TODAY -

My idea of justice

Joyshree Heisnam *



We hear the word 'Justice' everyday but the idea of justice is different from one another . Political thinkers since earliest time have been formulating the concept of justice. Under the influence of the principles of democracy and socialism, this view of justice has been thoroughly transformed along with the dawn of modern consciousness. If we lived in a world of abundant unlimited resources, then perhaps the question of justice would not have arisen.

Since we don't the question of who should get what and why will always be an important one. We live in a society full of differences, inequalities and different capabilities and non-capabilities. A society where rich , poor, strong, weak, man, woman, capitalists, workers, etc share a huge gap between them in matters of rights, opportunities and use of resources socially, politically and economically.

Justice is architectonic principle, which means foundational principle. Because all other values such as liberty, equality, rights, dignity etc are derived from justice. It is the foundational principle of state in normative sense.

Justice is about giving each person what he/she is due. However it is not an easy task to define what that due might be. Justice thus, remains an essentially contested concept. On the other hand, it is quite impossible to construct an overriding principle of justice applicable to all areas of life as Michael Waltzer argued different principles of justice may be appropriate in different spheres of life.

In everyday life, justice is seen as an attribute of law or part of judicial system. But if we think closely, we shall realize that all laws are not always just. In fact, many great political and social movements the world over have focused upon opposition to unjust laws .The other commonly held belief about justice is that it is always impartial. Thus, impartiality and fairness are understood to be aspects of justice.

Search for justice would be relevant only in an open society in a situation of scarcity. The question of justice is significant in a situation where there is a widespread demand of social advantages that are in short supply, and where the criteria of allocation of these advantages can be openly discussed and adopted.

Mainly we can categorize justice into two broad types: Procedural justice and Distributive justice.

Procedural justice: It believes that it is necessary to determine a just procedure for the allocation of social advantages then its outcome will automatically be accepted as just. Demands of justice are justified if certain rules are followed. They reward and give punishment according to merit. The procedure of laws in a court is such an example.

Distributive justice: It believes that the allocation or distribution of social advantages among various sections of society itself should be just. Affirmative action is a form of distributive justice for example reservation of Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes and Other Backward Classes in India.

The core concern of political theory is justice. Through the ages political thinkers have portrayed a good society as a just society. One of the earliest accounts of justice is found in Plato's 'Republic'. Its subtitle being 'concerning Justice'. For Plato, justice was one of the four principles of virtue- the other being temperance, wisdom and courage. To him, Justice in state means that the society should recognize and educate every individual's talent according to their aptitude.

Justice, according to Plato is "one class, one duty"; one man, one work. He believed that doing one's own duties without interference among them would bring peace in the state; and that would be justice for everyone. Aristotle's justice lies in incorporating concerns of equality, proportionality and maintenance of equilibrium in society. Later, Utilitarianism made the greatest happiness of the greatest number as the principle of justice and public policy. Contemporary debates began with the publication of John Rawls' "A theory of Justice" in 1971.

Rawls argues that any theory of justice has to base on the inviolability of the individuals neither liberty nor dignity should be sacrificed. He attacked Utilitarianism because in calculating the greatest happiness of the greatest number, utilitarian does not care if it leads to extreme hardships to any particular individual.

He postulated two theories: the principle of maximum equal liberty and the difference principle. According to this principle, any departure from equal distribution can be justified only when it brings greatest benefit to the least advantage. Inequalities should be so arranged that they benefit the worst off.

Amartya Sen has certain reservation about Rawls freedom oriented evaluation of justice. According to him, it is not just access to primary goods but the extending of capabilities that each individual has, to convert the primary goods into the kind of life that a value living would determine freedom and ultimately justice. Similar access to primary goods does not necessarily mean that people will have similar capabilities to convert the goods into freedom.

There can be physical limitations and challenges that impose restrictions on capabilities. Equality of freedom to pursue our self appointed goals cannot be guaranteed by equal distribution of primary goods. There is the need of examining the inter personal variations in people's capabilities to achieve ends and objective.

Feminists like Sushan Moller Okin has criticized Rawls as he has taken women for granted in his theory of justice, he has not explicitly mentioned that women were also an active participant in the process of contract. Any theory of justice which is silent about inequalities within the families is an incomplete one. Rawlsian theory fails to consider the working of the family as being significant for his discussion on justice.

In Rawls scheme it is only men who come together and argue to accept the principles of justice. The model of a self interested, rational and individualistic person is typically a male conception; female qualities are not represented and so feminists do not consider it appropriate to accept justice agreed to by man alone in the absence of women participations.

