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This article is written by Divya Raisharma, an undergraduate student at Government Law College, Mumbai. This article talks about social justice, the history behind it, the evolution it has gone through, its principles, the methods available, its presence in the Indian Constitution, social movements, and careers one can pursue in social justice.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


Social justice is closely related to the concepts of socialism and revolutionary communism. Originated during the Industrial Revolution, It consists of principles of Equality, Equity, Access to resources, and Human rights. Social justice can be achieved by people through protests, riots, activism, etc. People can work for social justice by taking up social work, victim advocate, community developer, and such other professions. The governments work toward social justice by integrating it in governance, laws, policies, etc. Many governments establish a dedicated social justice ministry. India tries to achieve social justice through its dedicated Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, subsidy schemes for marginalised communities, articles having social justice underlined in the Constitution, and movements such as the farmer’s protests.

Defining social justice 

  1. As per the United Nations, “Social justice may be broadly understood as the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth.”
  2. As per the National Association of Social Workers, “Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. The key and defining elements in every definition of social justice are fairness and equality.”

History and evolution of social justice 

Income inequality during the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution gave birth to the concept of social justice. Even with the emergence of Industries, the problem of unequal distribution of wealth and resources among rich and poor remained the same. Hence, at the start, the concept of social justice was focused only on the unequal distribution of income among individuals. 

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But, the Industrial revolution brought along a pandora box of issues – such as poor working conditions, low wages, poor safety, sanitary living conditions, etc. As a result, a new wave of revolution was witnessed in society. Various movements, such as labor unions, feminist movements, social welfare, and movements against racism, aimed to achieve social justice and also lead towards the formation of an egalitarian society. Social justice was used as the base principle in these movements. 

Later, in the modern period, social justice expanded its scope. Social justice is now relevant in every interaction between humans among themselves or with society. Earlier, the concept of equality was the main aim of any social justice movement. But now, social justice takes into account the systemic disadvantages faced by the marginalised communities and aims for equity instead of equality. Hence, the major difference between the two periods is that during the Industrial Revolution, the aim was to achieve the same treatment for all, and in the modern period, the aim is to give such a level of tailored treatment so as to bring everyone on the same level. 

Understanding social justice 

Social justice is the pillar of socialism. It is also found in some religious teachings and observed as a way of life. 

Social justice may be executed by favouring certain disadvantaged groups or by taking away or restricting the upper hand enjoyed by a privileged group. It is essential to identify the target demographic. Race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, caste, religious affiliation, and income level are some basic demographics considered. 

Principles of social justice 

Social justice has the underlying principles of:


In a fair and just society, the disadvantages faced by a person due to their identity or background should not in any way deter their progress in comparison with others. An ideal society would take into account these disadvantages faced by such persons and take an extra step to reduce these disadvantages. It would also give them such an amount of support and opportunity so as to be able to compete with their other peers. 

Equity can work in two ways such as either by: 

(a) giving extra support to the marginalised community to achieve a level field between them and others, or 

(b) to restrict the privilege experienced by the privileged communities so as to level the field between them and the marginalised communities. 

The following illustration can best explain this:

Three people are trying to see over the fence. One of them is tall and can see over the fence without any box to stand on. The second person, who is a foot shorter than the fence, is given a one-foot long box to stand on. The third person is very short and hence is given a tall box enough to see over the fence. This unequal distribution of boxes as per the needs of individuals showcases the concept of equity. 

Access to resources / equality

It would not be wrong to say that the kind of resources a person has access to can make or break their career, education, and even life. Unequal access to resources has always been a hindrance to social equality. Access to resources (such as education, infrastructure, healthcare, etc.) is dependent on one’s social, economic, or political status. Even the quality of the resource accessed is dependent on the privilege enjoyed by the user. For example, a person residing in a city has access to better quality healthcare as compared to a person residing in a village or town.

Hence, social justice envisions access to the same level of quality resources for every person. 


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This principle calls for citizen participation in matters concerning themselves. It is also an essential principle of democracy. Citizens should actively participate and be a part of the solution. The idea of this principle is when a group of homogenous people make decisions on matters concerning the society, it fails to consider problems faced by others and also the views of other groups. As a result, other groups hardly get the benefit or experience additional disadvantages. 

Human Rights

Human rights are one of the core fundamentals of social justice. Human rights are recognised nationally by the countries and internationally by organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Human rights are at its core foundation in an ideal fair and just society. Human rights must be accessible and enforceable. Human rights which people cannot be enforced on violation are just words on paper. In a socially just world, human rights are merged into the system. Human rights should be upheld and respected by the social institutions, government, and judiciary.  

