10 Sep 2010

Eternal Law: The Underpinnings of Dharma and Karma in the Justice System

The Western concept of jurisprudential analysis of law and society revolves about the traditional concept of right versus duty analysis and expounded by Hohfeld. The Indian social structure and the historic documents, however, are not deficient in any way in this arena and in fact provide a robust explanation to the legal concepts. The eternal bounds of 'Dharma' as governing the actions of both the King and the subjects have governing the Indian social ethos for long and thus influences the origin of laws. In this context we find an interesting paper on SSRN entitled Eternal Law: The Underpinnings of Dharma and Karma in the Justice System written by S. Persaud. 

The paper discusses the origins of criminal law in the context of the Dharma and Karma principles to analyse the development of law. The abstract reads as under;
This article discusses a philosophical view of criminal law from the perspective of two Eastern concepts, Dharma and Karma, instead of the traditional notions of utilitarianism and retributivism; analyzing the Hindu philosophy of Eternal Law to show the underpinnings of Dharma and Karma in the justice system. Although many have adapted these concepts as expressions of spirituality, they are not religious or spiritual canons but conceptualizations of interpreting and comprehending the world around us while enabling us to embrace every expression of human existence. The article further seeks to examine these universal principles as inherent principles within our social system. The hope is to bring about a better understanding of their influences and impact on our justice system. In to elucidate this, the article also focuses a discussion on the utilization of these concepts by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. in their struggles for justice and equality in two distinct social realities. 

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