(Study Material for IPS LCE) Socio Economic Development in India: Social Justice in The Indian Context

Important Materials on Socio Economic Development in
India for IPS LCE Examination
Social Justice In The Indian Context

Courtesy: Ministry of Information
and Broadcasting publication division

Social Justice in The Indian

The best brains of the world in the field of sociology, law
and jurisprudence have tried to define social justice in their own way. The
result is that the term has come to assume varied interpretations. To Plato,
justice in society was to be attained by ‘a division of labour according to
natural aptitudes’. He held that three qualities are found in individuals in
society viz., wisdom, courage and temperance; and every individual in society
should perform his duties according to his innate quality. Thus Platonic justice
consists in ‘the will to concentrate on one’s own sphere of duty, and not to
meddle with the sphere of others; and its habitation, therefore, is in the heart
of every citizen who does his duty in his appointed place’. If the ‘producers’
of the community attempt to intervene in the affairs of the ‘ruling classes’
(whom Plato calls the Auxiliaries and Guardians of public service), then nothing
but confusion can result which will be an example of injustice in society
(Republic). But how was an individual to find his station or position in
society? The individual was left guessing and usually the accident of his birth
decided his place in society. This problem of determinism makes Plato’s
definition of Justice rather undependable in practice and hence unsatisfactory.

The ancient Hindus also tried to solve the problem of social
justice by-dividing the society into four varnas: Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya
and Sudras based on division of duties and occupations, and like Plato, Manu
said, in general, ‘it is better to discharge one’s own dharma incompletely or
imperfectly (Vigunah) than to perform completely that of another (na parakyanh
Sivanushthitah)’. Later on varna came to be determined by birth and heredity,
and the result was the caste system. The Platonic concept of justice and Hindu
caste system might have created social justice in society where population was
thin and life was simple. It is unsuited to the present day problems. The
concept of justice is dynamic, as society itself is dynamic. What our

forefathers considered just, we might consider unjust. For offences for which
people were hanged in the past, we impose a lenient fine today. Aristotle
justified slavery; Americans fought a war to do away with it. Social justice is
relative, its standards are highly variable with time and place but ‘life
without some principle of Justice has never been lived and is not livable’.

In modern times, man as the measure of all things has come to
occupy the most important position in any concept of social justice in modern
democracies. In democracy, the individual is treated as an end in himself, and
any concept of social justice must be based on this basic principle. Social
Justice means that every individual is given full opportunities to develop his
capacities and this opportunity is given to maximum number of persons in
society. The creation of social justice means the creation of an environment in
which every individual has got unreserved and unhindered opportunity for
physical and intellectual development. In removing disabilities arising from
caste, sex, race, colour, creed, religion or nationality, and providing
opportunities in a positive way with a view to developing individual faculties
lies the essence of social justice.

Social Justice in India

To begin with, let us turn to the Preamble of the Indian
constitution which stands for ‘Justice, social, economic and political’. The
constitution framers wanted social justice in a comprehensive sense. Let us
analyse the implications of economic, political and social justice in the
context of India.

Economic Aspects

In the constitution the basic objectives of justice were set
forth as “The Directive Principles of State Policy’ which stated that ‘The state
shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting, as
effectively as it may, a social order in which justice, social, economic and
political, shall inform all the institutions of national life.’
Further that:–

‘The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards

(a) That the citizens, men and women equally, have the right
to an adequate means of livelihood
(b) That the ownership and control of the material resources of the community
are so distributed as best to serve the common good;
(c) That the operation of the economic system does not result in the
concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.’

Thus the concept of social justice on the economic side
demands a guarantee of:

  • Work to every able bodied citizen.

  • Satisfaction of basic needs of every individual and

  • Provision of equal opportunity to every citizen to
    develop his potential.

The disparities in income should not be such as to create an
unbridgeable gulf between the rich and the poor leading to conflicts and unrest.
To achieve economic Justice, the government in India has adopted a socialist
pattern of society as its goal, and it is practicing planned development of the
economy of the country. The basic premise in India’s Five Year Plans is that,
through democracy and widespread public participation, development along
socialist lines will secure rapid economic growth and expansion of employment,
reduction of disparities in income and wealth, prevention of concentration of
economic power, and creation of the values and attitudes of a free and equal
society. However, in spite of years of planning, even the minimum economic
requirements of social justice have not been achieved in India. Millions of able
bodied citizens are unemployed, millions are living in miserable conditions,
suffering hunger and semi-starvation; the gulf between the rich and the poor is
widening. Prices are rising higher and higher, and a large percentage of the
population finds it difficult to make ends meet.