Robert Nozick, Michael Waltzer, Mac Intyre, Charles Taylor and Michael Sandel also has given different views on justice against Rawls. The idea of justice is really vast and inclusive from just knowing one's duties to environment rights; it has evolved a lot. We must bear in mind that justice is not a static thing but a dynamic one. It can change according to the sphere of time that we used.

My idea of justice would be by making people realize their abilities and errors, by acknowledging their worth at the same time not abusing power and respecting others too. Each of us must recognize the other as a person and not as an object. The other way to fail justice is by judging ourselves to be less worthy than we truly are. This is sadly common among oppressed people.

Each one of us must have a moral and ethical reasoning and enhancing it through education is the role of government. The societal practice of dominance of elder people over younger just because they provide financial assistance is not just. Justice is when one acknowledged mutual differences and respecting younger too is really important. Determining income based on the merit system of society where they determine who gets what and how much needs to be changed.

Equal respect regarding of the work we do, regardless of gender is important. Women are often abused by in laws and their works are not appreciated. But if we convert the household activities and chores done by women into income, it would huge amount. Respecting women and paying them back is important as society exploits them in both ways. We need equity not equality.

Women being an income earner as well as engaging in household activities and at the same time being a victim to discrimination, harassment, sexual abuse is a really unjust thing. Thus justice can only be understood within a communal framework and not on the basis of abstract universal principles.

Social goods should be distributed for different reasons according to different procedures and by different agents in other words social goods should be determined according to the right reason as applicable in each sphere for example; the sphere of politics should not be corrupted by domination of money because money should be in the sphere of commodities. The sphere of office should not be contaminated by nepotism because it belongs to the sphere of kinship and love.

The kinship and love should not be contaminated by the consideration of profits and laws since they are relevant only on the sphere of market. We should not mix different spheres into one. Family organization should not be patterned after male domination because male domination belongs to the sphere of military organization.

Justice when implemented fails in many strata, from state machinery , institution level, individual, societal level ; everyone is responsible for the abuse of power and the delayed of justice. In India, there are more than 3 crores cases pending, so delaying a due process is also an injustice. Leadership without an inner moral compass inevitably ends in abuse of power.

The biggest controversy involving the Chief Justice of India as a potential threat to the institutional purity and purity of the biggest judicial office is not only highly desirable as well as witnessed by The Ranjan Gogoi case on April 2019. The slow delivery of justice, pending in courts also often attributed to the lack of facilities for judicial functionaries.

It is time to dispassionately examine the functioning of courts and signs of an increasing loss of public faith in judiciary. The prosecution failure to establish the charges beyond reasonable doubt, an alleged criminal of limited means get acquitted but only after suffering incarnation for a term that ends up being longer than the maximum punishment under law. But resourceful defendants are seen escaping culpability not necessarily on merit but due to their ability to quickly manage judicial processes to their advantages.

Judges are often found focusing on procedural rituals rather than substantive issues. The purge of malpractices has to come from within as no real judicial reform can be enforced from outside. The judiciary needs to overhaul and regulate itself as none other is empowered to do this under the constitutional architecture as interpreted by apex court. When we all try to correct ourselves justice will be served.

Despite of all these, judiciary has given a battled from human rights, privacy, women's right even as it stumbled over archaic laws and entrenched patriarchy. From declaring un- Islamic the 1400 year old practice of instant talaq and holding privacy as a fundamental right to challenging the logic behind banning women of a certain age from entering Sabarimala temple to playing the indulgent uncle to an adult Hadiya and condemning to death the four rapists in the Nirbhaya case, the Supreme court has shown nerve even as it searched for sure footing.

The court swayed to populism in 2016 when it forced citizens to stand up in cinema halls for national anthem and later to retract saying one does not have to wear patriotism on one's sleeve. The court bat for human rights by declaring that sexual intercourse with minor wife is rape, freezing a government more to deport over 40,000 Rohingya refugees, giving convict Perarivalan a second chance to present his case in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination probe and coming down on corruption and crime in public life. It sent to prison those convicted in Jayalalitha wealth case.

There is no best system in the world. But to reform on the existing government and inflicting our minds with ethical values is the best way to solve the existing problems. We need the coordination of the individuals and the government and its machinery to bring justice to solve the problems.


* Joyshree Heisnam wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is a student of B.A 6th Semester , Political Science Department at DM College Of Arts
This article was webcasted on September 25 2020.



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