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Relationship Between Equality and Justice: Justice for All in India

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Social Justice
  • Economic Justice
  • Political Justice
  • Supporting Facts
  • Pendency of Cases
  • Corruption
  • Lack of Transparency
  • Hardships of the Poor
  • Conclusion

Introduction

'No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right, not asked as a favour.' ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Justice is one of the most important and most discussed objectives of the State as well as the Society. It is what we, as a society, regard as ‘right’ based on our moral concepts of ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness. Justice needs to be in the light of the democratic principle of the ‘rule of law’, a concept that denotes that all decisions need to be made in accordance with the law and that nobody is exempt from the law.

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Respect for the rule of law is an important requirement to safeguard justice in a democracy. It ensures that all decisions and actions of individuals are in line with a country’s laws. It also ensures that people with power do not make decisions about our lives in an arbitrary and unpredictable manner, based on their personal hatred, prejudice or beliefs and also not on what the law allows. The rule of law protects us by ensuring that laws apply equally to all of us, that those who exercise government power do so guided by the law and not by their own views, and that no one has absolute power over our lives. The rule of law can only function properly when courts act in an independent, fair, public and transparent manner.

Legal and political systems that maintain law and order are desirable, but they cannot accomplish them unless they also achieve justice. In its Preamble, the Constitution of India gives first priority to the securing of social, economic and political justice for all its people.

Social Justice

Social justice means to abolish the social inequalities and to provide equal opportunities to all in social life. They are:

  1. Equality before law
  2. Prohibition of discrimination
  3. Equality of opportunity in public appointments
  4. Abolition of untouchability
  5. Abolition of titles
  6. Prohibition of exploitation
  7. Promotion of interests of backward and weaker sections of society
  8. Protection of interests of minorities
  9. Special facilities of weaker sections of society

Economic Justice

Economic justice means that the individual is provided with the bare necessities of food, clothes and shelter, the abolition of the unequal distribution of wealth and the provision of equal and appropriate opportunities for the earning of his livelihood. This include:

  1. Right to property is made legal right
  2. Adequate means of livelihood
  3. To check the concentration of wealth and means of production
  4. Equal pay for equal work
  5. Protection against economic exploitation
  6. Social security
  7. Participation of workers in the management of industries

Political Justice

Political justice implies that the citizens equally share the use of political power in the State so that they may be able to associate themselves with the administration and also fully enjoy all types of political freedom. They are:

  1. Right to hold public office
  2. Right to criticise the government 
  3. Right to form political organisations
  4. Right to protest
  5. Protection of rights

Article 39A of the Constitution of India states that the state shall provide free legal aid, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. It is important that we, as citizens, know our rights within the entire system of the rule of law, so that we are able to uphold them, as well as detect failures and demand change. But the question is, is it always followed as promised?

Securing justice is always strained with difficulties from the very start for an ordinary Indian. People face grave threats to their life, their land, their belief systems and millions in this country turn to the law for the protection of their rights on a daily basis. However, in practice, injustice is rampant across the country and the marginalized are unable to seek justice as they bear the brunt of a system that is broken at various levels. India has a low level of awareness, high costs, and delays which make access to justice in this country far from universal.

A recent study indicated that the number of new cases has direct relationship with increasing literacy rate and awareness. Citing examples of Kerala, a high literacy state, 28 new cases per 1000 population per annum have been added, whereas, Bihar with relatively low literacy rate the figure stands at just three. However, study also shows that crimes increased when the law and order mechanism is weak.  

The people of this country or rather people with vested interest have blamed the government and police, for law and order problems, but the real cause for increase of crimes is the judges who refused to bring justice on criminals. Thousands and thousands of criminals are walking the streets of India just because our legal system refuse or delay timely judgment. The judges have denied Indians their fundamental right as citizens, and the law in which they took an oath to uphold must now be brought down onto to them. India’s justice system is breaking down slowly, but surely.

Supporting Facts

Pendency of Cases

One of the primary issues with the Indian judicial system is the pendency of cases. It is believed that India has 32 million pending cases, the majority of which are in district courts, related to criminal law and is pending for almost two years. It is said that 46% of the pending cases have the government as the accused. These numbers are the highest compared to any other country in the world. And with the current pace, this backlog would take at least 320 years to clear, i.e. if someone decides to wake up and work on them!

