Macchars don’t wear sweaters


Posted on: November 2, 2010

It is not easy to agree with either side on the recent Ayodhya verdict, even if you start with the simple intent of siding with fairness, and none of the power and political agendas of those involved. It ultimately raises the question of the nature of Justice. Or quite simply, the right thing to do.

Were the judges right to divide the land equally, and avert the possible violence that may have erupted in case of a verdict favoring one side, and possibly saved lives? For what is more precious than a human life?

Is Justice a utilitarian principle, where the end is the greatest good of the greatest number of people?

But what of the man whose rights have been abused. Doesn’t Justice demand they be restored to him, against the entire world. Would one like to live in a system where ones rights are set aside for the majority?

Does Justice relate to some core rights of every human, that must be upheld at all costs? What are these core rights? Is injustice against a single person justified, for the sake of the rest? It reminds me of a tale i once read, where the prosperity of an entire society was dependent on eternal torment of a single individual. One can almost intuitively tell that this situation is inherently one of injustice.

Maybe we all have an intuitive sense of Justice. It certainly feels that way. Justice feels like a transcendent concept that we discover, rather than invent.  Chomsky once remarked that the concept of Justice may be embedded human nature, and is a concrete, universal concept with some objectivity. I am somehow inclined to believe that the definition of Justice is to be found in the vision of how man wishes to create and define himself.

Not an easy question at all. No wonder so much has been written about it.


6 Responses to "Justice"

Much food for thought here. Deeply written.

Very, very well-written, Pankaj. In my own opinion, I dont think justice shud be viewed as the purveyor of any kind of utilitarian philosophy (the whole “Arbeit macht frei” viewpoint creeped me out so much that I dont think I can ever think of utilitarianism without a chill running down my spine).

This is a rather complex issue and I honestly dont think such an oversimplified court decision resolves it adequately. And one cant help but agree with the snarkiness of this sms people sent out after the verdict. “In India, the courts say, if I demolish your house, twenty years later, they will award me two-thirds of it.”


I think we need to distinguish between law and justice. Latter tends to be lot more subjective. Whereas, former though it is attempted that be objective, cannot escape a margin of being open to interpretation.

I also, do not believe that the decision was passed to avert any kind of violence. That would be oversimplification. We really have no basis to claim that ‘this and this judgement would have resulted in violence’, because in India violence has erupted under disparate conditions. It has erupted when Muslims were aggrieved, it has erupted when Hindus were aggrieved.

One of the elements that had influenced the decision was precedents set. I don’t know if that is a good thing. But perhaps, practice of law gives importance to consistency.

The utilitarian principle you referred to, I don’t know if it also involves the concept of ‘adverse possession’. If it does, I think application of that principle is indeed one of the practical things to do.

Because when you are exhausted searching for all answers, you’ll end up with one most fundamental question – how is it that someone ends up ‘owning’ something. And then perhaps we’ll understand why this issue was inherently so complex. 🙂

But one really good thing you did was, you made me think what ‘justice’ could mean. The definition is quite elusive. 😦

You have defined it very well.

I was also left wondering about the temporal aspects. How far back can restitution of violated rights go? S’ppose archaelogical findings discover an even older claim to the land…

Something like Israel’s claim of 2000 years ago versus the immediacy of the claims of Palestinians in ’48

Bland Spice,

The entire issue is not just restricted to the the datedness of the claim, it also has got something to do with the continuity of that claim. Had the staking of claim for the temple happened only recently, then the issue would have been different and Hindus would have lost the suit. But ‘use’ is seen as a means of staking claim, which (by offering worship) has been pretty continuous by the Hindus right since 1528. Of course, this my rudimentary understanding of the judgement passed. Am no expert at law.

The blog post didn’t really deal with the specifics of the court decision at all :). I was just lead to think about Justice in general.

Anshuman, the temporal aspects of the Law at least seems reasonable (not the current judgement). If you have had unchallenged possession for long enough, you own the place. You cannot be tried for something your forefathers did. If enough time has passed, things should remain as they are.

Ketan, as TUIB says, the judgement clearly has an element of appeasement, and is not strictly according to legal principles. The Hindus have may have continuously staked claim on the site right from 1500s, but to “stake a claim” in legal terms is to approach a court of law. The earliest a claim was staked was late 1800s when the Hindus lost. The court literally took upon itself to resolve a 500 year old dispute. It certainly is a very odd precedent.

Law and justice are different. Justice is supposedly the basis of law. But obviously that is not the case. Law is clearly about also about negotiation of powers, and practical governance. Also law is often not enough to resolve disputes, and it is in these huge gray spaces between laws that the question of justice arises, since rights of people are involved. That is the reason why higher courts have more discretion, so that justice may be served.

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