Law and Justice

By | September 17, 2019
Law and Justice

The relation between Law and Justice is quite intimate and complex. ‘Justice’ is a term which is capable of multiple interpretations and definitions. This article aims to analyse the correlation between Law and Justice.

It has always been recognized that the purpose of the law is to ensure the effective administration of justice. Several jurists have opined that a legal system may be tested on the basis of how effectively it has administered ‘justice’ as defined by its laws. In fact, jurists like Salmond and Roscoe Pound have defined law in terms of justice.

According to Salmond, “Law may be defined as the body of principles recognized and applied by the State in administration of justice.” Roscoe Pound states, “Law is the body of principles recognized or enforced by public and regular tribunals in the administration of justice.”


Being one of the central points of study in jurisprudence, several jurists and thinkers have come up with their own ideas of justice. According to Friedmann, the ideals of justice are formulated by all those thinkers who reject the natural philosophy. Kelsen has attempted to reduce the various theories of justice into two types- rationalistic and meta-physical. Rationalistic theories define ‘justice’ scientifically or quasi-scientifically. The definition provided by the meta-physical theories, on the other hand, can be said to be pseudo-scientific. Aristotle’s views on justice may be said to be rationalistic whereas those of Plato may be said to be metaphysical. Different kinds of justice may be briefly summarized as follows:

  1. Natural Justice- Natural justice implies to the ends of natural law. The purpose of natural law is to ensure that the natural rights, inherent in all individuals, remain protected. When the said purpose is achieved, it can be said that there is natural justice in society. According to Sarkaria, J., “Rules of natural justice are not embodied rules. Being a means to an end and not an end in themselves, it is not possible to make an exhaustive catalogue of such rules.”[1]
  2. Economic Justice- Economic justice refers to the effective realization of the economic rights of an individual. It is argued that, in order to effectively administer all the other kinds of justice, economic justice has to be necessarily ensured.
  3. Political Justice- In a State where all the individuals have an equal right to participate in the nation’s political process, political justice can be said to prevail.
  4. Social Justice- With the emergence and growing popularity of the idea of the welfare state, the idea of social justice has occupied a central position amongst the various kinds of justice. In order to ensure social justice, a State must ensure that an individual, as a member of any social group, is not subjected to any kind of discrimination or unfair treatment.
  5. Legal Justice- Legal Justice refers to the ideal of justice that a legal system seeks to achieve through the enactment of various laws and legal rules. Justice must be backed by law. When Justice is administered within the boundaries set by law, the kind of justice administered is known as legal justice. This kind of justice is administered by the courts of law. It is also known as ‘Justice according to Law’. A detailed discussion of the meaning of the concept shall help us understand the interrelation between law and justice.

Justice according to Law

In contemporary times, what is being administered by the State through its judicial system is not ‘justice’ but ‘justice according to law’. The doctrine of separation of powers mandates the judiciary to ‘administer’ the law of the land. If any legislation is found to be defective, it cannot assume legislative functions. At most, it can issue guidelines to aid the legislature. For instance, a murderer may have willfully confessed his crime in front of a police officer but may not have been able to do so before a magistrate. In such a situation, even though convicting him on the basis of the confession may have ensured justice, it shall not be recognized by the court for it is against the ‘law of the land’.

Thus, justice ‘according to law’ shall be ensured by the Court. It is the duty of the people to demand change in the law from the legislators. However, so long as the statute remains unaltered, the courts have to act according to it. Law is blind and, as a result, justice may also become blind.


The relation between law and justice is quite intimate and complex. ‘Justice’ is a term which is capable of multiple interpretations and definitions. It is incapable of being confined within a definite scope. Thus, a legal system shall only administer ‘justice’ according to its own understanding of the term.

In conclusion, it can be stated that ‘justice according to law’, and not ‘justice’, is the end goal of law.


  1. V. D. Mahajan, ‘Jurisprudence and Legal Theory’, Fifth Edition, Eastern Book Company.
  2. W. Friedmann, ‘Legal Theory’, Fifth Edition, Sweet & Maxwell (South Asian Edition).

[1] Swadeshi Cotton Mills v. Union of India, AIR 1981 SC 818.

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