Justice is one of the important aims of the state. One of the earliest treaties on politics, Plato’s ‘Republic’ was an attempt to construct a just state. Therefore, a correct understanding of justice will help in evaluating different political systems, their policies and the ideologies on which they are based. Aristotle says justice is the reconciler and synthesizer of political values (“what answers to the whole of goodness”). It connects with the ideals like rights, liberty and equality.
Different views on justice:-

Justice’s meaning changes with passage of time. Thus what was justice in the past may be injustice in the present and vice- versa.

* There have been ‘egalitarian’ perception of justice where the highest place in accorded to the value of equality;
* The liberation perception in which liberty is ultimate value;
* The divine view in which justice is the execution of god’s will, the ‘hedonist’ makes ‘the greatest good of greatest number’ the criterion of justice;
* To the ‘harmonizer’ justice is the harmonizing of different elements and value to produce a satisfactory balance.

Some identifies justice with duty or with maintenance of peace and order; other view it as an elitist function. Thus, justice concerns the right of the individual as well as the social ordering of the society. It is legal and moral at the same time. In short, it is an ethical concept.
The root idea of justice is ‘jus’ meaning joining or fitting. It synthesis one political idea to other political ideal:-

1. Individual and state
2. Individual and society
3. Cementing and joining up human beings together.

Justice and law

The Roman lawyer= Idea of natural justice is positive law of the state. Civil law and national should be conformity with natural law. However this is abstract phrase, justice lies in enforcement of positive law. The symbol of justice is often portrayed as blindfold because it is supposed to be impartial.

Justice and discrimination

For Plato and Aristotle justice is “proportionate equality with the idea of righteousness”. Injustice arises when equals are treated unequally.

This means that if in a democracy there is discrimination on the basis of sex, it would mean treating the equals, unequally. Also it would be unfair to pit a heavyweight wrestler against a light weight one, Thus justice requires discrimination on the basis of differences, which is relevant to functions performed.

Plato’s theory of justice

Plato says rule of life should be based on functional specialisation. Man should practice on thing only to which his nature is best adopted (principle of “proper station”). This applies both to individual and society. The highest good of both the individual and the society is conserved, if we take it for granted that there is nothing better to a man than to do a work than he is best fitted to do, there is equally nothing better for the society that to see that each should be filling the station to which he is best entitled by virtue of the special element of his personality.

According to Plato three qualities of human souls are represented in the state in the form of three classes. Wisdom in the form of philosopher kings, courage in the form of soldiers and appetite in the form of procedures. Therefore Plato opinions that state is individual writ large; state is larger form of individual where three classes perform their response respective function and do not interfere in the affairs of other classes then justice is secured in the state or in other word state is a just state.

Therefore in Plato’s scheme justice synonymous to dutifulness. It may be compared within the notion of ‘swadharm’ explained in Indian text Gita

Three principles of Plato’s theory:

* Functional specialization

* Non-inference

* Harmony


* According to critics Plato’s theory of justice suffers from jurisprudential inconsistency. According to barker, Plato has ignored the legal aspect of justice.
* Plato’s theory of justice is elitist in nature because it aims at maintaining status-quo or equilibrium in the society. The principle of functional specialization and principle of non- interference restricts all form of class- mobility.
* He legitimized inequality. Plato divided society in three different classes and provided different rights. It can be compared to Indian Varna system.
* It may lead to totalitarianism.


* First to provide systemic theory of justice.
* Discuss justice for both individuals and state.
* Relevant in contemporary.


Aristotle’s theory of justice
While Plato’s theory of justice represent the radical view in that it sought to change the existing social order of his time. Aristotle’s theory of justice has conservative view it favors maintain the existing order. Justice is concerned with regulation of human relation. Three types of justice:

Distributive justice – Deal with the allocation of honours and wealth. Its basic principle is treating equals equally and unequal unequally. Aristotle rely on the prevailing customs and customary law for deciding as to who were equals or unequals. (Ex : CBDR)

Retributive justice : Deals with imposition of punishment and payment of damages. It requires full restoration of any loss involuntarily sustained in the course of transaction between individual members of the community.

Commutative justice : Seeks to determine the amount of one sort of goods or services to be rendered in return for another sort in voluntary transaction of buying and selling or letting and hiring. Its guiding principle should be full equivalence.

Also normally, the law does not interfere in instances of discriminatory treatment in private life. But if causes social harm, the state would be justified in interfering in it, like in instances of untouchability, some group are dined human rights. Therefore, a law against it would be just; also the separate facilities accorded cannot be truly equal. It is because of this that Dr. Ambedkar demanded the right of the entry to temples for schedule castes and opposed separate temples, schools or hostel for them. (Example : Problem of Untouchability, though prevalent in private life of Hindu Society, state was justified in enacting Protection of Human Rights Act,’95.)

Criticism :

* As far as the concept of retributive justice is concerned, perfect retribution is not possible.
* This theory of Distributive Justice serves the interest of particular class (Upper class)

J.W. Chapmen

Seeks to integrate the idea of justice in his principle of economic rationality of man and consumer’s sovereignty coupled with the individual claim of moral freedom. To him the first principle of justice appears to be the distribution of benefits, which maximise benefits in accordance with the principle of consumer’s sovereignty. The second principle is that a system is unjust if the material wellbeing of a few is purchased at the expense of many. It implies that justice requires that no one shall gain at the expense of another.

Distributive justice and economic justice

Distributive justice is subject to the condition of general welfare. In this way the idea of economic justice comes to imply a socialistic pattern of society. The task of economic justice is to provide employment, food, shelter and clothing, to every able-bodied citizen.

