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JOHN RAWLS’ THEORY OF JUSTICE AND ITS RELEVANCE IN THE 21st CENTURY IN INDIA

[Selected as the BEST BLOG of LegalSpecs All-Round Internship, July 2023] ABSTRACT

One of the most significant theories in the fields of jurisprudence and political science is John Rawls’ theory of justice. His work was a turning point because it introduced a legal theory that aims for a society where everyone has access to liberty, equality, and justice. Because he attempted to provide a moral theory that addresses the issue of distributive justice and is an alternative to utilitarianism, Rawls had a significant impact on the field. By examining the provisions of Rawls’ theory and attempting to analyze its application and relevance in the Indian scenario in the 21st century, this paper will attempt to comprehend the substance of Rawls’ theory of justice and will address the conceptual and practical perspectives of the concept of justice.

KEYWORDS: John Rawls, Theory of Justice, Principle, Equality, Liberties.

INTRODUCTION

Human beings, being social creatures, can't live in isolation. It has led to the establishment of states, aimed at creating a just political society. However, the concept of justice is not static[1] and It is difficult to define. There are many ways to interpret it. Justice for one person might not be justice for another. However, several jurists have attempted to define justice as closely as possible. One of these jurists was John Rawls, who wrote the well-known book "A Theory of Justice" addressing the idea of justice which was published for the first time in 1971. Let us attempt to comprehend Rawls’ concept of justice dealing mainly with political arrangements.[2]

JOHN RAWLS’ THEORY OF JUSTICE

John Rawls strongly disagreed with the theory of utilitarianism, which had the point of view that just or fair exercises are the ones that bring the maximum amount of good for the maximum number. He denounced utilitarianism since he thought that this theory provides a way for the government to work in such a manner that gives joy to the majority but overlooks the desires and freedoms of a minority. His theory of justice is generally affected by the Social Contract Theory as interpreted by a political philosopher- Immanuel Kant. In short, it doesn’t call for fair shares of the social pie but rather seeks to maximize equal liberty of individuals without disadvantaging the list and downed groups in the community.

THEORETICAL OBJECTIVE

Rawls’ emergence of the theory of justice was intended to provide a means to establish a well-ordered society. A Well-Ordered Society: According to Rawls’, this formulation can be achieved by adhering to the contract's following terms:

  • Circumstances of justice

  • Original position

  • Veil of ignorance

  • Maximin rule

Circumstances of Justice: According to Rawls’, the circumstances of justice are those scenarios in which human collaboration is both viable and essential.

Original Position: John Rawls invites readers to envision a hypothetical scenario where a group of people, unaware of their personal characteristics or circumstances, gather to create laws. This scenario represents a state of equality and impartiality, originally known as an original position.

Veil of Ignorance: To achieve justice, it is crucial to be unbiased and rational when making decisions that impact society. Rawls suggests adopting a "veil of ignorance," which separates the decision-maker from their personal interests and knowledge about themselves or others. This fictitious concept promotes fairness and impartiality.

Maximin Rule: According to Rawls, decision-makers in the original position will make choices in a state of uncertainty. This uncertainty compels them to select the best options from a range of worst-case scenarios, aiming to create rules that prioritize the well-being of the most disadvantaged individuals in society.


TWO PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE

John Rawls evolved 2 Principles of Justice:

FIRST PRINCIPLE: The Principle of Equal Liberty

According to the principle of equal liberty, every individual should be given some liberties that are crucial to human life. Such liberties can’t be violated under any circumstances. These liberties can be freedom of speech, assembly, thought, and conscience. However, absolute freedom is impossible when we live in a society that values freedom for all.[3]

For Example, my freedom to swing a baseball bat ends where others' head begins. Similarly, unrestraint freedom of speech can lead to the destruction of the reputation of others, so it must be restricted up to a certain extent.

SECOND PRINCIPLE: The Principle of Difference and Fair Equality Of Opportunity

This Principle states that Social and Economic Inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both:

a) To the greatest benefit of the least advantages and also connected with Just Savings Principle; and

b) Attached to offices and positions which provide job opportunities and positions which are available to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.

This Principle is also known as the Just Savings Principle or the Principle of Justice between Generations. Under this Principle, each generation must give to the next not exclusively its political institutions yet additionally sufficient assets and resources. Inter-generational transfer of moral, cultural, and economic capital happens in the usual course of social life. In the case of Commerce and Industry, businesses are ongoing operations that can grow over many generations. A corporation has alive beyond the lifetime of its directors and shareholders. A government can’t and doesn’t build roads and bridges only to benefit the current generation.

