The present crisis in the Indian legal system is due to its complete dependence on colonial jurisprudence. India has inherited, as a hangover of the British rule, the theory and practice of the British legal system which created conflict between old laws and the modern notion of justice. [Justice Krishna Iyer, Law India: Some Contemporary Changes in Law, 1976, p 36]
Law and Society
Law is a social science which is closely linked with society. When human beings associate themselves in various forms of activity they constitute a society. A society cannot remain static but it keeps on changing with economic, scientific and technological developments. Therefore, according to the changing requirements, the law has to adapt itself and keep on evolving.
As Sir David Maxwell Fyte observed –
“The law is not to be compared to a venerable antique to be taken down, dusted, admired and put back on the shelf; rather it is like an old, but still vigorous tree-family rooted in the history but still putting out new shoots taking new grafts and from time to time dropping dead wood. That process has been going on, is going on now and will continue.”
Law and The Indian Constitution
During the British rule in India, development of native law was very slow. In fact, the British rulers were more interested in the perpetuation of their rule than the development of law. But independence of the country heralded a new era. The Indian Constitution came into existence in 1950 which laid down the goals which India had to achieve. It had to bring about socio-economic changes in the country.
The driving force of social change, in the Indian context, is the re-discovery of the goals of our freedom struggle, the realization of our national identity, the reflection on our founding faiths and faithing creeds, the strengthening of our resolves and launching on our future with a flaming spirit, at once authentic, impatient and adventurous. A militant awareness that we are free people with a commitment to social justice still running our affairs on a legal system, self-divided and caught in a spiritual crisis, is the beginning of the mission. The political declaration of independence is our incarnation to a nation. A powerful, planned, comprehensive legal protestintism, radical enough to abandon the spell of five-star prosperity and to wage war on mass poverty and social disability is the demand of the Indian jurist. [VR Krishna Iyer, Law and Social Justice: And Indian Overview, 1978, p. 6]
In the Hindustan Sugar Mills vs. The State of Rajasthan [AIR 1981 SC 1681] the court observed that in a democratic society governed by the rule of law, it is the duty of the State to do what is fair and just to the citizen and the State should not seek to defeat the legitimate claim of the citizen by adopting a legalistic attitude but should do what fairness and justice demand.
In the post-emergency period when the political circumstances had changed, investigative journalism started to uncover shocking scenes of governmental lawlessness, repression, custodial violence, drawing the attention of lawyers, judges, and social activists. PIL rose because of an informal nexus of professional dynamic judges, media persons and social activists.
The era of PIL movement was started by Justice P. N. Bhagawati in the case of S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India [AIR (1982) SC 149], it was held that “any member of the public or social action group acting bona fide” can invoke the Writ Jurisdiction of the High Courts or the Supreme Court looking for remedy against infringement of a legal or constitutional rights of people who because of social or economic or some other incapacity cannot approach the Court. By this judgment PIL turned into a potent weapon for the requirement of “public duties” were executed in action or misdeed resulted in public injury.
Main grounds on which PIL is available are as follows
- Protection of the weaker sections of the society
- Protection of Ecology and Environmental Pollution
- Securing Human Rights and Dignity
- Matters of Public Interest
- Granting of Reliefs
Other significant progress has been made with the inclusion of Legal Aid and Lok Adalats. The main object of Lok Adalats is amicable settlement of disputes between the parties by mutual consent and to ensure speedy disposal of cases with minimum procedural formalities.
The Public Interest Litigation, the legal aid scheme, and the Lok Adalats, all the three together, have brought about a revolutionary change in the Indian legal system. The concept of social justice has been transformed into a reality in Indian society by these institutions.
Author – Mayank Shekhar
- SCC Online
- Avtar Singh, Jurisprudence, Lexis Nexis
- VK Iyer, Law and Social Justice: And Indian Overview, 1978
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