Political Aspect

In the field of politics, justice means: equality before law,
enjoyment of civil liberties and equality of opportunity. One may emphasize here
the following in particular:
(1) The state should not distinguish between citizen and citizen on the basis of
sex, creed, colour, caste, or religion.
(2) The state should not give any preferential treatment on the basis of
(3) Rule of law with independent and impartial judiciary as a protector of
fundamental rights should be guaranteed.
(4) Basic freedoms like freedom of speech, expression, criticism, freedom to
hold meetings and organize parties, freedom of the press etc.; should be

Freedom is the corner stone of any concept of justice. Closed
societies, which deny freedom to individuals, also deny social justice. The
concept of social justice prevails in real democracies or open societies because
they treat man as an end and provide him freedom to develop his personality. No
doubt we have all the ingredients of social justice in its political aspect, but
many find the wide powers of the executive, e.g. Emergency Proclamation a threat
to freedom. Further, the Preventive Detention Act is the greatest danger to
individual liberty in India.

Social Aspects

Every individual in society should feel that he/she is an
important and useful member, that he/she has full opportunities to develop
his/her faculties, that there are no disabilities attached by birth, and that
he/she is not subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex, colour, creed,
caste or religion. Unfortunately in India there are sections of society which
are denied social justice either on the basis of sex, or birth or religion.
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been suffering great social
injustices and disabilities by birth. They are condemned to a position of
inferiority and subordination to the higher castes. Our social heritage is
partly responsible for this unfortunate phenomenon, but it is also our fault
that we have not changed with the changing times. Caste system continues to be
oppressively hierarchical in many parts of the country, despite constitutional
safeguards and laws against it.

Another important section of society which has suffered a
great deal of social injustice in India is women. This again is both due to our
social traditions and due to our resistance to change. It is heartening to note,
however, that the conscience of India has already awakened to this aspect of
social injustice and it is on the way out gradually.
Another hindrance in the way of achieving social justice in India is the wrong
interpretation of fate and Karma. People think that their position in society is
pre-determined by their past actions. If they are poor or treated badly by
society , they blame it on their past sins and bad actions rather than fighting
injustice and making efforts to improve their lot. This attitude needs to be
changed in order to create a proper climate and atmosphere for achieving social

To sum up, if we want to ensure social justice in the country
in its totality, that is on the economic, political as well as social fronts,
the government and the society at large would need to work together. Economic
planning, industrialization, urbanization, just distribution of economic
benefits and rewards, state legislation on social matters etc. will only
partially solve the problem of social justice. These remedies by themselves
cannot guarantee ‘the highest possible development of persons’ which is-the goal
of social justice. Change in social values, social attitudes and social
institutions is fundamental for achieving social justice. If people continue to
remain under the influence of old traditions and beliefs, no amount of equitable
distribution of resources will be successful in creating a right atmosphere for
social justice. The basic thing is education. Change should begin within.
Education should create a spirit of enquiry in the minds of the people. It
should create a power of questioning the validity of social traditions and
social institutions. Education should encourage inquisitiveness expressing
itself in such questions ‘why should this social value be observed?’ In this way
a climate will be created in which we can achieve social justice. We need
education that does not blindly pass on traditional beliefs, but one that views
it critically and selects from it, rejecting that which is obviously retrograde.
A scientific system of education which creates healthy skepticism in the minds
of the people, and which gives pride of place to ‘reason’ and rational thinking
is the only road to salvation.


Education is an index of harmonious development. It becomes
more important to persons with disabilities for their development and for
enjoying life as independently as possible. There may be differences in
individual ability but each individual contributes to society. Education as a
tool empowers the individual to contribute positively in the process of
development of society and nation. Therefore, it is a social responsibility to
ensure full development of all types of individuals in order to ensure efficient
use of their abilities. Disabled children are often excluded from education as a
result of society’s lack of knowledge about impairments in general, and the
negative attitudes and stigma attached to them. Social prejudices assume that
children with learning, speech, physical, cognitive, or sensory impairments are
unable to participate in education. The purpose of education is to enable a
child to learn, develop their innate capabilities fully and participate
meaningfully in the progress of society. Education plays a critical role in
promoting children’s development and in preparing them for adult life as active
participants in the local community and society, more so for a child who is
differently abled.
Persons with disabilities have a right to lead lives of dignity and
self-respect. They can enjoy their rights only if they get adequate opportunity
to pursue their education in a wholesome way that leads to the realization of
their self worth and ability, and their acceptance and respect by society. For
this goal to be realized, it is essential that their education is not imparted
in an atmosphere of exclusion – rather, a wholesome, inclusive education is the
only means for achieving such an end.