The victims suffer, especially if they are not economically well off, by not being able to hire high profile and efficient lawyers who can solve the case in a short span of time. Meanwhile, the rich can easily afford expensive lawyers and change the course of the dispensation of justice in their favour, but it is not always true in the cases where the lawyers follow ethical standards.

BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY CASE: On December 2-3, 1984, in the Union Carbide Factory in Bhopal, there was a major issue of leakage of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas. Over five lakh people were affected by the deadly chemical, while 3,787 people died (although the unofficial version puts the number over 16,000). According to a report appearing in Mother Jones in 2014, there are over 1.2 lakh people still suffering from the after-effects of exposure to the deadly gas. The case dragged on for several years. The Chairman of Union Carbide was never prosecuted, seven employees of the company were sentenced to two years in jail and the company itself got away with paying $470 million compensation. After all these years, several victims still remain without any compensation being paid.

Corruption

India is the ‘Most Corrupt Country in Asia-Pacific Region’, according to a recent study by Transparency International, a Berlin-based NGO working against corruption. According to the study, 7 out of 10 people in India, had to pay a bribe to access public services. Corruption in India has become a habit which cannot be shaken off that easily. It has become a major obstacle to investment in India. Over the years, the country has witnessed several high-profile cases, which are clear examples of the injustice prevalent in India.

ABHISHEK VARMA ARMS DEALS SCANDAL: Abhishek Varma belonged to a politically connected family with both his parents holding government portfolios. With a wide range of business associations, including BSNL, multinational FMCG brands, he was known as the ‘Lord of war’ in the international defence and armament company circles. In 2006, Abhishek was accused of receiving kickbacks of approximately $200 million, through a $4-5 billion Indian military deal involving the Indian government’s purchase of six Scorpene-class submarines. Further, in 2012, the CBI raided his residence after registration of multiple cases of corruption and money laundering against him and his wife. Abhishek is believed to be the main arms dealer and the prime suspect in the Scorpene submarines deal case, Agusta Westland VVIP helicopters bribery scandal, and Navy War Room leak case. He was arrested in 2012, but in 2017 a special CBI court acquitted himof the charges.[image: https://images.yourstory.com/cs/wordpress/2017/12/Untitled-design-13-2.png?fm=png&auto=format]

COMMONWEALTH GAMES SCAM: The sporting extravaganza held at New Delhi in 2010, which cost up to $6 billion, was dogged by several cases of alleged corruption, including inflated contracts, criminal conspiracy, cheating, and forgery. The anti-corruption identified more than 16 projects with possible irregularities. And in the centre of the corruption was Suresh Kalmadi, the then Pune Lok Sabha MP, and was charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act. On 4 February 2013, the CBI judge Ravinder Kaur found sufficient primary evidence and ordered framing of charges against all the accused.

CHIDAMBARAM CASE: Police investigators in India arrested the country's former finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, on suspicion of involvement in corruption and money laundering. Dozens of officers from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) scaled the walls of Chidambaram's house in India's capital, New Delhi, before taking him away. The CBI has accused Chidambaram from 2004-2008 and again from 2012-2014, of abusing his official position and involvement in money laundering in clearing foreign direct investments worth tens of millions of dollars.

Yet, India is a developing country and it has become important to polish its image, especially to reassure investors of the stability of the Indian market. But the truth is that it’s not that easy, especially since the problem of corruption in India has been around for a while. Corruption grows naturally and gradually, as societies and cities grow and become more complex.

Lack of Transparency

Another problem that the Indian judicial system is facing is the lack of transparency. Transparency is about how much access to internally-held information the citizens are entitled to, the scope, accuracy and timeliness of this information, and what citizens can do if 'insiders' are not sufficiently forthcoming in providing such access.

It is seen that the Right to Information (RTI) Act is totally out of bounds of the legal system. Excessive secrecy can affect the quality of public decision-making and prevent citizens from checking the abuses of public power. This can have a corrosive effect on virtually all aspects of society and governance. Transparency is therefore very important as it enables society to:

  1. hold government or key decision-makers to account
  2. promote good governance
  3. improve public policy and efficiency
  4. combat corruption

Information by itself is not power, but it is an essential first step in the exercise of political and economic power. The public will only be able to truly feel like part of a democracy only if they have information about the policies and activities of the government, the benefits they are entitled to and whether they are receiving what is expected. Knowledge of what the state and other institutions do is fundamental as a power to the people so that they can hold them accountable and improve the way in which they work. Absence or inaccessibility to information often creates a sense of disempowerment, mistrust and frustration. On the other hand, access to relevant, up-to-date information can create a basis for natural exchange, allowing both official and the public to better access decisions taken and policies implemented.

