Understanding laws Class 8 Civics Chapter 4  Explanation

Understanding laws Class 8 Civics Chapter 4

CBSE Class 8 Civics Chapter 4 Understanding laws – Detailed explanation of the chapter ‘Understanding laws’ along with question answers. Given here is the complete explanation of the lesson, along with all the exercises, Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson.

Class 8 Civics – Chapter 4

Understanding laws


In the previous chapters, you have read about different laws such as at what age a person can vote, the age at which Indian men and women can get married among others. We know that in a democratic country like India, the Parliamentary Body is in charge of making different laws. 


In this chapter, we will try to understand whether these laws are applicable to everyone? How these new laws are formed? Can a new law be controversial? What should be the citizens’ reaction when these things happen?


Understanding laws Class 8 Video Explanation

Do Laws Apply to All?

Suppose a top government officials helps his daughter in hiding because the latter has been given a five year sentence for the crime that she has committed which has been proved in the court. From this example, it is clear that the official’s action is against the law. It is clear that he has tried to violate the law. 

In Chapter 1, it was explained that while framing different laws, the members of the Constituent Assembly had agreed on this fact that in independent India, there shall be no arbitrary exercise of power. Hence, several provisions were instituted in the Constitution that would establish the law’s rule. The most important among all rules was that all the citizens of India were equal.

Law does not discriminate between different citizens on the basis of their caste, religion or gender. The Rules of law means that no citizen is above the law and all these laws apply equally to every Indian citizen. Whether a person is wealthy, a Government Official or even the country’s President – everyone is equal before the law. 

If a person commits a crime or violates the law – it has specific punishment. There also exists a process through which the person’s guilt can be established. However, the question is – has the system always been like this?

In ancient times, there existed innumerable laws. Local laws often overlapped each other. Different communities had different  stages of autonomy as they administered these laws among themselves. In some cases, two persons belonging to different castes received different punishments. While the upper caste person received lenient punishment, those belonging to the lower caste received harsher punishments. However, during the colonial period, this process began to change as the laws started evolving.

It has always been stated that the rule of law was introduced in India by the British colonialists. However, the historians have always disputed this fact on several grounds. Two of these are – 

i) The Colonial Rule was arbitrary.

ii) Indian Nationalists had an important role in developing British India’s legal sphere.

The Sedition Act of 1870 was such that it continued to exist and was an example of arbitrariness by the Britishers. Any person who criticized or protested against the policy of the British, he could immediately get arrested without any trial. 

Soon, the Indian nationalists started opposing and criticizing the Britishers’ arbitrary use of authority. They demanded equality and wanted to change the aim of law from being some rules which were imposed upon the people to being an idea that promoted the aim of imparting justice. 

As the 19th century ended, the legal profession in India also began to emerge. They gained respect for Indians in the colonial courts. They started taking the help of law to defend the rights of fellow Indians. Even Indian judges had a greater role in the process of decision making inside the colonial courts. Hence, there existed several ways through which the Indians had started playing a major role in the evolution of the rule of law during the British rule.

Once independent India adopted a constitution, this document served as a foundation on the basis of which the Indian lawmakers and elected representatives started making laws for India. Every year, these representatives pass many new laws. They also make amendments in the currently existing laws. 

In class VI, students might have studied about the Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005. It states that daughters, sons as well as their mothers have a right to get an equal share in the family property. Apart from that, several new laws have been passed. 

How Do New Laws Come About?

When a new law is being drafted, the Parliament has a key role in the process. It takes place in different ways. Mostly it has been observed that different groups of Indian societies raise their voice if a country needs a particular law. While making laws, the lawmakers in the Parliament need to be sensitive to the demands of the people. 

For Example, several lawmakers, students and activists came together so that an act to prevent Domestic Violence could be formed. They submitted a Draft to the Parliamentary Standing Committee which in turn submitted its recommendations to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Once the Bill was passed in the two houses, it was sent to the President. Finally the Bill for ‘Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act’ came into existence in 2005.

Domestic violence refers to any harm, injury or threat caused by the actions of an adult male, usually by a husband against his wife. Injury can also be caused if a man abuses a woman emotionally or beats her physically. According to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 the term domestic is extended to all those women ‘who live or have lived under a shared household’ with that male member who causes the violence. 

The citizen’s role is crucial when the Parliament is framing different concerns that the Indian Citizens might have regarding the laws. When a law is being processed, at every stage the voice of the citizen is important – whether it’s about establishing a new law or it being passed.   

