Justice is a philosophy of fairness and righteousness coupled with prudence. Every culture defines it in various ways. For Plato advocated it as to be a command of God, others called it the fairness imparted against unjust. John Locke argued for naturalism and traditionalists expounding social contract theory opined that justice is derived from a mutual agreement and Prof John Rawls termed it as fairness. Whereas in India, it traveled from being the will of the Lord to the prudence of the king, to the balance of your Karma and finally to the sanction of the texts. Today’s justice, however, flows from the collective will of people in the form of a constitutionally regulated democratic setup.
The Evolution of Justice
John Rawls famously said, “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of the systems of thought.” In his book Theory of Justice, he calls the neutral outlook imparted in our decisions of justice is fairness. He theorized around the social order and the need to bring equality in the aspects of its distribution. Equality in distribution of – wealth, power, goods, status etc. is what he calls justice. The basic principles of justice are generalized means of securing generalized wants, “primary social good” which includes basic liberties, opportunities, power and a minimum of wealth. This theory of distributive justice by John Rawls is more of a political and not a moral or metaphysical concept.
Rawls strives to explain that prudence dictates the principles of justice. His rather hypothetical example of “veil of ignorance” speaks for itself. Considering that we all are ignorant of knowledge about ourselves, human nature, people surrounding us etc. And one sudden day we are asked to judge a matter regarding which we have no previous knowledge. In such a hypothetical situation how would a man react is the foundation of this theory. Rawls concludes that such a person shall be of free will, unbiased judgment and will have a correct view of the problems before us. This he terms fairness, based on justice.
Rawls gives two principles of justice
(1) Each Person is to have an equal right to the most expensive total system equal basic liberty compatible with a similar system of liberty for all.
(2) Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) to the greatest benefits of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity .
This theory resembles the distribution of justice as according to socialism. These principles again only talk about the basic structure. What he seems to argue is that a rejection of utilitarianism and adoption of his theory for equal opportunity at liberty.
This theory propounds the need for social cooperation in order to realize the full liberty and potential of equality in the social order. “A sense of justice is the capacity to understand, to apply, and to act from the public conception of it which characterizes fair terms of social cooperation.”
Although it may sound classic and sophisticated, it lacks sanctity. Revolving around the basic structure and veil of ignorance cannot solve the problems of social order. Emphasis is needed on the procedures to meet the desired end. On this end, the theory is criticized the most. Hypothetical situations cannot guide the reality. The theory however perfect lacks the backbone. Prof Dias points out that Prof. John Rawls has not succeeded in showing how his principles, desirable as they may be, derived from reason. The thrust of his theory is for stability. He puts emphasis on obedience grounded in fair play. Law is only one institution of social justice. It is fairness which has to be of impeccable order and at the same time must make the society realize its potential through the system of law. Social justice is achievable by various means and law is only one among them.
V.D.Mahajan, Jurisprudence and Legal Theory, 5th edition, Eastern Book Company.
 John Rawls, Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical, paper published by Princeton University Press.
 See footnote 2
 John Rawls, Theory of Justice
 R.W.M. Dias, Jurisprudence, Butterworth’s, London, 1976