Jurisprudence

Purpose of Law – Concept of Justice

According to jurists like Prof. Sidgwick, the best indicator of a nation’s political success is to see how it administers justice. Certain jurists also inculcate the concept of justice in their definitions of law itself. One of the most important functions of states is to ensure justice to their citizens. Every state must always possess the capability to administer justice according to its legal system. Even in ancient states, one of the primary duties of rulers was to guarantee justice to their subjects.

Concept of Justice

Meaning and Concept of Justice

In the most common terms, justice is an ideal representing something that is just and right. It basically means being just, impartial, fair and right. What is just may depend on the context, but its requirement is essential to the idea of justice.

For example, the natural law school of jurisprudence believes that justice means the implementation of religious laws. On the other hand, modern jurisprudence says justice means the implementation of concepts like equality and liberty. However, in both these examples, justice just means enforcement of what the law perceives to be right.

In the modern context, justice basically means the recognition and implementation of laws made by legislatures. Furthermore, in the modern context, unlike ancient states, this function lies largely on judicial organs.

According to Salmond, laws are the bodies of principles that tribunals recognize and apply while administering justice. Even Roscoe Pound defines laws to mean principles that public tribunals recognize and enforce.

Therefore, justice generally means the recognition, application and enforcement of laws by courts. This is different from the understanding of justice in the ancient period when it was given a religious and moralistic meaning.

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Kinds of Justice

The concept of justice and its administration can be of the following types:

1) Public justice and Private justice

Public justice is basically that kind of justice which the state administers through its tribunals and courts. It explains the relationship between courts and citizens of a state. Courts usually enforce laws that the states make under public justice.

On the other hand, private justice regulates the legal relationship between individuals. It is limited to people enforcing concepts of justice amongst each other without approaching courts.

For example, let’s imagine that A and B entered into a business transaction in which A paid money to B as promised. B, instead of selling goods to A for the money, refused to fulfill his obligation. If A and B decide to settle their dispute through means of arbitration or negotiation, it is private justice. However, if A approaches a court and sues B, we refer to that as public justice.

2) Civil justice and Criminal justice

In terms of the subject matters of justice, we can categorize it as civil and criminal. Civil justice generally refers to private wrongs that affect specific people or entities.

For example, breach of a contract between two parties will affect only one of them. Trespassing of property is another example. The remedy of such civil wrongs is generally to approach civil courts.

Criminal justice, on the other hand, affects society in general even if specific people are victims. For example, the murder affects specific victims only but the law treats it as a crime against society.

Another feature of criminal justice is that it relates to laws made by a legislature. Only acts that are defined as crimes can be the subject matter of criminal justice.

Solved Questions on Concept of Justice

(a) Justice means the idea of what is right and __________.

(b) Arbitration is an example of __________ justice, while suits are examples of __________ justice.

(c) The law generally treats offences like murder as crimes against the __________.

Answers:          (a) just          (b) private, public          (c) society

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