The Constitutional Aspect of Social Justice in India

The Constitutional Aspect of Social Justice in India



India places great emphasis on social justice, considering it a core aspect of its social values ​​and legal framework. Efforts to address economic inequality are made through laws and cultural norms, but achieving full economic justice remains a significant challenge. This article examines social justice in India from a constitutional perspective, highlighting India’s important role in promoting peaceful coexistence. Despite some progress, many people still lack equal access to wealth, equity, and opportunity. The analysis examines historical activism, with a particular focus on movements promoting Dalit rights, women’s empowerment, and environmental justice. It also discusses intersectionality, recognizing how factors such as caste, gender, class, and religion intersect to shape experiences of oppression. Modern movements such as protests against discriminatory laws and agricultural reform show how activists adapt to changing challenges. Despite these challenges, social justice movements continue through grassroots efforts and collective action. The abstract highlights the importance of amplifying marginalized voices and building solidarity to create a more inclusive and equitable society in India.



India’s history is intertwined with social justice movements that shaped the nation’s trajectory and challenged deep-rooted inequalities. From the struggle for independence against British rule to contemporary struggles for gender equality, environmental sustainability and the rights of marginalized groups, India’s work reflects its diverse and resilient spirit.  

 Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Bhimrao Ambedkar laid the foundation for social justice by championing the rights of oppressed classes, women and marginalized communities even before independence. India’s freedom movement itself demonstrated the power of collective action and civil disobedience in challenging colonial oppression and creating a more inclusive society. 

 After independence, the quest for social justice continued and movements such as the Dalit movement and feminist campaigns gained momentum. The Dalit movement, led by figures like Ambedkar, sought to break down caste hierarchies and bring equality to all. Meanwhile, feminists fought for legal reforms  to ensure women’s rights and gender equality and challenged patriarchal norms. 

 Activism in India has seen a resurgence in recent years, with movements addressing issues such as LGBTQ rights and land rights for indigenous communities. Grassroots organizations and civil society groups have played an important role in amplifying the voices of marginalized groups and highlighting pressing social issues. Despite obstacles such as government repression and violence, activists persist and use a variety of strategies to advocate for a more just society. Although India’s social justice movement has achieved significant victories, challenges such as government repression and institutional discrimination remain. But activists are undeterred and are using legal advocacy, grassroots mobilization, and digital platforms to promote social change and move toward a more just future. Through their resilience and determination, India’s social justice movements continue to be important agents of progress, challenging injustice and advancing the rights of all citizens.

Concept of social justice and its importance in Indian context

  • Throughout Indian history, deep-rooted social injustice has plagued a society characterized by a strict caste system that marginalizes Dalits and Adivasis. This system, which originated thousands of years ago, perpetuates inequality and discrimination. Colonial rule exacerbated these divisions, and British policies institutionalized caste divisions, deepening social inequality. 

 Gender inequality is also widespread as patriarchal norms relegate women to secondary roles, denying them access to education and economic opportunities. Harmful practices such as child marriage and dowry have perpetuated gender inequality.  Moreover, religious hierarchies and communal tensions have exacerbated social injustice by encouraging violence and discrimination against religious minorities. The legacy of religious conflict has damaged interreligious relations and perpetuated violence and alienation between communities. These historical injustices continue to impact modern social dynamics and highlight the ongoing struggle for equality and justice in India.

  • In India, the pursuit of social justice is significantly facilitated through reservations and affirmative action policies. Enshrined in Articles 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution, these provisions empower the state to enact special measures for the advancement of socially and educationally disadvantaged groups, encompassing reservations in educational institutions and public employment. Moreover, the Constitution mandates reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in legislative bodies to ensure their adequate representation and active participation in the democratic process.
  • In the realm of judicial activism, the judiciary assumes a pivotal role in upholding and fostering social justice in India. Through mechanisms like Public Interest Litigations (PILs) and proactive judicial interventions, the courts serve as guardians of the rights of marginalized communities. They strive to ensure equitable access to justice and hold the government accountable for fulfilling its social justice obligations. Landmark rulings such as the Mandal Commission case, which affirmed reservations for OBCs in government employment, and the Vishakha case, which established guidelines for combating workplace sexual harassment, underscore the judiciary’s steadfast dedication to advancing social justice.
  • In spite of constitutional safeguards and progressive legislation, India remains entrenched in profound disparities and social injustices. Persistent issues such as caste-based discrimination, religious frictions, gender imbalances, and economic disparities present formidable hurdles to achieving true social justice. Furthermore, challenges like implementation gaps, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and political indifference often impede the effective execution of social welfare initiatives and affirmative action strategies.

Overcoming these obstacles requires concerted action to fortify institutions, foster social inclusivity, and empower marginalized communities. Initiatives focused on education, consciousness-raising, and community engagement are pivotal for challenging prejudiced mindsets and fostering societal harmony. Additionally, there is a pressing need for comprehensive social policies that address the multifaceted facets of poverty, inequality, and marginalization, ensuring a more equitable and just society for all.


