February 20 was celebrated as World Day of Social Justice. The theme of the day was: “Preventing conflict and sustaining peace through decent work”. The day emphasized that justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.
The day was basically adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) through the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization on June 10, 2008. The Declaration is a powerful reaffirmation of ILO values. It is the outcome of tripartite consultations that started in the wake of the Report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization. By adopting this text, the representatives of governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations from 182 member States emphasize the key role of ILO’s tripartite Organization in helping to achieve progress and social justice in the context of globalization.
It is a crystal clear fact that no state in the world can maintain its integrity and order if it does not possess and guard justice. Justice is the requirement to maintain law and order and reduce crimes from a society. If a state fails to establish strong institutions that can practice and provide justice, it is bound to be filled with instability and corruption. Therefore, the states and the governments have the organ of judiciary. This organ makes sure that justice is done and people are not deprived of their due rights, while the criminals are punished appropriately. In fact, throughout most part of history, the states have this organ in some form or others. Today, in modern states of the world, they are well-established through the network of courts and judges and law enforcing agencies.
The judiciary is a coequal branch of government. It is the only branch that is supposed to be totally impartial and hence apolitical. The judiciary forms a system of courts which interprets the law in the name of the sovereign or state. It also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes. This branch of government is often tasked with ensuring equal justice under law. It usually consists of a court of final appeal (called the ‘supreme court’ or ‘constitutional court’), together with lower courts.
The primary function of the judiciary in a constitutional democracy, therefore, is to protect the constitution – the sacred contract between the citizens and the government and between different branches of the government. It does so by elucidating and defining the content of the constitution while arbitrating between parties. In order to perform their function, the judiciary must logically be empowered with the authority to arbitrate future conflicts over the constitution and to overturn any actions of the government that violate it. The courts’ impartiality and independence from the other branches of the government also needs to be ensured so that the courts can perform their function effectively. Impartiality and independence of the judiciary is not easy to achieve because unlike legislature, court’s authority is based directly in the supremacy of the constitution. And supremacy of the constitution is achieved in minds more than on paper.
In order to achieve these characteristics of the judiciary, developed democracies have relied on ‘the culture of the judiciary’. If each judge swears upon taking office to uphold the constitution and the rights of all citizens, self-integrity, peer pressure, and public scrutiny might combine to induce judges, at least at the highest level, to abide by their oath. By setting these standards for promotion, they can help foster the same behavior in their future peers and at all lower levels. Executive and other government branches also have to learn to accept the role of judiciary in constitutional democracy as the supreme arbitrator of the content of the constitution.
Countries like Afghanistan need to improve their judicial systems so as to strengthen the nurturing democracy in the country. Moreover, it would be also helpful in keeping the actions of members of the other organs of the government in check. It is very likely that they, without such accountability, may use their authorities recklessly, as is the case in present scenario. Since the judiciary lacks the essential capabilities, it is not able to ensure true justice within the society. That has given rise to a situation wherein an imbalance has crept within the country. Moreover, the people finding the justice system not able to provide them timely and deserving justice, have lost their confidence in the system in general in the government in particular. This has also given rise to the issues of illegitimacy. Therefore, it is really vital to strengthen judiciary in the country on urgent basis. In fact, the overall process of strengthening the judiciary in the country would benefit the common people of Afghanistan, who require justice to a large extent.