However, the Marxist view of justice has its origin in the area of economics. According to Marx, the positive law of the state is imposed on its member by the authority of the class, which controls the means of production. Law is determined by the economic interest of the ruling class. When private property is abolished and the working class controls the means of production, then the laws are bound to reflect the interest of the working class. Therefore the content of justice depends upon the class controlling the means of production.

Social justice

Social justice means availability of equal social opportunity for the development of personality to all the people in society, without any discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, sex or race. No one should be deprived, because of these differences, of those social conditions which are essential for social development. The issue of social justice is associated with social equality and social rights and these are depending on economic equality and rights. Social justice can be made available only in a social system where the exploitation of man is absent and where privileges of the few are not built upon the miseries of the many.

In a nutshell the term social justice implies a recording of social life in such a manner that the material and moral benefits of social efforts are not cornered by a tiny privileged class but accrue to the masses to ensure the upliftment of the lower, weaker and underprivileged sections. This involves a logical synthesis of liberty, equality and eternity in their substantive aspects.
John Rawls theory of justice

His theory of justice is liberal procedural and distributive. Rawls begins by describing justice as the first virtue of social institution and sets out to discover what principle of justice are most defensible. The primary domain over which justice operates is the distribution of goods. In Rawls theory these things are called ‘primary good’. They are of two types:

1. Social goods:- goods that are directly distributes by social institutions such as income and wealth opportunities and power, rights and liberties.

2. Natural goods:- goods like health, intelligence, vigour, imagination, natural talents which affected by social institutions but not directly distributed by them.

Original position:

This is hypothetical situation where these individuals who are formulating the theory of justice are under the veil of ignorance. In this situation contractors are guided by maximum rule.

In other words, everyone will choose kind of society which minimizes his possible losses and make sure that even the worst of person is not too destituted he turns out to be such a person.

Taking maximum advantage and distribution of primary goods, Rawls says that they would choose two principles of justice:

* Each person to have an equal right to most extensive basic liberties compatible with similar liberties to others.
* Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that both are
* To the greatest benefit of the least advantaged and
* Attached to positions and officers are open to all under conditions of fair equality and opportunity.

After deciding about the principle according to Rawls , the next step is the choice of a constitution which satisfies the principles of justice and is best designed to lead to just and effective legislation. For this the constitution will have to protect liberty of conscience and freedom of thought, liberty of the person and equal political rights. After the establishment of constitution, people have to decide about the proposed bills and policies. Legislation is largely concerned with the achievement of long term social and economic goals as well as to fulfill the principle that requires the social and economic policies be aimed at maximizing the long term expectations of the least advantages under conditions of fair equality and opportunity.


* Marxists contend that Rawls has tried to determine the principle of justice in a hypothetical condition where people are deliberately kept behind a veil of ignorance. Any deliberation without the knowledge of prevailing social and economic conditions is meaningless.
* Libertarians argue that Rawls has sacrificed liberty for the sake of equality. Why should we force the meritorious and industrious to work for the benefit of the most disadvantages people?
* Communitarian point out that Rawl’s political philosophy does not grade any conception of good life as superior or inferior to others. This ethical neutrality evades the opportunity of the pursuit of the common good.

Nozock’s theory of justice

Robert nozick in his ‘ anarchy, state and utopia’ (1974) sought, to advance an alternative to Rawl’s theory of justice.

He equates justice with entitlement; entitlement should be based on justice. He has identified three sources through which various goods are acquired by individuals:

* Their selves- their bodies, brain cells, etc. they have absolute right over them,.
* The natural world- land, water resources, minerals etc.
* The things people make by applying themselves to the natural worlds like all agricultural and industrial products.

Principle of entitlement:

* Initial acquisition: The method whereby an individual comes to appropriate some previously unowned bits of the natural world. Those who come to settle in an uninhabitated continents may legitimately acquires its land and natural resources on first come first served basis. As long as nobody is made worse off by their doing so. This means that this mode of acquisition should not result in creating scarcity for others- a condition which may scarcely be satisfied. This is similar to the condition spelled out in John Locke’s second treatise on government. In case of similar acquisition viz as long as enough and as good is left for others.
* Voluntary transfer: It applies to all property whether acquired through initial acquisition or by using one’s labour in the natural world, if I use others labour and pay them as per market rates, I become owner of the product of their labour. This must be based on voluntary, contract, without force or fraud. In all such transactions, an individual shall be treated as end-in-itself and not as a means to others’ end. This is similar to moral principle enunciated by Kant. Hence a contract through which an individual sells himself or any other individual to slavery will be void.
* Rectification: This is precisely the area where the state or the international community will be justified to intervene in order to restore justice. (EXAMPLE : Kulbhushan Jadav case and ICJ coming in between to rectify.) Nozick concedes that the history of the world abounds with involuntary transfer as well as unjust acquisition of natural resources. As long as economic disparities result from voluntary transfer. Nozick is not bothers. But if some country has gained control power rare natural resources depriving others of their legitimate share. (Britishers in India) Noziclk would step in to register his protest.

Procedural justice and substantive justice

The notion of procedural justice is closely related to the tradition of liberalism. According to this viewpoint, the function of justice is to regulate the mutual relations between individual and groups. Hence, the quest for justice should aim at evolving reasonable rules which should be applied impartially to all the categories. Freedom of contract is the mainstay of procedural justice. It treats the rules of market economy as the model rules of human behavior.

The idea of substitutive justice correspondence to the philosophy of socialism. It holds that test of justice in society consist in ascertaining whether the poor and the underprivileged have adequate opportunity to improve their lot. It demands that the opportunities of self-development should be progressively extended to the underprivileged and disadvantaged sections of the society.