LAWLESSNESS AND TODAY’S SOCIETY ( PART TWO )

Rajendra Dhar
POLICE WATCH INDIA (Regd. NGO).

THEIR IS A GREAT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SOCIETY WHOSE MEMBERS HAVE A GENUINE PARTICIPATORY SPIRIT AND A SOCIETY WHOSE MEMBERS ARE IMBUED WITH INDIVIDUALISM — INDIVIDUALISM ERODES HUMANITY& EVENTUALLY SOUNDS THE DEATH KNELL OF CIVILISED SOCIETY .

A society can truly be called “participatory” when a majority of its members share that concern for the common good, are prepared to place its demands above individual self-interest, take pride in the principle of justice for all, and feel a common responsibility to maintain the laws which apply this principle to social life.

A society where individualism is on the upsurge shows the opposite tendencies: the notion of the common good is obscured or forgotten; self-interest becomes paramount; rights are emphasized but duties are not; justice is good if it means “justice for me”, and not so good if it means “justice for all”; permissiveness instead of justice becomes the guiding principle of law.


Permissive laws often simply permit people to violate their obligations towards the rights of others. A married person exercising the “right” to divorce violates their partner’s right to fidelity (which more often than not is something the partner wants), and especially violates their children’s right to an unbroken home, which is something the children always want.

The theory of permissiveness is that each man is entitled to be a law to himself; at least in his personal and private life. But public life is built on the lives and values of individuals; and so the permissive mentality breeds a spirit of lawlessness in public and social life as well – a process which is accelerating all around us today.

The permissive philosopher may suggest that law is an enemy of life, that the removal of law favours true growth and healthy spontaneity. This is not so. Organic life, the bodily or intellectual life of an individual, and very particularly the social life of a community, develop soundly only if they follow certain laws of health and growth. Failure to follow these laws results in stagnation at best and destruction at worst. A body can grow only because cells and tissues observe their proper laws of growth and their proper relationship to one another. A “lawless” cell is a cancer; and its spontaneous growth can bring death to the whole body. This applies to the social body too.

An individualist society is a flawed structure. Lacking the internal spiritual forces that can hold it together – community spirit, sense of justice, and love for the common good – it tends to lawlessness and disintegration.

THE STRENGTH OF THE LAW

To be anti-law is to be anti-social, anti-others. It is, in the truest sense, to be anti-democratic. The anti-law mentality does not favour or defend the freedom of the people. It favours the freedom of the few (the
powerful, the clever, the unscrupulous) to exploit the people, who find that as the anti-law mentality grows the strength of the law to protect their rights is gradually eroded.

Society needs the strength of the law. Here we should note that the law cannot truly be said to be strong just because it is feared and obeyed out of fear. If that is simply due to the fact that it is backed by coercive power then it is not the law that is strong but the power behind it. Law needs to be strong in itself; and this only occurs in virtue of its justice.

Both governments and citizens need to realize that the ultimate authority of the law does not derive from its being an expression of the will of party or people. Its binding force does not come from popular consent (nor is it removed by popular dissent). IT COMES FROM JUSTICE. A law does not have more authority because it is approved by many or less because it is enacted by few, or even by only one. A just measure ought to be obeyed – i.e. it carries authority – even if it is a minority decision; and an unjust measure ought to be resisted – it lacks authority – even if it is backed by a landslide majority. A just law binds as much in a democracy as in a totalitarian state; an unjust law binds in neither.

An excess of legal enactments is undoubtedly one of the plagues of twentieth-century life. Most modern societies could indeed do with far fewer laws. BUT NO SOCIETY CAN DO WITH LESS JUSTICE OR WITH LESS RESPECT FOR JUSTICE. A “democracy” where people feel free not to respect the law is not people’s society, nor will the freedom of the people survive long in it.

ENFORCEMENT OF LAW

The law is not meant to be a theory or an abstraction. It is meant to serve as a practical norm of action. If the law simply declares or defines rights but does no more, this is admirable but also useless. It must protect those rights against violation, and it must afford a remedy if they are in fact violated.

What happens if a violator of rights is aware of the law but unwilling or reluctant to fulfill his obligations? How is the law to be enforced and the balance of justice restored in such a situation?

Law enforcement in a political state is normally the role of a police force armed with the physical means to compel compliance with a legal decision. In such cases the actual achievement of justice depends on the strength and also on the integrity of the law-enforcement agency. If the police are lax or weak and especially if they are corrupt then a person may find that a court judgment upholding his rights remains a dead letter: he just cannot get compensation for damage done to him, or re-enter the house of which he has been wrongly dispossessed.

ONE TRULY BELONGS TO THE “PEOPLE” WHEN ONE WANTS NOT JUST ONE’S OWN GOOD – DESPITE THE COST TO THE PEOPLE – BUT THE GOOD OF THE PEOPLE, DESPITE THE COST TO ONESELF. THIS LOYALTY TO THE COMMON GOOD STIMULATES RESPONSIBILITY IN THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBER OF A COMMUNITY – TO OBEY THE JUST EXERCISES OF AUTHORITY WITHOUT COMPLAINT OR SELF-PITY AND STIMULATES RESPONSIBILITY EQUALLY IN THOSE RULING THE COMMUNITY, TO EXERCISE AUTHORITY JUSTLY WITHOUT FEAR, FAVOUR OR WEAKNESS.

Leave a Reply