There is a lot of injustice in the text mostly perpetuated by the rich, the powerful and those in authority. The people seek justice through the courts, through petitioning the Governor and sometimes through seeking revenge on their own. Justice is dispensed primarily through the court system. However, this is not as portrayed in the text.
In the prologue, the Delegate from Tiflis comes to hear and determine the case between the Goat Herders and the Fruit Growers. Justice is seen to be served when, first, each group is given a chance to explain why they deserve the farm. After their presentations, the Delegate decides in favour of the Fruit Farmers because they have more elaborate plans for the farm. Even though the Goat Herders are the original owner of the land, they don’t have any meaningful plans for it. The verdict in this case is arrived at on the basis of reasonable consensus rather than strict law. The two parties are satisfied with the decision and they decide to partake in drinking together.
The people also seek justice through petitioning the Governor. However, this not a good option because he does not heed to their cries and instead they are whipped and pushed back by the Ironshirts. The beggars and petitioners have various grievances including; too much tax, corrupt officials, arrested family members etc. When the Governor is overthrown by the Fat Prince, the people feel a sense of justice which is, however, short-lived.
The court is specifically established to dispense justice to all. However, in the text, the people have little faith in the court which is seen to always rule in favour of the rich. After the Governor is killed, even the City Judge is hung because he is also seen to be part of the injustices suffered by the people.
Judge Azdak represents justice, especially to the poor. When he discovers that he has been harbouring the Grand Duke, he tells Shauwa to take him to the City (Nuka) for judgment. Unfortunately, at Nuka, the city Judge has been hung and Azdak cannot get the justice he wants. Ironically, Azdak is appointed judge after he impresses the Ironshirts with his knowledge of the legal system and the injustices that the people have suffered.
Judge Azdak practices a brand of justice that, in some cases, sets the guilty free and punishes the victims. He, largely, rules in favour of the poor as a way of addressing the injustice that they have long suffered. For example, he rules in favour of the Doctor, who is accused of neglecting his patient. (p.77), he rules against Ludovica who is a ‘victim of rape’, he acquits the Old Woman accused of theft, he rules in favour of Grusha and even ‘erroneously’ signs off the divorce of Grusha and Jussup instead of the Old Couple.
Some people, like the Farmers, feel aggrieved by his ‘unfair’ rulings and seek their own justice through revenge. They beat him up when they realize that the Grand Duke is back and the war is over. Surprisingly, the Grand Duke reappoints Azdak as City Judge which saves his life. Azdak enjoys some justice from the Grand Duke for the help he had offered him when he was on the run.
There cannot be peace without justice in society. Those who are treated unfairly and unjustly will always look for ways to get some justice. Even though the courts are the main avenues for seeking justice, they can only be useful if people have faith in them. The courts should also view people as being equal and hence dispense justice without fear or favour.
POINTS TO THINK ABOUT
- Is it right for an individual to seek justice through revenge?
- Apart from the courts, where else can one seek justice in your community?