Inclusive education is where children with special needs are
educated along with other children. This is based on the philosophy that all
children can learn at some level according to their own individual pattern of
development. It encourages children to accept, appreciate and respect
differences in ability. An inclusive education system is committed to meet the
needs of all children. It seeks to fit the education system to the child’s
needs. Schools must change in order to accommodate student diversity, so that
there is no need to segregate some because they might have different needs or
abilities. Inclusive education is an approach that seeks to meet the learning
and schooling needs of everyone. The inclusion of children with special needs in
mainstream society is a matter of social justice and an essential investment in
the future of society. It is an integral element of the expression and
realization of universal human rights. Following are the some International and
National initiatives to promote inclusive education, without which goal of
universalization of elementary education or education for all cannot be

International Conventions regarding education of children
with special needs

• The right to education has been recognized in several
international instruments. The concept of human rights for disabled persons
began to become more accepted internationally in the 1970s. Article 26 of the
Universal Declaration of the Human Rights (1948) states that ‘education shall be
directed to the full development of the human personality and to the
strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedom. It shall
promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, social or
religious groups and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the
maintenance of peace. The following are some declarations in this regard:
• The Declaration of the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons, (1971)
• The Declaration of the Rights of the Disabled Persons (1975)
• Warnock Committee Report (1978)
• IYDP- National Draft Plan for Education of Handicapped (1981)
• World programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons(1982)
• Decade for Disabled Persons (1983-1992)
• The Asian & Pacific Decade of the Disabled (1993-2002)
• UN Convention on The Rights Of The Child (1989)
• The Jomtien World Declaration on Education for All (1990)
• UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with
Disabilities (1993)
• The Vienna Declaration (1993)
• Salamanca Statement and Frame work For Action (1994)
• Biwako Millennium Framework for Action (2002)
• World Education Forum (Dakar, 2000)
• Beijing Declaration of the Rights of People with Disabilities (2000)
• International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(2006)
Together, these documents recognize that inclusive education is a human right of
every child.

National Instruments to ensure education of children with
special needs

Following Articles of the Indian Constitution, reflect the
commitment to provide education to all, including children with special needs.

Article 15 The state shall not discriminate against any
citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
Article 21A provides for free and compulsory education to children in the 6-14
age groups as a Fundamental Right in the Constitution of India. Consequent to
this insertion the existing Art 45 in the Directive Principles was replaced and
made applicable to children in the 0-6 age group.
Article 29(2) Provides that no citizen shall be denied admission into any
Educational Institution maintained by the state.
Article 41 the state shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and
development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to
education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness
and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved wants.
Article 45- Directs the state to provide free and compulsory education for all
the children until they attain age of 14 years.
Article 46- shall promote with special care the educational and economic
interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the
Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

Our constitutional commitments have been reflected through
various commissions of education appointed at different points of time.

1. Indian Education Commission (1964-66)
2. National Policy for Children (1974)
3. National Policy on Education (NPE) (1986)
4. Behr-ul-Islam Committee (1987)
5. Ramamurthy Committee (1991)
6. Program of Action (POA) (1992)
7. Following are the legislations in this regard
8. Rehabilitation Council of India Act (RCI -1992)
9. Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights & Full
Participation) Act (1995)
10. National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy,
Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities (1999)
11. National Curriculum Framework (NCF-2005)
12. Action Plan for Inclusive Education of Children and Youth with Disabilities
( 2005)
13. National policies on Disabilities (2006)

Schemes Run by Government of India:

1. Integrated Education of Disabled Children (IEDC-1974)
2. Project Integrated Education for the Disabled (PIED- 1987)
3. District Primary Education Programme (DPEP-1994)
4. National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC-1997) Scheme
of Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP)
5. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education For all Campaign)(2000-2001)
National Institutes for Disabled Persons in India: Government of India- has set
up the following national institutes to provide comprehensive services to
children with special needs
1. National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun.
2. National Institute for Orthopedically Handicapped (NIOH), Calcutta.
3. National Institute for Rehabilitation Training and Research (NIRTAR), Olatur,
4. Pandit deen Dayal Upadhyay National Institute for the Physically Handicapped
(IPH) New Delhi.
5. Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped (AYJNIHH),
6. National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped (NIMH), Secunderabad.
7. National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities.

Though several international and national initiatives have already been taken
but we are still very far from achieving the goal of “education for all” . The
attainment of this goal cannot be considered complete till we are able to
provide an inclusive education to the disabled.


