In this essay…
John Rawls defines justice as an architectonic principle and the first virtue of the social institution. He says – “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.” It indicates its significant role in social norms and social behavior. It means for building a social institution, justice will be the prerequisite criterion. Justice is like a string in the ‘string of pearls’. It binds different communities together living in a territory. We can also call it – a cohesive force of the nation-state. Thus, it helps in creating a diverse society where people live in peace and harmony.
Now a genuine question emerges here, then how justice should be done? There are two ways to deliver justice – First, by using an institutional mechanism like the criminal justice system (Police-People-Judiciary), justice can be done. It is called – procedural justice. But the biggest challenge is that the weaker section may not access justice on their own. The second method to deliver justice is through collective participation. It can be called a substantive aspect of Justice. What does actually it mean?
It means to achieve justice, not only the affected should participate, but all those should also participate who are unaffected. For example. India and the world witnessed the Delhi gang rape in 2013. In this case, not only the parents of the victim, but the whole society participated for the justice at that point of time. Consequently, the government didn’t only convict and persecute but also amended the rape law – Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, also popularly known as Nirbhaya law – to contain such events in the future.
Why unaffected should participate?
Justice is not a completely individualistic feature, but its nature is collective. For example, a woman facing the issue of patriarchy at home has some uniform trend irrespective of time and space in one or other form. Thus, this is not an issue of one person or one family. It is about half of the human race living in this world. It indicates that unaffected as well as affected should participate for the greater good. Thus, it would eventually lead to the realization of the substantive aspect of justice.
Apart from this, there is a high chance of getting justice on time if there is collective participation. It is so because when people act in concert with each other, the issue becomes an electoral issue. When it becomes an electoral issue, the degree of getting justice on time becomes high. In such cases, new and innovative means like fast track court are adopted for the same. It is all because of the power of democracy where the people in power are accountable before the public.
Along with these, it would also bridge the gap of haves and have-nots in society while availing justice. For example, economically rich people can avail justice by hiring good lawyers unlike the economically weaker sections of society. World Bank report says that more than 60% of out-of-pocket expenditure goes only for health. Thus, they are left with very little amount for other daily pieces of stuff. In such cases, we can’t expect from them to invest much money in justice. Instead, they may try to escape from justice by compromising their individual freedom which subsequently affects their dignity (Article 21).
In such case, a collective voice for justice help the victim in two ways – First, economically it helps the victim to avail justice through crowdfunding. Thus, it increases their access to justice. Second, Justice is served on the basis of the grade of advocacy. Economic viability for weaker sections makes them put their cases before judges in the strongest possible manner. Otherwise, they may lose the case even if their position is just because the judicial system is a little bit mechanical to some extent in the sense of advocacy. Thus, collectivism in the Justice system brings society very near to the main ethos of justice.
How collectivism is serving justice?
Collectivism can serve justice in various spheres. In the political sphere, the Constitution of India provides an option of habeas corpus (Article 32) against illegal detention. It gives space to victims as well as members of the civil society to file a case. For example, environmentalists filed a case against Vedanta in Niyamgiri, Odisha to protect the cultural life of tribal as well as environmental protection. Otherwise, getting their voice listed in mainstream media would be very hard. Thus, the efforts of civil society helped the tribes of Niyamgiri in accessing justice with respect to their cultural life.
Apart from this, the first decade of the 21st century provided a revolutionary tool in the hand of Indian citizens – the RTI act 2005. It makes people to expose corruption and take an informed decision while voting. For example, the RTI act 2005 has helped in exposing corruption cases like 2G spectrum and Adarsh Scam. In the Adarsh scam, a six-story building for the widows of Kargil war heroes was meant to be made, turned into a 31-story high-rise called Adarsh Housing Society. The nexus (Politician-Bureaucrats-Military officials) was exposed by RTI activists Simpreet Singh and Yogacharya Anandji.
In such cases, there are high chances of subjugation of widows if the RTI activists would have not helped. It is so because there is a psychological makeup in third world countries – ‘something is better than nothing’ – in case of availing social benefits due to its ‘free nature’. Instead, there should be an attitude of getting everything for what one deserves while getting benefits from social schemes. Thus, one should not accept even 10 grams less grain at the PDS shop. In such a situation, the role of the unaffected – NGOs, social activists, etc – becomes very important in availing social justice.
Similarly, at the societal level, PIL provides an opportunity to participate the unaffected in securing justice. For example, during the cutting of Array forest in Mumbai, environmentalists file a case against it for the protection of the environment. People at social media wrote about it to put pressure on the government for environmental protection. It indicates the political spirit of people living in a society. It is so because man is a multi-dimensional personality. Their activities are not only limited to the economic sphere but there is a fine balance between political, economic, and cultural activities.
Along the same line, the Indian Constitution provides an opportunity to participate in civic affairs through Article 19. For example, whenever mob lynching happens in India, unaffected people join their hands with the victim for justice. In fact, whenever people in society feel some encounter is fake or unjust. They ponder upon, write, speak, and act against it using social media. Thus, it ensures constitutionalism in Indian society. It put limits the power of the system. Hence, it helps in securing the liberty of an individual and getting touched by the reflection of justice in the individual sphere too.
In the same fashion, in the ethical Sphere, Parliament provides good samaritan law to participate in getting social justice. It would motivate people to help those who get accidents on road. This is also a part of a collective sense of justice. It is so because justice is not only limited to the criminal justice system. Instead, justice has its relevance throughout the system like blood in the capillaries in our body. The practice of justice starts from home and travels across the spectrum in our life. Thus, collective effort is very important.
Cog in the wheel: Challenges
So far we have understood the need for collectivism in availing justice and its role in our society. Now a valid question arises – then why we don’t often see collective participation when the civil liberty of an individual is affected and people face discrimination on the basis of caste and religion? It is so because there are some challenges in this process. Modern philosopher, Hannah Arendt answered this question. After World War 2, economic activities took the front seat and political activities were at the back. Political participation starts decreasing. It becomes more clear after globalization.
Post globalization, Industrial society has eaten up most of the daylight of a man and left very few hours to think about their culture and politics. A man works in a company for 8-9 hours and 1-2 hours are spent for traveling because houses near the industries are not affordable to them. Thus, they do not have much time to give reading to primary sources like books and newspapers. It is also one of the reasons behind the fake news existing in our society. It hampers the collective participation of the people. It divides people on the same issue because they consume contrasting information fed to them by unsocial people.
Apart from these, a sense of individualism is increasing at a more tremendous pace. It gives a sense of ignorance toward the need of others. Thus, the degree of empathy also decreases in an individual. They often fail to realize the pain of others. Subsequently, it leads to a decline in social capital and emotional intelligence. For example, in Kerala, some people fed pineapple stuffed with crackers to a pregnant elephant. This makes the strong case to speak for those also who could not speak. Unlike an animal, if a human has the ability to speak then it is their duty to speak for all those who even can’t speak.
Hence there is a need of the hour to take inspiration from the thoughts of Immanuel Kant. It is a way of evaluating motivations for action. He defines an imperative as any proposition declaring a certain action to be necessary. Thus, it prescribes a standard of rationality to which all moral and rational agents are held. It will bring all people living in a society on a common plank based on their moral intuition and positive attitude to act in concert with each other even if they are not necessarily accused or victims. Hence, Kant’s Categorical imperative would help us in realizing the service of justice in a substantive way.