The other part of 2nd Principle states that Social and Economic Inequalities are unavoidable in a society. But it assumes that Social and Economic Inequalities can be arranged by political actions, i.e., By Greatest Benefit to the Least Advantageous and by providing a fair quality of opportunity to all, to gain offices and positions which can be seen under Articles 14, 15, and 16 of the Indian Constitution.[4]


Fair Equality of Opportunity: Rawls advocates for further efforts to encourage equal opportunity by restraining wealth accumulation through the utilization of devices like:

o Inheritance and Gift Taxes, and

o The alternate way is through Income Tax which permits the state to move to the least advantaged and subsequently expands their chances.

The Difference Principle: The difference principle requires that everyone is guaranteed a reasonable minimum income. It is achieved through taxes on the wealthy and transferring some of their income to those who are less fortunate.


PRIORITY TO BASIC LIBERTIES

Rawls believes that people will wish to ensure that their Basic Liberties are given priority over equal opportunity and the regulation of inequalities. The overall ranking may be summarized as follows:

1) Equal Basic Liberties

2) Fair Equality of opportunity concerning offices and positions.

3) Arrangement of inequalities so that they are to the Greatest benefit of the Least Advantaged.


RELEVANCE OF THE THEORY IN INDIA IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Relevance of the 1st Principle: The Basic Liberty laid down in the first principle contains the rights and the liberties traditionally connected with liberalism and democracy as seen under the Indian Constitution in the accompanying way:


JOHN RAWLS’ FIRST PRINCIPLE LIBERTIES AND INDIAN CONSTITUTION

  • Political Liberty: Right to vote or Liberties to become MPs or MLAs in the Indian Constitution.

  • Liberty of Speech and Assembly for free expression: As set out in Articles [19(1)(a)& (b)] of the Indian Constitution.

  • Freedom of conscience and belief: As referred to in Articles 25- 28 of the Indian Constitution.

  • Liberty of an individual's integrity and freedom not to undergo psychological treatment: As per Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

  • Right to hold Personal Liberty: As provided for by Article 300A of the Indian Constitution.

  • Freedom from arbitrary asset and seizure: As per Articles 20-22 of the Indian Constitution.

Relevance of the 2nd Principle: Rawls argues that a constitutional democracy can fulfil the principles of justice, including the principles of greatest equal liberty, fair equality of opportunity, and the difference principle. In pursuit of those principles, the Indian Govt. is making efforts. For instance:

a) The Women's Reservation Bill in the Parliament of India aims to give preference to women by proposing an amendment to the Constitution of India to reserve 33 per cent of seats in the Lower House of Parliament and all the state legislative assemblies for women. Untouchability, which does not advantage the most disadvantaged members of society, is abolished by Article 17 of the Indian Constitution. The Government's Right to Education Declaration contains a reservation of 25% for poor children, even in private schools that benefit the least advantaged members of society.

b) In the case of Indira Sawhney v Union of India[5], also named the Mandal Case, the Supreme Court looked at the scope of equal employment opportunities. The Mandal case also reflects Rawls’ second principle of justice, which seeks to reward the least advantaged citizens in society by redressing social and economic inequalities accordingly. Given the diversity of individuals' Social and Economic Backgrounds, it is apparent from reservation records that Rawls’ approach influences employment and education.[6]


CONCLUSION

One of the most forward-thinking theories, i.e., Rawls’ theory is extremely beneficial to developing and underdeveloped nations. His ideas have been helpful in creating a society that is moving forward. Hence, the majority of the provisions of the Indian Constitution, which is the foundation of our legal system, embody John Rawls’ principles of justice. But applying a straitjacket formula does not necessarily give rise to full equality. There would be a difference in every society. The duty of the state, therefore, must be to ensure that inequality is narrowed between the rich and the poor and the laws should be drawn up in such a way as to benefit all levels of society at once.


REFERENCES [1]Adv. Shreelakshmi Sayajirao Raje Bhonsle, Justice For All: John Rawl’s Theory Of Justice And Its Relevance In Indian Judicial System, 9 Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Science, 64 (2021), https://www.questjournals.org/jrhss/papers/vol9-issue3/2/L09036468.pdf . [2] J Jerusha Melanie, John Rawls’ Theory of Justice, iPleaders Powered by LawSikho, (Jun. 30, 2022), https://blog.ipleaders.in/john-rawls-theory-of-justice/ . [3] Supra note 2 [4] System Adv. Shreelakshmi Sayajirao Raje Bhonsle, Justice For All: John Rawl’s Theory Of Justice And Its Relevance In Indian Judicial System, 9 Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Science, 66 (2021), https://www.questjournals.org/jrhss/papers/vol9-issue3/2/L09036468.pdf . [5] Indira Sawhney v. Union of India, AIR 1992 (3) SC 217. [6] Shweta Sharma, APPLICATION OF RAWLS THEORY OF JUSTICE IN THE 21ST CENTURY IN INDIA, ISSN 2456-9704, SUPREMO AMICUS, 2021, https://supremoamicus.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/SHWETA-SHARMA.pdf .


[Written by- Isha Garg]

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