Ms. Debolina Saha,
4th Year student, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, (WBNUJS)
Gandhi, a pious, man who identified with and won the hearts of India’s most marginalized people was not only instrumental in the Indian Independence movement but was also helpful in pursuing a life-long fight against modern forms of enslavement and caste oppression, religious hatred, gender oppression, and, many other forms of violence, and poverty.
Gandhi’s --- this pursuit for justice won him acclamation not only in India but all throughout the world. Gandhi’s search for justice was a long born desire and as an idealistic, truthful, lawyer his foremost purpose was to strive towards excellence in providing justice to the deprived and less fortunates around him and it was this constant search for truth that saw him sailing to England, in Sept 4, 1888 for the study of law In India though he started practice of law at Rajkot and Bombay, yet his major breakthrough in the path of achieving justice came when he left for South Africa, as a legal consultant, wherein experiences in racial discrimination dawned on him the idea to fight against racial prejudices in South Africa. What happened thereafter went down in the pages of history and illustrated to the world how with unfading zeal and vigor the Mahatma continued his struggle to achieve justice in all spheres of social, political and economic development. A strong believer of the fact that justice does not mean revenge, it means transforming the opponent through love and suffering Gandhi, a man ahead of his times, well understood, that long-term justice can only be built on conversion, never on coercion and justice can most quickly be won, by rendering justice to the other party.
Interestingly the Mahatma laid more emphasis on one’s conscience than in the courts of justice. He says: There is a higher court than the court of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts. Thus from the above it is clear that for Gandhi justice was not limited to the favourable decrees of the courts, it meant the achievement of higher goals----goals which had been laid time and again by prophets and now formed the goals of the human conscience and various religions.
Further Gandhi laid as much emphasis on ends as well as means and clearly understood that there exists a relation between the ends and means. It was to give shape to this belief that Gandhi, time and again emphasized that methods to achieve justice should also be just and fair as far as possible. He was a staunch supporter of non-violence and raised his voice against the practice of untouchability and advocated the philosophy of ‘simple living and high thinking’. Ends to him were important but means to achieve such ends were no less important.
Again to him, it was very important, that the fruits of justice be made available to all and not just a selected few, and it was this belief that led Gandhi, to emphasize on a ‘bottom-up’ approach to administration and need for the constitution of a Panchayati Raj, system. He was someone who believed in a wholesome approach towards justice and therefore taught the Indians to achieve justice not only in the political but also in the social and economic field. Time and again the Mahatma emphasized on the fact that ‘justice will come when it is deserved by our being and feeling strong’ and justice in no way helps ‘those who slumber but helps only those who are vigilant’ Further, he was also of the opinion that, ‘peace will not come out of a clash of arms but out of justice lived and done by unarmed nations in the face of odds.’ Perhaps here lies the reason, for the Mahatma’s rigorous belief that non-violence is the only way, by which attainment of justice in the true sense can be achieved. Gandhi was never in favor of the adversarial form of litigation. This was so because in such form of litigation, (as he rightly pointed out) one of the parties always stood to gain everything while the other stood at the risk of losing everything.
The Mahatma, was of the view that truth need not rest in favor of a single party only, truth may equally rest between both the parties and hence in such a situation the best way of achieving justice would be by the method of arbitration. Hence he said, ‘The true practice of law is to unite parties riven as under’ and ‘always warned his village workers not to get involved in village disputes’. It is interesting to note, that the framers of our Constitution well realized the significance of Gandhi’s philosophy of justice and made it the founding stone of our Constitution. The principles of equality, denouncing of untouchability, fundamental duties, directive principles and introduction of Panchayati Raj, in the Constitution by the 73rd Amendment, all outline Gandhi’s concept of justice and means to achieve such justice.
Gandhi’s faith in the Supreme Court of India seemed invincible and he knew from his experience that the apex court of India was the least forum of justice and truth. This is clearly reflected in the following lines wherein he says: “Naturally the Supreme Court will be the guardian of the rights that may be considered to be common to all of us.” Gandhi’s concept of justice was strange in its own way, though he did not believe in lawyers yet his belief in the Supreme Court was tremendous. He was of the opinion that, lawyers will, as a rule, advance quarrels instead of repressing them and more over men take up that profession not in order to help others out of miseries, but to enrich themselves.
A study of his life will reveal that Gandhi’s concept of justice though bound by religious philosophy exhibited a new concept of justice suitable to the political needs of the society then, for he used law as a tool of reform, and social change. What is, however amazingly appealing about Gandhi’s concept of justice is that he showed how law and truth can go hand in hand, and that one may not be forsaken for the other, in spite of the fact that Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence was not truth oriented as such.
Gandhi was the soul of India, during freedom struggle and even after. His concept of justice imbibes the philosophy that a true lawyer must always place truth and service in the first place and the emoluments of the profession in the next place. In other words what Gandhi stated was that judges should be votaries of truth and lead plain unostentatious living with high thinking. It is imperative that today, when violence, dishonesty and selfishness seems to have become the order of the day, Gandhi’s concept of justice based on love and forgiveness, be given unprecedented importance so that it motivates lawyers to take the legal profession to greater heights of morality and service. Here lies the importance of Gandhi’s concept of Justice, for any profession bereft of moral values, can only lead to darkness and never to light.
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