There are unjust laws, just as there are unjust men. Explain with a suitable example. (150 words – 10 marks)
The words of Mahatma Gandhi were from his struggle in South Africa against the
unjust racial laws. Laws protect the rights of people and regulate the civil
activities. In most of the cases, laws are on the lines of ethical principles. But,
there are also several laws which are clearly unethical. For example laws made
by Nazi state in Germany or laws sanctioning racial discrimination in USA or
South Africa were legitimate and legal but unethical. According to Martin Luther
King one has moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. Also Mahatma Gandhi
was of the opinion that an unjust law in itself is a species of violence. In the
broader scheme of ethical governance, laws may not be the solution to all
problems since what is legally permissible may not be morally defendable. For
example, consider the case of capital punishment. While a State can enact a law
to take away the basic right to life legally, it does not fall on strong moral grounds.
Similarly, laws like AFSPA deprive citizens of basic civil liberties. Other examples
of surrogate advertising, paid news, etc. may be legally admissible but unethical.
Also, enacting and enforcing laws requires idealism and can also be used for
ethical deliberation avoidance. Especially in the scheme of administrative ethics,
laws restrict civil service to quantitative dimension of procedural compliance;
oblivious to the moral issues involved. So, while laws are essential in guiding
mechanisms of governance, they cannot be absolute due to the scope of errors.
Hence, ethical sensibility is above laws in governance and elements of moral
conscience are required to assess actions