An Inquiry into the Conditions of Social Justice in India
[Note: 1. This study of justice concentrates on conditions of social justice in India and will not include general issues of criminal justice; the proposal refers mainly to social justice and popular ideas of justice, as linked to, but distinct from rights. 2. This proposal is built on the insights drawn from the previous research programme on autonomy, and thus while this is a new proposal it is also a follow up on the earlier exercise. Similar to the preceding one, it has research, publications, and dialogue segments. 3. The current research plan has developed through a series of consultations; its enunciation here is thus a product of the dialogic approach of our research work. 4. This statement is divided into three sections – (a) Description of the theme, and its context; (b) approach of the study; (c) activities proposed ]
A. The Context and the Theme of Social Justice
1. Though the theme of justice has occupied a high ground in philosophical discussions since the beginning of political philosophy, yet in terms of democracy and popular politics its exact meaning and implications have been nebulous, one of the reasons being the fact that justice in reality is a meeting ground of many ideas, situations, concepts, expectations, mechanisms, and practices. Many things intersect to form the context of social justice – ethical ideas of the people, laws, the evolving nature of claims, and the pattern of collective claim making politics, institutional issues relating to the delivery mechanisms of justice, ideas about rights and entitlements, ideas among the citizens about responsibility of the rulers towards them, plus many situations generating many conditions of justice. All these make the social context of justice, also the social form and social site of justice. By social justice we therefore indicate as a beginning: (i) social context of justice, (ii) social content of justice, and (iii) social sites of justice. We also indicate that as “social”, there can be many contexts, contents, and sites.
2. The point of plurality made in the last sentence is significant, because notions and ideas, claims and practices, and mechanisms of justice have depended on varying situations. Thus we can witness various forms of social justice in reality – social claim as justice, attainment and restoration of dignity as justice, end to discrimination as justice, retribution as justice, conciliation of claims as justice, social idea of minimal justice, positive discrimination as justice, protection of the vulnerable sections of society as justice, and finally autonomy as justice. Social justice can and does have strong gender implications.
3. Situations of marginality produce ideas of justice. Lack of access to means of representation / resources / survival means such as education, health, etc. produces marginality. Similarly displacement creates marginal situations. Likewise minority status engenders marginal existence. Hereditary discriminations have the same effect. Gender has the same role. These marginal situations have one thing in common – they speak of power matrix. And they produce specific calls for justice. Different marginalities generate different expectations and forms of justice – thus gender justice, justice for the indigenous people, justice for those denied of dignity for long, justice in form of certain socio-economic rights, justice for people starving to death or for people living below poverty line – all of which mean justice for those who cannot access the mechanisms for justice. The thing to note here is that while constitution has provisions of justice in its various articles and clauses, unlike in the case of rights justice does not have a compact formulation, even though the Preamble and earlier the Objectives Resolutions of the Constituent Assembly had justice as one of the founding provisions. .
4. One of the implications of this manifold...
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