Social justice and how it applies to the functioning of the government

Social justice is relevant in governance and public policies as it is socially, politically, economically, and morally significant. Social justice is a vital element to be taken into account by the government during the framing and execution of public policies, rules, regulations, and laws. Governance is a great way to implement social justice on a broader and deeper scale. Governments must make the extra effort and try to imbibe the principle of social justice in every and all decisions of theirs. 

Many governments in various countries have a concerned department of social justice, such as the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of India. This department is entrusted with the welfare and social justice of marginalised communities. They also have a say in governance and oversee the integration of social justice into government policies. 

Schemes promoting social justice in India are:

The government also takes up social justice initiatives by way of:

  1. Taxation laws with the progressive and proportional tax system (Eg. The Income Tax Act, 1961).
  2. The government subsidy schemes for the promotion of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities.
  3. Infrastructure development in underdeveloped areas (Eg. Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana).
  4. Anti-discrimination laws (Eg. Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955).
  5. Minimum wages policies (Eg. Minimum Wages Act, 1948).
  6. Uplifting living standards of the poor by way of Slum Rehabilitation [Eg. Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 197]
  7. Reservation at educational institutions or official government positions for weaker sections, etc. [Article 15(4), Article 16(4) and Article 16(5)]

Social justice methods

There are various ways to work towards the attainment of social justice. The path to undertake depends on the person and his ideology.

The path can be one of – 

  • Peace such as:
    • Peaceful protests 
    • Social campaigns 
    • Activism 
    • Governance

or otherwise of,

  • Violence such as:
    • arms revolution,
    • riots,
    • terrorism,
    • threats, etc.

 Peaceful method

Peaceful protests, social campaigns, and activism

Using peaceful protests, social campaigns, and activism, a group can spread awareness about an issue and bring public attention to their opinions. Peaceful methods facilitate discourse among the people, the protestors, the concerned decision-making authorities, and society. This helps to bring forth more varied opinions and leads to the peaceful fulfilment of social justice in society. Peaceful protests, social campaigns, and activism are encouraged in a just, tolerant, and civilised society.

An individual can also work towards social justice by: 

  • Educating themselves on the issue,
  • Organising local community groups, 
  • Volunteering, 
  • Donating to an organisation working towards social justice, 
  • Voicing their opinions, 
  • Supporting the marginalised community financing by giving them business, etc.


By way of governance, the government can establish a social justice system. If not, then at least a system having social justice as its feature and effect of functioning. Governance is a way to smoothly and peacefully attain social justice on a large-scale operation. The impact of such governance can evidently be seen in society. 

Violent methods

Though the social justice as per the perpetrators’ ideology is somewhat achievable for them by way of violent methods, it leads to more injustice, crime, and instability in the society. This nullifies any positive effects the said achieved social justice might have had on society. It can also lead to contempt against the said social justice.  Violent methods taint social justice movements’ image and wash every peaceful advocate’s effort down the drain. 

Social justice and the Indian Constitution

The Constitution of India has ingrained the spirit of social justice in its articles. This has facilitated the lawmakers and judiciary to give a social justice interpretation to laws. Social justice and equality are complementary to each other. Social justice and equality are one of the features of the preamble. 

Social justice is also complementary to the socialist features of the Constitution and the Indian economy. The ‘welfare state’ concept in the Constitution is a step toward social justice. Many Directive Principles of State Policy embody the principle of social welfare, equality, and social justice. Some of them are –

Fundamental rights also are made in view of social welfare, such as – 

Well known social justice movements 

Black Lives Matter (BLM)

This movement was started in the United States of America (USA). It was triggered by the event of George Floyd’s death, a black man who was choked to death by two white police officers. This movement was against the systemic racial discrimination and violence faced by the black community. The movement encompassed issues of social, judicial, economic, and political discrimination faced by the black community throughout their lives and in every aspect of their lives. It also brought forth the effects of white supremacy in systems across the world. This movement brought forth a massive number of people across the world to protest, on the street and on social media, in solidarity with the movement. It is one of the essential movements toward racial inequality and social justice.

MeToo Movement

#MeToo movement was founded to bring awareness of sexual violence faced by people. It is a social justice movement that succeeded in bringing the rampant sexual violence in the society into the limelight and driving suitable changes in society and policy to address the issue. It was also a solidarity movement by survivors of sexual violence to support and give courage to each other. It resulted in many coming forward with their story and naming their abusers. This was one of the most impactful movements in the feminist movement. 

Fridays for Future Movement

Also known as the ‘School strike movement for climate’, It is an international movement against climate change. In support of this movement, school students skip Friday classes to participate in protests and awareness movements to demand action from political leaders against climate change. It was started by the student activist ‘Greta Thunberg’ who staged a protest outside the Swedish Parliament. It gained international traction, and many students skipped classes to protest peacefully. This is a significant movement in social justice and environmental activism.

