Law and Justice

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Law and Justice


Justice is the quality of being fair or just. This is not an exhaustive definition of justice. Different philosophers have defined justice in different ways. Justice is a concept that provides balance between law and morality. Rawls proposition for law and justice has been accepted by world judicial fraternity as a landmark vision to understand the system. Similarly it has earned a good amount of criticism which shows the basic strength of the thought. As such: Rawls theories of Justice has to be checked and rechecked not because it is best but because it will provide us a starting point to understand this whole world of law and justice. In this paper an attempt has been made to understand and analyze Rawls theory of justice. This work has been done to distinguish the concept of justice as propounded by utilitarian’s (Aristotle[1] and Benthem[2]) vis-a-vis Rawls. Finally an analysis is done to examine how well the concept of justice given by Rawls is relevant in India, a multilayered pluralistic society.


Justice is defined as the quality of being just or fair. Justice is used to mean what is appropriate, deserved, right, fair , justice is said to be achieved when an unjust act is redressed and the victim feels whole again.[3] Justice also means the wrongdoer is held liable for his behavior. Aristotle puts forward that in its general sense justice is an inclusive term equivalent to righteousness. According to Aristotle justice with which we are concerned has two branches: distributive and corrective[4].

Distributive justice takes into consideration the merits of the parties; corrective justice is concerned only with restoring a balance which has been disturbed[5]. The distribution is a question not of equality, but of right proportion; and this applies to retribution[6]. The situation of bringing back to original position is corrective form of justice whereas distributive principle refers to share of that equal number of groups should enjoy equal amount of happiness. Thus distributive principle tells about how the goods are to be divided.

Work has been focused on two theories of justice - utilitarianism theory[7] by Aristotle and contractual theory of justice developed by John Rawls. In this work the two theories have been subjected to scrutiny.

Utilitarianism is an aggregative theory. Utilitarianism was described by Bentham as "the greatest happiness or greatest felicity principle."[8] It tells us to perform those actions among the options available which produces the greatest sum of happiness for greater number of people . They feel that by this the course of justice is achieved.

But Rawls puts forward a different theory, distributive theory of justice-

Rawls and Distributive Justice

Unlike Benthem Rawls does not believe in maximum happiness for maximum number of people. According to him justice is actually done when even less privileged class gets happiness and justness. His theory is more focused for deprived class of people. Rawls develops the principles of justice through the use of an entirely and deliberately artificial device which he calls the Original position in which everyone decides principles of justice under a veil of ignorance.

The concept of justice for which Rawls argues demands:

i) The maximization of liberty, subject only to constraints as are essential for the production of liberty itself[9]

ii) Equality for all both in the basic liberties of social life and also in distribution of all other forms of social goods, subject only to the exception that inequalities may be permitted if they produce greatest possible benefit for the well off in a given scheme of inequality (“the difference principle”)

iii) “fair equality of opportunity ” and the elimination of all inequalities of opportunity based on birth or wealth[10]

Rawls vs. Utilitarianism

The basic principles and theories of both Rawls and utilitarian...
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