The Indian Constitution incorporates fundamental provisions dedicated to securing social justice, particularly through its delineation of Fundamental Rights in Part III. These rights, accessible to all individuals, with certain privileges reserved exclusively for Indian citizens, serve as cornerstones for fostering a fair and inclusive society:

  1. Ensuring Equality before the law (Art 14) 
  2. Prohibition of discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth (Art 15
  3.  Guaranteeing Equality of opportunity in public employment (Art 16) 
  4.  Abolishing Untouchability to combat caste-based discrimination (Art 17) 
  5.  Eliminating titles, promoting a merit-based society devoid of inherited status or privilege (Art 18)


Chapter IV of the Indian Constitution, spanning Articles 36 to 51, outlines directive principles of State policy that serve as guiding principles for governance. Among these directives, several stand out:

a) Fostering the welfare of the people (Art 38)

 b) Ensuring sufficient means of livelihood, fair distribution of resources, equitable access to means of production, and equal compensation for equal work; additionally, promoting the well-being of workers and safeguarding children and youth from exploitation (Art 39)

 c) Upholding principles of equal justice and providing free legal aid (Art 39A)

 d) Guaranteeing the rights to work, education, and public assistance in certain circumstances (Art 41) 

e) Establishing fair and humane working conditions, along with providing maternity relief (Art 43)


  • Articles 39(e), 39(f), 41, and 47 of the Indian Constitution offer crucial provisions that can effectively combat the issue of child labor. Article 39(e) stresses the protection of workers’ health and strength, including children, and prohibits their exploitation due to economic necessity forcing them into unsuitable work. Article 39(f) highlights the need to provide children with opportunities for healthy development in conditions of freedom and dignity, shielding them from exploitation and neglect.
  • In line with these constitutional imperatives, the Supreme Court has directed the State to ensure that when a child is employed in hazardous occupations such as factories or mines, an adult family member is provided with alternative employment. This measure helps alleviate the economic pressures driving children into the workforce and promotes their well-being and development.

Workers And Ensuring Fair Working Conditions

  • The Indian Constitution incorporates several provisions aimed at enhancing the well-being of workers and ensuring fair working conditions. Article 40 emphasizes the importance of establishing village panchayats as self-governing units, while Articles 41 and 42 underscore the state’s duty to provide for the right to work, education, public assistance, and humane working conditions, including maternity relief.
  • Article 43 further highlights the state’s obligation to strive for a living wage and decent working conditions for all workers, irrespective of their sector. Judicial precedent underscores the significance of ensuring minimum wages to prevent exploitation and uphold human dignity, as seen in rulings supporting the legality of fixing minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act.
  • Aligned with socialist principles, the aim is to mitigate income inequality and improve living standards. While Article 43 aspires for a living wage, the reality often falls short, typically reaching only a fair wage level. Article 43A, introduced by the 42nd Amendment, advocates for workers’ participation in decision-making processes within enterprises and organizations, whether through sharing decision-making or transferring decision-making rights to them.

Free And Compulsory Education For All CHILDREN

  • Article 45 mandates that the State must strive to ensure free and compulsory education for all children until they reach the age of fourteen, within ten years of the Constitution’s commencement. This directive, deemed fundamental and integral to the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21, extends beyond primary education, encompassing education until the age of fourteen, regardless of the educational stage.
  • The principles outlined in Articles 41 and 45 are deemed essential for the fulfillment of the State’s core responsibility to provide education to all citizens. Education plays a crucial role in fostering an informed understanding of social and political issues among citizens in a democratic society. Consequently, Articles 29 and 30, safeguarding Cultural and Educational Rights of minorities, are interpreted in light of Articles 41 and 45.
  • Furthermore, through the 86th Amendment Act of 2002, the directive of free and compulsory education for children outlined in Article 45 has been elevated to the status of a fundamental right, enforceable in courts of law.

The Educational And Economic Advancement Of Marginalized Communities

  • Article 46 of the Indian Constitution mandates the State to prioritize the educational and economic advancement of marginalized communities, especially Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, while shielding them from social injustices and exploitation. It asserts that individuals from backward classes have a fundamental right to promotion, aligning with Article 16, and courts have considered the possibility of employing a “means test” for identifying these vulnerable groups.
  • In the pivotal Mandal Commission case, the Court broadened the definition of “weaker sections of the people” to include those affected by poverty or physical disabilities, extending beyond traditional classifications. To implement Article 46’s directive, the State is empowered to enact provisions or reservations aimed at uplifting economically disadvantaged groups and ensuring their well-being.


 Social justice is deeply ingrained in India’s constitutional ethos, representing a profound commitment to fostering an inclusive and egalitarian society. Through constitutional provisions, affirmative action, judicial activism, and social welfare initiatives, India has made significant strides towards realizing social justice. However, persistent challenges highlight the ongoing necessity for concerted efforts to address inequalities, empower marginalized communities, and uphold constitutional principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. Achieving a fairer and more equitable future for all citizens requires collective action and unwavering dedication to social justice.

In India, the judiciary has played a pivotal role in advancing social justice. Both the legislature and the judiciary contribute to distributive justice, with courts often taking proactive steps to deliver compensatory or corrective justice. While distinct, these principles complement each other in the pursuit of social justice goals, with methods ranging from distributive to compensatory justice.

Despite the government’s well-intentioned efforts to ensure social justice through policies of equalization or protective discrimination, societal tensions have arisen. Some activities purportedly aimed at social justice may not align with its true principles, highlighting the importance of balanced policy implementation for societal progress.

The preamble and Directive Principles of the Constitution, encompassing Articles 38, 42, 43, 46, and 48A, embody the essence of social justice. The overarching aim is to achieve significant social, economic, and political equality, alleviating the plight of the underprivileged, including the poor, weak, tribal communities, and other marginalized groups. Over time, the courts have elevated social and economic justice to fundamental rights status.

Referred to as the ‘trinity’ of the Constitution, the preamble, Fundamental Rights, and Directive Principles serve as the foundation of India’s democratic values. However, political complexities within the democratic setup have hindered the upliftment of socially and economically backward segments of society. The failure of legislatures to effectively implement Directive Principles has left the true victims of society without adequate support. Despite challenges, the judiciary remains a steadfast pillar of stability, providing impartial justice amidst political discord. Adherence to these principles is crucial for the enduring strength of India’s democratic republic.



  • Constitutional law by JN Pandey
  • Indian Polity by Lakshmi Kanth 
  • The Constitution of India 1950


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