Supreme Court judge Justice N V Ramana on Saturday said that while disagreements about laws and their interpretation may continue, the country’s stability relies on the successful resolution of disputes through the application of a “Constitutional vision of Justice”.
“…law and justice in this country is bound by the Indian Constitution… Over my long professional career, I have realised that while disagreements about the laws and their interpretation might be never ending, the stability of our country relies on the successful resolution of disputes through the application of what can only be described as a ‘Constitutional vision of Justice’ to the same,” Justice Ramana, who is the second senior-most judge of the court, said delivering the keynote address at the 17th Asian Law Institute Conference (ASLI).
This year’s conference is hosted by the National Law University, Delhi and has “Law and Justice in Asia’’ as its theme.
Justice Ramana said, “The Indian Constitution does not have a narrow conception of justice. The Preamble to the Constitution, which reveals the intent and aspirations behind it, gives special emphasis to the concept of Justice in all its forms- social, economic and political. While Article 142 of the Constitution empowers the Supreme Court to do ‘complete justice’, the notion that justice is only the responsibility of the Court is also dispelled by Article 38 of the Indian Constitution which requires the State to establish a social order where ‘justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life’. The Indian Constitution empowers all institutions to do Justice.”
He said that though the Indian Constitution does not define the term “justice” anywhere, “one can obtain a notion of how a word is used from the context in which it is used, as well as the tenor and tone of the text that it is a part”.
Justice Ramana said, “‘Justice’, as a term, is used in multiple parts of the Constitution in different contexts, from the Preamble to different Articles of the Constitution. Apart from the same, the tenor of Parts III and IV of the Indian Constitution which detail the Fundamental Rights of Individuals and Directive Principles of State Policy, allows for a complex, yet rich and varied conception of justice under the Indian Constitution.” He added that the “entire judiciary, from the Supreme Court to other Courts in the country, have been engaged in this exercise of determining the contours and outlines of the Constitutional vision of justice”.
Justice Ramana said the conception of justice under the Constitution keeps evolving and attempts to “keep pace with changes in societal norms and to resolve newly contested issues, such as those related to identity, privacy or even activities over the Internet”.
Recalling the colonial past of many Asia countries, Justice Ramana said, “We must also remember that a foreign legal system was imposed upon us, along with a set of foreign values and norms… [This] imposition dwindled the rich heritage and subdued local customs which had ensured social stability.”
As a consequence, he said, “traditional values and ideals relating to social and community well-being, which were inherent in our way of life, were foregone”. He reminded that “justice always requires a tailormade approach and cannot be one-size-fit-all”.
Justice Ramana pointed out that the “tension between idea of ‘law and justice’, on a practical level, is also brought out by various problems that many of our nations are currently struggling with”.
“For instance, one problem relates to circumstances when decisions are made in order to further one’s own self-interest,” he said. “Corruption eats away at the roots of democracy and democratic institutions… Where corruption becomes the norm, public trust upon institutions is diminished, ultimately sacrificing the ethos of our democracy”.
On the relationship between justice and necessity for a legal framework to further this, Justice Ramana said the world is currently struggling with “this challenge, with respect to the technological advancements being made- from social media and the Internet to automated vehicles”.
Stressing that “this area…requires a lot of work”, Justice Ramana said, “In this context, it is for Courts and academia to provide meaningful justice to protect individuals from cyber threats.”
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