The voice of the people can be heard through TV debates, newspaper editorials and reports, local meetings, radio broadcasts, etc. With the help of these, the Parliament’s work becomes more transparent and accessible to the people. 

Unpopular & Controversial Laws

There have been certain situations where after the Parliament passed a law, it became unpopular among the people. At times, even if a law is constitutionally valid and thereby legal, people may find it unacceptable and unpopular. They might feel that the intention behind it is harmful and unfair. 

Therefore, a group of people may come ahead to criticize the law, hold meetings regarding it, write against it in newspapers, report to TV channels, etc. In a democratic country like India, people can express their unwillingness to accept a law formed by the Parliament which they think is repressive. If a large number of citizens feel that the lawmaking body has passed a wrong law, there arises a pressure on the Parliament to change it.

For example, according to the Municipal Laws, vending and street hawking is illegal in the space within Municipal limits. Pavements are made so that people can walk on them, especially when there is heavy traffic. However, even hawkers and vendors provide cheap services to millions in a city when they sell things. It is a means of livelihood for them. Therefore, if a law is made which favours one group and ignores the others, the law will be regarded as being controversial. It can even lead to a conflict. 

The people who think that such laws are not fair also have an option to approach the court where the issue will be decided. The Court has the power to modify or cancel a law which does not adhere to the Constitution. 

As a citizen, our duty is more than that of electing representatives to the Parliament. It begins when we carefully read the newspaper and watch the news to note how the MPs are performing and check if they are working for the welfare of the voters in their respective constituency or not. We need to criticize their actions whenever required. 

It is enthusiasm, involvement and extent of the people which helps the Parliamentary Representatives to perform their duties properly. 

Question and Answers

Q1. Write in your own words what you understand by the term the ‘rule of law’. In your response include a fictitious or real example of a violation of the rule of law.

Ans. According to the ‘Rule of Law,’ every citizen of India is equal before the law regardless of any discrimination. Whether a person is a regular citizen or a minister, they would be punished by law if they have committed any crime. 

For Example, there are politicians who have plenty of money but they do not pay taxes or declare it before the Election Commission. When the Income Tax officials try to raid their places to curb illegal money, these politicians try to use their power to prevent them.

Q2. State two reasons why historians refute the claim that the British introduced the rule of law in India.

Ans. The two reasons why historians refute the claim that the British introduced the rule of law in India are:

  1. The Colonial Laws were arbitrary, especially the Sedition Act of 1870. Under this law, the Britishers could arrest any Indian citizen without proof and hold a trial against them.
  2. As the nineteenth century was ending, the legal space in India was prospering. Indian nationalists played a critical role in developing India’s legal sphere.

Q3.  Re-read the storyboard on how a new law on domestic violence got passed. Describe in your own words the different ways in which women’s groups worked to make this happen.

Ans. The women’s group worked in different ways to pass the ‘Bill of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.’ First of all, they collected several cases of domestic violence that different women were facing. Then they started campaigning on a large scale and raised all these issues. A group of activists, lawyers and law students took consultations from everywhere across the country and they took the lead in drafting this Bill against Domestic Violence. These groups had different meetings with different organizations of Government. 

After this, several women’s groups submitted the Draft of this law to the ‘Parliamentary Standing Committee.’ The lawmakers introduced this Bill to Parliament in 2002. It was during December 2002, that the Parliamentary Standing Committee submitted its recommendations regarding this Bill in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The new Bill was introduced in 2005. Once the Bill was passed by both Houses, it was sent  to the President for approval. Finally, this Bill came into existence in 2005. 

Q4. Write in your own words what you understand by the following sentence on page 44-45: They also began fighting for greater equality and wanted to change the idea of law from a set of rules that they were forced to obey, to law as including ideas of justice.

Ans. The line depicts how the Indian nationalists were anguished due to the Britishers’ rule. The rulers had introduced Sedition Act in 1870 which was arbitrary in nature. According to this Law, any Indian who dared to criticize or protest against the decisions of the British government could be arrested without any trial. 

Due to this, the Indian Nationalists felt that they needed to bring a change in this law which was violating the rights of an Indian. It was derogatory in nature and was being forced on them. 

Then, the Indian Nationalists started protesting on a large scale against the arbitrary use of this law. Hence, they fought to demand equality for the Indians with keeping the ‘Idea of Justice’ in mind.