INTRODUCTION TO POLITICAL THEORY

4. Legal Justice

Legal justice concerns with the distribution of rewards and punishment by legal institutions under the procedure of law. In other words, legal justice concerns with retribution of one’s action. It may mean giving punishment to the wrongdoer. In this respect, justice may involve creations and enforcement of set of public rules which are not simply institutional but also morally righteous. The legal recourse of justice follows the principle that punishment should be proportionate to the severity of crime. A legal system is intertwined with two important themes: procedural notion of justice and substantive notion of justice. A procedural justice concerns with how rules are made and applied as oppose to content of the decision. Substantive justice on the other hand examines whether they are just or unjust. (Heywood, 2004: 174-76) In other words, we adhere that only the guilty person should be punished and the punishment should be proportionate to guilt. The underlying theme of retributive justice is to produce deterrent effects in the society so that people can be deterred to commit crimes. The expectation is to punish the guilty person in proportionate to his crime. We therefore follows ‘due procedure of law’ to maximise that outcome. (Sadurski, 1985: 51-54) There may also be circumstances where legal process may generate injustice not because law is unfairly applied but because law itself is unjust. If a law prevents women to prohibit equal property rights with their male counterparts, then law itself is unjust irrespective of the due procedures of law. (Heywood, 2004: 174-76) Therefore, law itself needs to be just. Legal system concerns with the awards and punishment through the creation and enforcement of established law under the principle of restitution. The principles of restitution focuses on the proposition that awards and punishment should be proportionate to the nature and severity of the crime.