Justice is concerned mainly with allocation of benefits,
goods and services as well as burden among the members of society, particularly
in scarce situation. Therefore, the term social justice, implies a reordering of
social life in such a manner that the material and moral benefits of social
effort are not cornered by a tiny privileged class but accrue to the masses to
ensure the uplift of the lower, weaker and underprivileged sections. This
involves a logical synthesis of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Our constitution elaborately deals with such process under Part IV i.e.
Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP). The DPSP strengthen and promote the
concept of social justice by seeking to lay down some socio-economic goals which
the various governments in India have to strive to achieve. But Article 37 makes
DPSP non-enforceable by court of law. However, our judiciary has left no stone
unturned to enforce DPSP and invented new ways, wherever needed, to enforce it.
Wherever the Executive failed in enforcing DPSP, the Judiciary stepped in. The
advent of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) jurisdiction under Article 32 coupled
with liberal interpretation of various Articles like Art. 14,19,21,32 and 226
etc. has ushered in a new era in modern India, where Judiciary is not only seen
as guardian of the Constitution but also as guardian of poor and marginalized
sections of society.

In Consumer Education & Research Centre v. Union of India AIR
1995, Honorable Supreme Court elaborated on the theme of social justice
envisioned in the Preamble to the Constitution and Part IV. The Court held that
social justice is the arch of the Constitution which ensures life to be
meaningful and liveable with human dignity. Social justice is a dynamic device
to mitigate the suffering of poor, weak, dalits, and tribals and the deprived
sections of the society and to elevate them to the level of equality to live a
life of dignity. The aim of social justice is to attain substantial degree of
social, economic and political equality.
The impact of the liberal approach on Fundamental Rights has been remarkable for
social justice over a period of time. This is demonstrated in many ways. One,
the Supreme Court has given an extended meaning to Art.142 (power to do complete
justice) giving an extension to its own powers to give relief. Two, Supreme
Court has been expanding the horizons of Art.12 (meaning of ‘state’) primarily
to inject respect for human rights and social conscience in India’s corporate
structure. Third, the idea that “Fundamental Rights are but a means to achieve
the goals indicated in the Directive Principles” and must be construed in the
light of the same has been advocated by the Supreme Court time and again. The
biggest beneficiary of this approach has been Art. 21. By reading Art. 21 with
the DPSP, the Supreme Court has derived therefrom a bundle of rights. To name a
few of these:

• The right to live with human dignity. (Bandhua Mukti Morcha
v. Union of India AIR 1984)
• Right to free legal aid. (M.H Hoskot v. State of Maharashtra AIR 1978)
1. Right to life includes the right to enjoy pollution free water and air and
environment (Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar AIR1991)
2. Right to health and social justice has been held to fundamental right of
workers. This right has been derived from Art. 21 read with Art 39(e), 41, 43
and 48A. (Consumer Education v. Union of India AIR1995).
3. Right to Shelter included in Right to life. (Chameli singh v. State of UP AIR
4. Right to Education. Derived from Art. 21 read with Art. 41 & 45 (Unnikrishnan
v. State of A.P AIR 1993)
5. Right to life includes “right to livelihood”. The Supreme Court has taken
recourse to Art. 39(a) to interpret Art. 21 to include this right. (Olga Tellis
v. Bombay Municipal Corporation)
6. Right to access roads for hilly areas. (State of Himachal Pradesh v. Umed Ram
AIR 1986)
These are a few examples of various rights intricately connected with the
mandate of social justice, which our Judiciary has evolved and invoked. In
brief, read with various Directive Principles, Art. 21 has emerged as a
multi-dimensional Fundamental Right. Art. 14 and Art. 39(d), read together, have
led to the emergence of the principle of equal pay for equal work.
Further, the DPSP are now regarded as a dependable index of ‘public purpose’ by
our judiciary. If a law is enacted to implement the socio-economic policy
envisaged in the DPSP, then it must be regarded as one for public purpose. Thus,
the Wealth Tax Act was held to be valid by Supreme Court to prevent
concentration of wealth in a few hands. Likewise, acquisition of agricultural
land above the ceiling and its distribution among the landless has been held to
be valid. Similarly, Supreme Court recognized the difference between the formal
and substantive equality and upheld, in various cases, affirmative actions taken
by governments for Backward Classes.

In recent decisions of Supreme Court, one can find extensive
reference to Human rights. “Today, human rights jurisprudence in India has
Constitutional status”, says Krishna Iyer, J., in Sunil Batra (no. 2) v. Delhi
Administration, AIR 980 SC 1579. In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration AIR
1982 SC149, Krishna Iyer, J., said that in interpreting constitutional and
statutory provisions the Court should not forget the core principle found in
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. This is a welcome trend. This
approach will go a long way in inculcating a sense of accountability in public
authorities discharging public duties towards the people and particularly
towards the weaker sections of society. In this way, our Judiciary has played a
key role in enforcing social justice and made our legal system more accessible
and responsive to the diverse needs of various sections of society.

Courtesy: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting publication division

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