My idea of justice

Janghaolun Haokip *

1. Introduction

It would be hard to imagine a civilization without 'justice' being a part and parcel of the fabric of the whole system of governance. Had there been no notion of justice, there would be discontented peoples from all walks of life. From the dawn of civilization, 'justice' stands for giving and making an equilibrium on the part where some wants to prove that might is right.

But is it possible to have an unbiased and fair treatment? The answer lies as we turn the pages of the world's ancient civilizations –the most notable –the Mesopotamian civilization. In it we are assured that there was unbiased and a fair judgement for all. "An Eye for an eye" states the Hammurabi code, a code which is just and fair as well.

2. My Idea of Justice

My idea of justice is absolute fairness for all, irrespective of one's race, religion, or region, and regardless of socio-economic status, political leanings, or professional and personal backgrounds. It is granting everyone the natural right to liberty in having what they deserve without restrictions on grounds of the individual's capacity and ability, but purely on grounds of simply being human; and as a citizen of a state with certain defined laws and rights thereby granted to the individual.

It does not discriminate or differentiate, it does not suppress or oppress, nor the rich or the poor, and nor the capable or the incapable. My idea of Justice therefore seeks to uphold a person's dignified integrity and safeguard the person from any illicit threat to the person's mental and emotional well-being.

It aims to promote and encourage fairness for all; while it discourages any violation of rights that are so perceived or naturally recognised through conscience and laid down laws of our world and our institutions.

3. Challenges to Justice

Unfortunately, as beautiful as it is in its essence and meaning, the idea of Justice has for the most part been undermined by various mechanisms. The elements of these mechanisms are mostly inimical to the overall human society as it hinders and obstructs the natural law of justice and equality for all. They are detrimental to peace and harmony, and trust-building and reliability of the society.

Elements of hate, prejudice, and selfishness or egocentrism are often the obstructing elements of prosperity and tranquillity of our society that are projected and materialised through mechanisms as governance and societal and organisational set-ups, hindering a harmonious and well-developed society.

My idea of justice, particularly in our society, is far too neglected; justice no longer consoles the cries of innocent women and children, the powerless, and mostly the weak and the poor. It fails to stand in solidarity and as a solace for the victims of grave violations of Human Rights, and fails to grant them their mental and emotional liberty to peace and harmony.

In other words, it unfortunately indirectly promotes crime through its inactions. Consequently, crime rates are at a rapid rise. Mention could be made of the rise in crimes against women and children. They are often victims of trafficking, forced labour amounting to prostitution and child pornography. This rise in crimes against women and the subsequent lack of justice make victims desperately run from pillar to post.

People therefore begin to lose faith in the system and thereby the citizens support and glorify the taking of the law into their own hands without any regard to the system that they see as failed, biased, and unreliable.

4. Factors responsible for the failure of Justice

There are many factors responsible for victims being failed by the system of Justice. However, we will only largely discuss the most relevant factors below:

4.1 The importance of being learned

Everyone must be aware of his or her rights; the rights to equality and the need to fight for it. If one does not know his or her rights, there is no way that he/she could stand out and fight for Justice, but worse, he/she wouldn't even be conscious of what Justice really is. And therefore, we become vulnerable to being exploited against our rights.

One must therefore deliberately learn and understand his/her rights. This simply means that you have to possess the knowledge of human rights and equally know what to do and where to go to seek redress if your rights are violated.

4.2 Understanding the "money-trap"

Most of us today are victims of what we termed as "money-trap". We are often readily inclined towards misusing the influence of money. As the saying goes 'Love of money is the root of all evils', people tend to show injustice for the sake of money. In other words, Justice has become buyable with a price. The truth then becomes stored in obscurity.

Even criminals who are liable to getting an appropriate punishment are being acquitted under the escape clause wherein the root cause is money. The law fights, aids and abets the rich whereas many destitute people are deprived of justice simply because they have no money to override the system.

4.3 Power fall-out

It is indeed very unfortunate to say that with unchallenged power comes the natural tendency to abuse it. The power that is 'the guardian of Law' often fails to bring many crimes to justice but has subverted the idea itself due to reasons best known to them.

Many a time, there are impending cases which come to an eventual closing due to the practical influence of power. This further grows deeper into the system to lead people to strive for power and prominence with the sole objective to enjoy and misuse it thereby victimising the whole society and the system of governance.

4.4 The rich-and-poor gap

The wide disparity between the rich and the poor often makes someone look down on the poor because they are lacking behind in many crucial aspects that concern the way and means of living. There are people who wait for a chance to exploit the helplessness of the poor in a world filled with the influence of money and power. This grows bigger and deeper into societal division and hence creates a misunderstanding that becomes the root of disharmony and other evils of the society.

