The word Justice is derived from French word 'Jostise' which means
uprightness, equity and vindication of right. It is as old as civilization and
society. As enunciated by Plato, a Greek philosopher, Justice means giving
everyone their due share. Consequentially, social justice would mean giving
everyone their due share in society through social arrangements. The concept of
social justice has several dimensions. It is the bedrock of all legal systems.
Social justice as understood today by scholars means that every human being has
a right to equitable treatment. Originally, it was meant to emphasize the
economic aspect only but now it has encompassed its scope to all possible
spheres of society. In the Indian context, Dr.B.R. Ambedkar was one of the key
philosophers of this concept.
He believed that the ideal of social justice could be achieved only by providing
Constitutional status to certain provisions. However, despite such textual and
descriptive provisions, the challenges to social justice have still not cutback.
Social justice still seems like a term unknown to certain sections of society.
Social domination still gropes the society. Thus, the realities are not in
compliance with the aims.
Primarily, the term 'social justice' was used to emphasise equal distribution of
resources. But now-a-days the term is used in a much broader sense. It implies
equitable distribution of resources along with equality of treatment and
opportunity to all without any consideration of factors like caste, class,
religion, gender, origin or any of the factor or factors that divide the
Opposing, it doesn't mean that special provisions made for those in need of
development will amount to breach of rule of social justice. Rather it is an
enabling aspect of the concept of social justice. Thus, social justice is not an
'us versus them' rather it is a 'we are in it together' mentality.
It is the identification of where our privileges intersect with somebody else's
oppression. Social justice takes within its sweep the objective of removing all
inequalities and affording equal opportunities to all citizens in social affairs
as well as economic activities.
History of social justice:
Income inequalities during the 19th century industrial revolution gave birth to
the notion of social justice. Hence at start, the concept of social justice was
pecuniary but with the onset of revolution a plethora of issues came into
And since then movements like metoo, black lives matter have been witnessed.
Social justice was used as base principle in these movements. In the 21st
century, the rule of social justice is not just limited to texts or provisions
but has expanded to almost every aspect of human interaction trying to secure
equity more than equality.
In modern period, the aim is not to achieve same treatment for all but to give
such a level of tailored treatment so as to bring all on same level. Today,
concept of social justice often refers to human rights centered around in
improving the lives of groups historically marginalized based on race,
ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and
The phrase social justice draws its roots from Christian theology with first
noted use occurring in early 1840s in theoretical treatise on natural law
Objectives of social justice:
Principles of social justice:
- To achieve the goal of social harmony through removal of inequalities and change in social order
- To meet the challenge of socio-economic inequality by rule of law
- To achieve economic justice without any violent conflict
- To eradicate challenges of casteism, untouchability, and other discrimination in society
- To ensure life to be meaningful and liveable with human dignity
Social justice is a multi dimensional concept but the underlying goal of all
dimensions is usually fairness and inclusion. In order to achieve this goal ,
following set of principles is established:
Social justice and Law:
- Access -
Equal access to social goods, resources, education, healthcare, employment
- Equity -
Distribution of resources or social order in a way that addresses the specific needs of underprivileged communities or people.
- Diversity -
Not only there should be women and people of colour in positions of power but also the minority communities to prevent discrimination.
- Participation -
Everyone should have a voice in making important decisions either by themselves or by representatives
- Human rights -
Final principle and most arguably includes freedom of conscience, freedom from police abuse and bodily autonomy
Social justice has penetrated the law because crimes are not acceptable in any
society and to address these issues should be the top most priority of
government. Laws regarding discrimination, sexual orientation are directly
related to social justice implementation. Areas of social justice in which a
punishment becomes mandatory directly affect the law. These include civil rights
violations, domestic violence, statutory rights and other social issues that
call for an immediate action on part of authorities. Similarly, the power of law
can be used to achieve social justice so that everybody has a fair chance to
grow and thrive.
Social justice - Indian Context
Dr. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution were a great
crusader of equality and social justice. Social justice according to him, was a
basic requirement for achieving the goal of social harmony. He believed this
could be achieved only through removal of inequalities against deprived and
depressed ones in social order.
The inequality in Indian society of those days
was not only economic in character but also social and political in nature. He favoured a total revolution against the social evils of Indian society. He was
highly critical of existing social order in Indian society since it promoted
inequality. So, he came up with an alternative model of social order based upon
principles of social justice.
Ambedkar believed that the ideal of social justice could be achieved by
providing constitutional status to such provisions which would force those in
power to take measures for achievement of this goal. He laid down a detailed
plan of provisions which would offer a sure safeguard to depressed classes of
Indian society. He believed that these would go a long way in better recognition
of these classes at social levels and would also help them in their economic
upliftment. This was his major contribution in accruing social justice to all
those classes which had been victims of injustice for centuries.
The Constitution of India has thus, ingrained the spirit of social justice into
its provisions. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution mentions 3 kinds of
justice- Social, political and economic. All of these are inter connected.
Social justice and Equality are complementary to each other.
The 'welfare state' concept & socialistic features of the Constitution and
Indian Economy are also a step towards social justice.
Many Directive Principles of State Policy, Fundamental rights embody the
principle of social justice. Some of them are:
- Right to Equality - Article 14, 16, 17 and 18
- Right to Education - Article 21A
- Cultural and Educational Rights - Article 29 and 30
- Right against Exploitation - Article 23, 24
- Promotion of social welfare - Article 38
- Distribution of resources as per common good - Article 39
- Just and humane working conditions - Article 42
- Promotion of educational and economic interests of the Scheduled castes, Scheduled tribes and other weaker sections - Article 46
All these provisions are constitutional embodiment of principle of social
justice and reflects our constitutional mission for same.
Judicial interpretation of Social Justice
The Supreme court in Balbir Kaur Vs. Steel Authority of India
(2000) ruled that
the concept of social justice is the yardstick to justice administration system
or the legal justice & it would be an obligation for law courts to apply the law
depending upon the situation in a manner whichever is beneficial for society.
In Consumer Education & Research Centre Vs. Union of India
(1995), it was held
that ' social justice is a device to ensure life to be meaningful and liveable
with human dignity. State has to provide facilities to reach minimum standard of
health, economic security and civilized living to workmen.'
Therefore, the Supreme court has always stepped in to protect the interests of
Indian citizens. It has used the medium of social justice as an umbrella term to
Challenges to social justice:
After 75 years of independence, hundreds of laws offering variety of special
facilities, social justice is still far from reality. Though in any society some
form of inequality is unavoidable, but the persistence of large scale economic
disparities & undignified living conditions of millions of Indians can't be
The conception of social justice encompasses from commitment to protection of
human rights and civil liberties. Disabilities, problems of other groups like
physically disabled, children, those affected by environmental pollution also
form part of agenda of social justice. And surprisingly, these are India's most
Inequalities based upon race, age, caste, gender, sexual orientation,
nationality, physical or mental ability exists in the society. Social injustice
is a critical problem in Indian society. The analysis of society's social
stratification based on either caste or class is primarily concerned with
definition of inequality.
According to a World Bank working paper issued in month of April 2022, India has
more than halved its number of severely poor individuals. Apart from that, women
literacy rate in India is still 65% and only a 16% of households enjoy the
luxury of electricity and drinking water. All these figures are indicative of
social injustice in society and paint quite the opposite picture than expected
by our Constitutional goals.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Avneet Kaur
Authentication No: OT364542002683-6-1023