Hardships of the Poor

In India, the poor and the disadvantaged caste vote proportionally more than the rich and upper castes (this is often more than those in other developed democracies). Also, the voters are found higher in rural areas than the cities. The poor have higher expectation of the state than the rich, hence it is only fair if they are given equal opportunities as citizens of India irrespective of caste, creed, religion, and economic status.

However, the state is also guarded both by the political governance as well as by economic and social institutions. The democratic system does give a certain amount of freedom to voice the needs of the poor. But this does not necessarily translate into a state committed to justice and equality. The nature of politics in India means that removal of poverty is not just an economic need but a political necessity for elected politicians. Today, 10% of the richest people in India control 80% of the nation's wealth and among them, the top 1% owns 58% of the wealth, according to a 2017 report published by Oxfam, an international confederation of agencies fighting poverty.

Nearly two million poor children under five die every year in India, one every 15 seconds, the highest number anywhere in the world. Malnutrition, neonatal diseases, diarrhoea and pneumonia are the major causes of death. Poor rural states are particularly affected by a dearth of health resources and the charity accuses the country for failing to provide adequate healthcare facilities for the impoverished sections of the society.

Promises and policies to improve the livelihood of the poor are made every year. Yet, many cases of inequality and injustice are still reported at every hour in the country. Tackling inequality and reducing the gap between citizens is ironically a necessity to keep the economy ticking.

Indian planning along with its certain inherent weaknesses has miserably failed to evolve a society based on equality and justice, free from tyranny and exploitation. It is really shocking that despite years of planning and execution of different policies, the country has not been able to solve the problem of poverty, unemployment, exploitation, tyranny and injustice. Here are some of the ways in which betterment of the justice system can be possibly done:

  1. Backlog of cases need to be reduced : Pending and piling up of cases need to be reduced. One way to achieve this is by increasing the number of working days in courts. It is found that there is around 45% vacancy in High court and about 25% vacancy in Lower court, hence it is vital to increase the number of judges who are educated and efficient. Strict deadlines for cases must be given to the judges in order to speed up the decision making process.
  2. Legal and Technical reforms: Old and archaic laws must be removed in order to avoid unnecessary delays in proceedings. Also, the police must make use of all the technological advancements for speeding up the investigations. Technological utilisation can improve the decision making process.
  3. Removal of corruption: Many measures to reduce corruption was implemented, but all of them proved to be of no use. There are still cases of corruption reported, and the accused are of high position in the society. The existing laws and measures to eradicate corruption should be strengthened and applied to anyone engaging in these activities.
  4. Transparency between law and citizens: There should be a certain amount of transparency between the law and order and the citizens. The citizens should not be kept in the dark and should be informed of the activities of decision-makers, as they are the ones who, ultimately, have to pay the price. This way, those in power can be held responsible for the consequences.
  5. Capital punishment for atrocious crimes: Capital punishment for heinous crimes, such as child abuse, rape and even serious cases of corruption must be done so that in the distant future, no person will knowingly be engaged in such illegal activities. It should be implemented based on clear evidence and irrespective of the person’s position in the society. Fear of law is one of the most important feelings required to be inculcated in the minds of each and every person living in this country.
  6. Equality for all: Giving equal rights to all can be a major step to effect change in the society. There are many existing policies that state this promise, but nobody checks whether these are implemented efficiently. Many people are not even aware of their basic rights and these lead to misuse of power by the authority upon them. This should change and people, especially the underprivileged, should be given awareness about the rights that they, as citizens, can enjoy.

Conclusion

India is a democratic country with a vast population and a wide variety of culture. Our pledge has taught us from when we can read that we should respect our country and consider all as our brothers and sisters, but how many of us have actually made an effort to make sure that it is followed? This is a question that all of us, as Indians, need to ask ourselves. There should not be anyone above or below the law, all should be treated with equal respect. Only then can we instil a change in this society, to remove corruption, inequality and exploitation of power by the highly influenced and to bring equality and justice, so that all of us can live in harmony in this beautiful country we call our home.

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