4.5 The failure to fight back:

Our ignorance can often be taken as an excuse or be compromised with our right to Justice. Likewise, our failure to redress the issues and taking up a reprisal is taken as our weakness by possible perpetrators. We fail to stand up and face injustice to its roots but let injustice take shape until it has grown highly influential and wherefore become destructive to the society as well as an individual life.

5. Counteractive and Countermeasures

5.1 Justice and Morality

As written by Linda J. Skitka, Christopher W. Bauman, and Elizabeth Mullen in an essay of the relation between Morality and Justice, "Morality and justice have apparent similarities. Both facilitate social interaction, coordination, and cooperation. Both can feel like external standards that somehow should carry more weight than individuals' preferences. That said, morality and justice are not synonymous."

However, the point is that they are complementary to one another. As such, the morality of mankind can be more or less determined from the Justice it serves, or likewise Justice that we serve as mankind and to mankind are the answers to our standards of morality.

This is about serving Justice as morally conscious beings, irrespective of colour, creed, or caste or anything, regardless. It is to consider Justice as a moral obligation so that it becomes a necessity rather than something depending on our mere choices.

5.2 Justice and Human Rights

International standards recognize access to justice as both a basic human right and a means to protect other universally recognized human rights. The notion of Human Rights is the direct influence of Justice. In other words, Human Rights in itself is Justice. They are interrelated, and interdependent on each other.

The definition of Justice by the international community as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) expressed under thirty articles of rights is a notable one. Similarly, every nation or state has their own system of rights and provisions of Justice which are all good in its expression.

However, the rising problem has been the lapses in concerned institutions towards implementing and enforcing these theoretically commendable natures of Justice. The effectiveness often goes unchecked, unnoticed and unconcerned which opens up a wider scope to outright violations amounting to serious crimes as murder or any danger or threat to life. This therefore calls for revived policies and programmes for implementing the promotion and defence of Human Rights and Justice for all.

5.3 Justice and Politics

Unfortunately, politics today has become synonymous with extra-judicial activities of propagandas and conspiracies. It is today a common understanding that politics is naturally ill-advised and inclined towards narrow and selfish goals. In addition, it is the centre of blames and accusations, particularly related to Justice and employment of justifiable mechanisms.

However, on the other hand, politics or the political entity is the framer of what Justice is and what it is not. It is at such a crucial position that it has the power to dictate the notion of justice.

Therefore it is a must for the political entity to realise their relevance and significance towards framing policies best suited for Justice, and as such framing and implementing strict laws and regulations against perpetrators to warn people of dire consequences if Justice is at any way and at any point being undermined or exploited.

5.4 Justice and the Judiciary

The Judiciary is inarguably "the guardian of Justice." The government of India affirms that the objective of the judicial system is to ensure the rule of law and legal security for individuals. It is the Judiciary that has the legal authority and authenticity required towards anything so related to Justice, and of promoting and safe-guarding Justice.

The world indeed owes much to its Judiciary, as even in India; it is the Judiciary that always stands up for Justice in engaging itself in different situations, regardless of the height of severity, and certain high risks involved.

This is not necessarily to say that the Judiciary is entirely unquestionable in its nature and functioning. Nevertheless, it is the Judiciary that is the inner wall in promoting and defending justice. It is the last resort for individuals and people to turn to in times of any obstructions to the access of Justice.

With it, it has a great role to play in granting Justice where it has been denied, promoting where it has been neglected, and defending where it has been exploited thereby keeping Justice accessible to everyone and by everyone.

6. Conclusion

Different individuals and communities of the world have different worldview, gender roles, and beliefs among others, and thus having different notions of what is just and what is unjust. There can be no wholly valid individual idea of justice as any individual idea of anything may be one-sided and may fail to employ a certain perspective.

Nevertheless, we ought to prepare ourselves today by understanding the essence of Justice and advocating the same. The world needs to come and stand together; each convicted of his/her responsibility towards access to Justice for all. In addition, we also ought to educate our children by positioning true education at the forefront as we nurture our younger generation.

With it, it must remain our motto that "Truth alone triumphs" as Mahatma Gandhi had quoted, so that we must bear in mind that the failure in access to Justice is also a failure in our moral principles, our system of governance, our judiciary, and most of all our Humanity –our goals and objectives as human beings and individuals.

Let us therefore tirelessly strive towards granting access to Justice for all. This is my idea of Justice

* Janghaolun Haokip wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on September 29 2020.

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