This article has been submitted by Vaishali Movva for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.
Nearly 2 centuries ago, Aristotle concluded in his famous work The Politics, that “it is evident that the form of government is best in which every man, whoever he is, can act best and live happily”. I believe that through this statement, he was of the view that the state is merely acting as a means to an end as opposed to an end in itself.
Now let us twist the words of ancient political thinkers to gain a contemporary outlook. Arguably, these political thinkers did not necessarily classify their states or the purpose behind the formation of a state based on the modern scenario, but the essence behind the creation of the argument remains the same. To be more specific, the essence behind the argument is that a state must provide the basic amenities through which an individual can reach his fullest potential. In the modern context, one of the swiftest and most decisive ways that the state can enforce this is through legal system; or laws.
It should be noted that the laws that are meant to influence individual lives are heavily dependent on the society, as most laws reflect the view of the society. However, the individual living in a democracy cannot be absconded from the responsibility of the law, and must be held collectively responsible for any law that is passed by their Parliament. This is because when we vote for as an individual, we hope that our representative has the capability to represent us and voice our opinions on the floor of the Parliament. They reflect our views on certain issues that we find absolutely imperative. So if an individual blames the Parliament on a law that they feel is “draconian”, the blame that they often shove towards the members can now be transported to their fingers which turn to themselves or the society in which they play an integral role.
The importance of a society and the individual in law making can be further analyzed using the rule of law. The rule of law has an underlying assumption. That the law made is good or righteous. Who decides what is righteous? Naturally, the society does. So following this logic, it would seem as if the rule of law assumes that the society is one where the majority, if not all, of the individuals that comprise it are intellectual and mature enough to form an unbiased view on imperative issues. However, if an individual merely uses the state and its laws to move forward, then it is his own needs and preferences that are put ahead of others. With this in mind, an unbiased view to be truly formed by an individual who aims at selfish ends seems highly improbable. And hence the circle continues.
So now here comes the integral question. Is the rule of law as important as it seems? Does it truly bind the society as Aristotle thought? Ironically, it is what Aristotle says, “The good in the sphere of politics is justice; and justice consists in what tends to promote the common interest”. Too bad there’s no definition of what the “common interest” is. For it seems to me, that the common interest is what the majority in a society wants it to be. The greatest happiness for greatest number works on a very basic level. For example, if a certain custom in a particular society is deemed to make people happy but causes gross human right violations, would the idea of justice prevail merely because it keeps this particular society happy? Of course it would not.
As human beings, we are raised to believe in certain norms or certain values which the society tends to incorporate in us as we grow older. We believe that justice must triumph while we decide what is being justified, that to be wealthy is to be famous when those who are famous never knew what it was to be wealthy and that power is knowledge where power is merely what we think power is. When we bind ourselves into a society, we tend to blindly accept the laws and customs that come along with it. And so, my request to the readers is to not merely abide by this rule of law that we hear so much about; that no person shall punished except for a distinct breach of law and that the law is supreme. For it is my honest belief, that the only thing that can surpass the law is reason. Or probably, even just a mere question. So next time anyone tries to drag you into this cycle of societal laws, merely ask them “Why?”