Praveen Kumar Policing The Police > Social Justice | Social Justice | Violence


Professor B.Kuppuswamy in his book “ Social Change in India” apropos of ‘ Paradox of the Indian Situation Today’ writes, “ On the one hand there is a conscious, deliberate effort to change the social structure as a result of the assimilation of new social values. Because of the struggle for political freedom and the desire for economic reconstruction, new social justice and equality of opportunity. On the other hand, there is the fear that the old social values are being repudiated and destroyed by the values of social justice and equality, which pose a challenge to the past privileges based on caste, aristocracy, age, sex etc. The farm labourer, the factory worker, the student, and women are repudiating the authority which denied them social justice and equity”. This perennial conflict between privileged and non-privileged, of reactionaries and revolutionaries is the mark of a zoetic society. The clash of interests and values steeped in an instinct for survival is the hall-mark of social change. It is here the state comes into the picture as the arbiter elegantium, as a beacon to guide both the pace and path of social change through public education and legislation. The social awakening which is possible through public education is sine qua non for social change which can only be formalised through legislation as a statutorily accepted social value to make its violation a criminal act. A good piece of legislation backed by effective enforcement works as catalytic agent in the process of social change.


Peter Worsley in ‘ The Third World’ writes “ In those countries which fail to achieve the take-off and relapse into the hungry frustrations of stagnation or regression, all kinds of conflict from anarchic protest to regional schism or even revolution could flourish. communist

A revolutionary leadership could easily replace those lost their social reforming zeal”. The state can be Social

nationalist parties which have

impervious to the ascensive zeal for social reform only at its own peril.

inequality and social injustice as starting points of a vicious circle wherein they are perpetuated cannot be the situation a welfare state seeks to protect from the dynamics of positive change which as a natural force of unending frustration expresses by peaceful means in principo and by violence as dernier ressort if the state errs by protecting the vested interests of inequality and injustice and fails to discharge its responsibilities towards positive social change.


The veteran journalist Shri.D.R.Mankelkar in his book titled “ A Revolution of Rising Frustrations” beautifully analyses the situation of ascensive social awakening in India. “ The fact is that the worm is at last turning, falsifying the prophets who have averred that the Indian masses are too underfed, too lethargic, and too fatalistic to rebel against their fate and violently wrest from the rulers their elementary human right-the right not only to survive but to improve their lot. “ The new awakening roused the esurient expectations of the long-repressed and infested segments of the gens de peu and fomented their neoteric hopes of being extricated from age- old repression. The

government of democratic India responded favourable to the aspirations of the infaust segments of its populace, non obstante the not-so-inopinate resistance from the privileged lobbies, by enacting legislations with the potential for far-reaching changes towards establishing social isonomy and justice. However , the zest in enacting the legislations is not amated by the political will to enforce them, though some isolated attempts were made here and there. Experience in the field dictates that some thought should go to the modalities of the social legislation and their enforcement to make the whole

process genuinely effective as a vehicle for faster growth towards social equality and social justice.


As French thinker Auguste Compte noted, a nouveau regime can emerge only if man assumes responsibility for his actions and makes his own society. The changes in social institutions do not occur by themselves, but by a positive moral desire and commitment in that direction. This active aspect of social change manifests in

intellectual assertions for deliberate social legislations and their effective enforcement. The theory of “ Challenge and response” as expounded by the great British historian Arold Toynbee, points out that a society can grow if it can constructively respond to challenges. The challenges are often social and internal and every civilisation as a facet of the society can learn from the failings of quondam civilisations. Active responses to the extant gauntlets of social equality and social justice against the background of

nonfeasance should be the foundation on which social legislation and its enforcement mechanism should be broadly based.


Social justice is imprimis an informal social process rather than a formal legal procedure. It is the moral standard of a society to which its laws and actions conform. The injustices and legal disabilities against certain sections of the society enshrined in many rules of Indian society in bygone days are now a matter of the past. It is only now that the need of liberty, equality, security, freedom from want, fear and frustration as parameters of social justice are realised. Social justice ex consequenti demands preferential treatment for the socially backward and repressed classes who are at a disadvantage in respect to others.


Johan Galtung defines “ Structural violence” as “ The dominance of one group over the other with subsequent exploitative practices” in “Peace Thinking”. The pirlicue of this statement implies that preferential treatment by the state to certain segments of the society to superate its dominance by the others becomes at the outset an act of injustice and structural violence by the state. However as Jerome Skolnick preconsied, violence is a louche muticous term whose meaning is established through political process, ipso facto acts of institutional violence are comme il faut if perpetrated by the state in the

larger interests of the society as they fall beyond the ambit of the concept of violence. Frantz Fanon, an African Psychologist in “ The Wretched of the Earth” calls violence intended to restore self-esteem and do away tyranny as ‘ Cleansing Force, Jean-Paul Sartre confirms the idea when in Preface to Fanon’ he says, “ Violence, like Achilles’ lance, can heal the wounds that it has inflicted”, indeed while it is institutional violence in society’s interests.