Farmer’s protests

Farmer’s protests in India started against the three farm laws introduced by the government. TAs per the farmer leaders, the farmer’s community’s concerns were the effect these laws would have on the Minimum Selling Price (MSP) and the Agriculture Produce Marketplace. The three farm laws did not include the safety net of MSP, and the entry of private players could disband the mandis. The fear of dominance of big corporate houses was also a matter of concern. The farmers organised themselves into groups and came on the streets demanding the removal of the farm laws. . Farmers from every part of the country led this protest and even gained international support. This movement led to the establishment of dialogue between the farmer community and the Union Government, and later on to the withdrawal of the laws.

Nirbhaya Movement

The horrific gang-rape incident in the national capital shook the country with anger. Many people went on candle march to call for justice for the victim and strict punishment for the rapists. The public demanded a safer world for women and harsher laws on crimes against women. India has one of the highest rates of crime against women. The pressure from the public and international community led to widening the definition of rape, stricter punishments, and the creation of new offences in the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Career in social justice

People with a passion for social justice can pursue it even as a profession. Some of the many career options available are:

Victim advocate

Victim advocates are one of the front-line supporters for a victim of crime. They act as emotional and legal support for the victims and their families. Their duties are:

  • Assisting in medical care procedures.
  • Assisting with the suit against the perpetrator.
  • Helping the victims to secure compensation.
  • Informing victims about their legal rights.
  • Crisis Intervention.
  • Providing resources and referrals, etc.

Social worker

Social workers are considered the first and foremost point of contact for the victims. A social worker is directly in contact with the community and hence, is easily accessible. They are the backbone of the social justice system. 

They help in:

  • Connecting with professionals, 
  • Spreading awareness
  • Leading community-driven programs
  • Identifying people in need
  • Helping people in coping up with everyday problems
  • Provision of resources and referrals, 
  • Filling out administrative paperwork, 
  • Filing a police complaint, etc.  

They work in various spheres of social issues. 

Social workers can be seen working in:

  • hospitals, 
  • schools, 
  • mental health facilities, 
  • community development organisations, 
  • adoption agencies, 
  • not-for-profit organisations, etc.  


Lobbyists work for their organisation and try to influence the legislation to represent their interests. The client for a lobbyist can be an organisation, a corporate house, and even a labour union. A social justice career pursued by a lobbyist is when they advocate for social interests. Mostly, not-for-profits use a lobbyist to represent their interest in a political decision. A lobbyist can help in achieving social justice by advocating representation of marginalised communities’ interests. For example, a lobbyist working on persuading the members of legislation to pass a ‘free healthcare for all’ bill in the parliament. 


Journalists are an integral part of the social justice system. They find social issues faced by a section of people, do in-depth research, and bring attention to them. They are the primary data provider on social justice issues, which people use as a reference for case studies. A journalist starts discourse on such issues and brings forth the viewpoint of marginalised communities. They are also in a position to demand social justice from the government and society. Many journalists make a difference in society by telling stories of unheard voices.  


We all dream and strive to live a better world. A world that is fair, just, and peaceful. This dream can be attained in a society that is based on the social justice principle. For this, systemic and ideological changes are needed. Changing our economic, social, moral, educational, and government institution system to one based on social justice is a step forward. However, the realisation of it seems impossible.

Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs) 

What is social justice?

Social justice is the ideology of a society that is fair, just, and equal to all, irrespective of their identity or background.

Why is social justice needed?

Due to the evident existence of racism, homophobia, class discrimination, caste discrimination, misogyny, unequal treatment, and other forms of discrimination faced by marginalised communities, social justice is needed. Social justice is necessary to make a fair, just, and equal world for all. 

When did social justice originate?

Social justice originated in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution.

How did social justice originate?

Social justice originated to remove the unequal distribution of income and wealth among people. It came into being to address the income inequality issue.

When is social justice day celebrated?

The UN has declared 20th February as the Day of Social Justice.

How can one achieve social justice?

One can achieve social justice through peaceful methods such as protests, social campaigns, activism, etc., or through violent methods such as arm revolution, riots, terrorism, threats, etc.

How does the government help in achieving social justice?

Government helps to achieve social justice through governance, integrating social justice in the system, government rules, policies, laws, etc. 

Is social justice present in Indian law?

Social justice is present in provisions of various laws and the Constitution of India. Provisions towards women empowerment, empowerment of backward classes, abolition of slavery, creation of a welfare state, etc., are forms of social justice.


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