
monetary relief?
The definition of
domestic violence
should include
physical, economic,
sexual and verbal and
emotional abuse.
2015-16
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