The Indian Constitution in its preamble preconises social justice and quality of status and opportunity to all the article 14 constates fundamental rights while it

declares that the state shall not deny to any person equality before law, or equal protection of the law. The Article 15 interdicts any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, creed, sex, birth etc. However, the Constitution recognised the inadequacy of legal eqality in meeting the exigencies of social justice when it recognised the necessity of special measures to uplift socially deprived segments and constates in sub-section (4) of Article 15 that the constitutional provisions do not prevent the states from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. This exception in the

constitution to legal isonomy is the cornucopia of most social legislations intended to misprise the crude ancien regime and usher in a dream world of social equality and social justice.


Law is an instrument of both the continuity of social behaviour and of social change. Manu had said, “ Immemorial custom is transcendent law” Social consuetudes metamorphose into social laws in rerum natura and perpetuate social customs. Professor B.Kuppuswamy in his book “ Social Change in India” writes about two functions of the law according to this view is social control and the major problem of law is to design the legal sanctions to minimise deviances and to maintain social stability. According to the other view, law could be more dynamic. It has not only the function of social control but it has also to bring about social change by influencing behavior, beliefs and values”. The social laws of India are devised to bear the kiaugh of the dynamic function of bringing about social change by influencing behavious, beliefs and value in addition to social control. In Indian society where social inequalities more suo, form the bedrock of living for historical reasons and embedded in the Indian psyche as consuetudes and basic social rules more majorum, the awakening and metabasis to new values of social equality and social justice from the deep slumber of a millennium are not easy to come by. Though isolated calls for certain changes are heard mostly from the self-made spokesmen of the oppressed classes because of the influences of liberal western thoughts, the albatross of orchestrating these thoughts to the mosaic of the laws of the land falls on the government. Social laws function as catalysts of social change in the Indian situation.


Most of the important social laws were enacted in India in the face of plangent opposition from reactionaries inveterated in the terra firma of the past practices. The queasy practice of polygamy was made hors la loi and divorce was legalised by the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. The barbarous praxis of untouchability was made punishable by enactment of the Untouchability (Offences) Act in the same year in conformity with Article 17 of the Indian constitution. The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 is a meith in bringing daughters on pariel with sons in a respect of property inheritance. The Hindu adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 straightened the position of women in regard to the right to adopt. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 tried to deliver nubile colleens from the menace of dowry. The Factory Act of 1948 raised the minimum age of workers to 14 years and provided for annual medical examination of minor workers. The Employment Exchange Act of 1959 provided for state help to unemployed citizens to get jobs. The children Act of 1960 provided for special care of children. All these incipient legislations of independent India on social matters were enacted as vindicated by the directive principles of state policy in line with the fundamental rights enunciated in the Indian Constitution. Article 24 of the Constitution sui juris interdicted employment of children below 14 years of age in factories.

British India too saw much of the momentous legilsations conducive to change and social justice. The Sati prohibition Act 1829, the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act of 1856, the Female Infanticide Prevention Act of 1870 , the Special Marriage Act of 1872 providing for civil marriages and inter-caste marriages as amended in 1923, the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 the Payment of Wages Act of 1939 providing for regular

payment of wages, the Industrial Dispute Act of 1929 providing for settlement of disputes, the Trade Union Act of 1926 which legalised trade unions the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1923 providing for compensation to workers for accidents, disablements and death on duty, the Act of 1922 defining a child and preventing a child below 12 years for employment, the Act of 1931 and its 1946 amendment reducing hours to work a week are major keeks to social change via social laws.

The trend to usher social change through new legislations or amendments to old ones is en train even in this neoteric age. The Debt Relief Act of 1976, the Bonded Labour Abolition Act, the Protection of Civil Right Enforcement Act of 1976 and amendments thereon, the 1983 amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act are important instances of such a nisus.


Whenever the enactment of law is consectaneous to a change in social norms, the law as a device these of legal sanction against deviations there-from, succeeds in legalising

neonate social norms. However, the law proves ill-equipped and falls into

desuetude while it seeks to introduce intempestive social norms as a means of social justice for ‘ forced compliance’ as Festinger called it in An Analysis of Compliant Behaviour’. The paradigm is the law regarding dowry and child marriage being not as effective as that pertaining to monogamy for lack of social force behind it.

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