Search this article on Google: Justice is the firm and continuous desire to render to everyone that which is his due. – Marcus Tullius Cicero
Title: Justice: The Firm and Continuous Desire to Render to Everyone That Which is His Due – Insights from Marcus Tullius Cicero
The concept of justice remains at the very core of democratic societies and is widely recognised as a fundamental human right. Among the many astute observations made over centuries by various philosophers, statesmen, and legal minds, the definition of justice posited by Marcus Tullius Cicero stands out for its simplicity and depth. Cicero, a Roman statesman and jurist of the 1st Century BC, held that justice is the firm and continuous desire to render to everyone that which is his due.
Understanding Cicero’s Concept of Justice
In essence, Cicero’s perspective asserts that justice is an unwavering commitment to ensure every individual receives what he or she rightfully deserves. This respect for individual rights, in turn, underpins social harmony and equitable societies. It prompts the law to uphold societal standards of fairness and rightfully delineate between right and wrong. This is a foundational concept within most modern legal systems that strive to ensure each person’s rights are respected and obligations are enforced.
Reflecting on Cicero’s definition of justice through the lens of modern jurisprudence allows us to appreciate the breadth of its application. Consider, for instance, Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a landmark case in American history. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, thereby ensuring every child—regardless of their race—had an equal right to education.
Another example is the Mabo v. Queensland (No 2) (1992) case in Australia where the High Court overturned the legal doctrine of terra nullius, acknowledging Indigenous Australians’ ancient land rights. This landmark case effectively recognised that Indigenous Australians had a pre-existing system of law, which the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty should not have extinguished. This decision reflects Cicero’s principle of justice by ensuring those who were historically deprived are given their due.
Furthermore, India’s Mathura rape case (Tukaram v. State of Maharashtra) (1979) led to amendments in India’s criminal laws to better protect women from sexual violence. This judicial decision demonstrated a strong commitment to ensuring justice for victims of sexual assault, embodying the continuous desire to render to each individual their due rights, as envisaged by Cicero.
Cicero’s Definition and Its Relevance Today
The relevance of Cicero’s definition of justice in the contemporary world is manifold. It lays the foundation for laws and policies targeted at social equity, encompassing economic justice, social justice, and environmental justice. It underpins actions taken to rectify historical injustices, as seen in compensations to indigenous communities or reparations for victims of systemic oppression.
Moreover, it underscores the pursuit of global justice, particularly in addressing issues that cut across national borders such as human trafficking, climate change and even global pandemics. Each of these contexts demands a commitment to ensure each person or community receives what is rightfully theirs—be it fair treatment, reparations, protection of rights, or equitable access to resources.
In an era where social equity and human rights underpin the ethos of democratic societies, Cicero’s age-old definition of justice remains profoundly relevant. It serves as a beacon, guiding not just legal systems but also policy-making and societal attitudes. Despite the socio-political differences between Cicero’s time and ours, his understanding of justice remains a timeless reminder of society’s responsibility towards ensuring fairness and equity for all.