Updated: Aug 29, 2020
Author: Vartika Maurya
Faculty of law University of Allahabad
“People and their religion must be judged by social standards based on social ethics. No other standards would have any meaning if religion is held to be necessary good for the well-being of the people.”
--Dr B R Ambedkar
Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was a great jurist, economist, teacher, educationist, sociologist, politician, anthropologist, author, orator, preacher and above all a social reformer. Ambedkar worked for the Dalit rights, women rights, backward castes, minorities and working class people and struggled all his life for the minimum dignity of all human beings irrespective of castes and class. He mainly inspired the Dalit movement and fought against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalit). He was an architect of Indian Constitution and independent India’s first law and justice minister. In 1990, the Bharat Ratna (India’s highest civilian award) was posthumously conferred upon Dr Ambedkar.
Idea of social justice-
According to Manu Smriti, justice was concerned with the performance of duties. In ancient Indian tradition, there were two approaches ‘Dandniti’ (law and punishment) and ‘Dharma’ (code of duties).
The modern approach to justice can broadly be classified into Liberal and Marxist approach. The Liberal argument is that the individual’s right and liberty are necessary for a just society, while the Marxist approach relies upon equality for a just society. Social justice may be defined as ‘the right of the poor, weak, aged, women, children and other under-privileged persons. The concept of social justice emerged out of a process of evolution of social norms, values, order, law and morality. According to Dias “Justice is not something which can be captured in a formula once or for all, it is a process, complex and shifting balance between many factors.” Justice can be of natural or distributive form. Social justice is the product of social and economic justice.
According to Ambedkar “Justice is based on equality, liberty and fraternity.” It is self- respective and moral situates through social, political and economic justices regulated by the Constitution of India.
Under the ancient Hindu social system –
According to Ambedkar, the root cause of social injustice to the scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribe (STs) is the Caste and Varna ashram system in Hindu society (Varna classified into four types of class based on ancestral occupation - The Brahmin, The Kshatriya, The Vaishya, and The Sudras . The Brahmin enjoyed highest place in society while Sudras were lowest place). The glaring inequalities and dehumanization based on hierarchical caste system with its graded disabilities from birth and humiliating occupation assigned followed till death is the greatest bane of this society. People refused to recognize the basics fundamental right of these people. Sudras were deprived from education and treated as they were only fit for manual labour. The caste system with its differential treatment stood for denial of social justice.
Ambedkar was of the view that “Caste system is an artificial chopping off of the population into a separate box of equal shape and size and prevented from mixing into another group through the custom and rituals of endogamy.” Indian society completely lacks two things –social and economic equality.
Under the British legal system -
When the East India Company came in power they imposed their own system of rule and regulations. Due to many differences on political and geographical front, the effort of East India Company to unified legal system in a codified form to facilitate trade and commerce, remains unsuitable in country. Every community have their own issues with laws. Legal system of England was not result of growth but forcefully imposed on Indians. The English judicial system was based on the ‘rule of law ‘and dictum of this law is “Even ninety nine criminals escape, but not a single innocent should suffer.”
The English law encouraged litigation, delayed justice and it was costly for Indians. Law was uniform but the Indian society was pluralistic in nature, that’s why the whole system was not suited in social,economic and moral conditions of Indian society.
Ambedkar’s notion of social justice-
Dr Ambedkar’s name will be written in golden letters in Indian history as a champion, torch bearer and crusader for the social justice. He was a social reformer, who was fully aware of the problems, pattern and conflicting interest of various sections of society. Ambedkar notion of social justice based on three concepts namely - equality, liberty, fraternity. He stood for a social system in which everyone’s position and status is based on merit and achievements, other than on the basis of religion. He believes in one man one value which means the basic need of each person are well satisfied with freedom and dignity.
He was the supporter of universal adult franchise which means every men and women belongs to any caste, are eligible to give vote to whomever he like. There would be no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, sex, or place of birth.
He proposed the system of reservation for the weaker section of society i.e. Scheduled caste(SCs), Scheduled tribe(STs) and Other backward class(OBCs) to add them with the main stream of society. A fixed percentage of reservation in government and public sector job, government funded private job and also in parliament and other legislative bodies is provided to people under SCs, STs, OBCs categories. Ambedkar in his speech says- “I have completed my work; I wish there should be a sunrise even tomorrow. The new Bharat has got political freedom, but it is yet to raise the sun of social and economic liberty.”
Resting on Ambedkar thought, the Constitution of India guarantees equal right and protection to all, based on social justice.
After the 70 years of independence did India completely realised the dream of Ambedkar , the dream of socio-economic equality ? No because the rights of the backward classes are still exploited in some ways or the other. There is no doubt things are changing slowly. People are realising their rights and duties.