Socio-Legal Research has its theoretical, practical and methodological bases in the social sciences. Law is an important aspect when it comes to any social investigation.
Legal research is the field of study concerned with the effective assemble of authorities that sustain a question of law. It is also the systematic investigation of problems and matters concerned with certain codes, acts etc.
Young, P.V states that “We may define social research as scientific undertaking which by means of logical and systema-tized methods, aims to discover new facts or old facts, and to analyse their sequences, interrelationships, causal explanations and the natural terms which govern them.”
Whitney, F. L. says “Sociological research includes a study of human group relationship”.
Moser C.A. says “Systematized investigation to gain knowledge about social phenomena and problems, we call social research.”
Bogardus, E. defines “Social research is the investigation of the underlying process operative in the lives of persons who are in association.”
The main task before the socio-legal scientists is to maintain a pace with the speed of social change and accordingly identify the factors and trend of social change. Social problems are not specifically referred to theoretical level; rather the research activity should prove its relevance to the present context.
The following are the main characteristics of social research:
(i) The social research aims at finding out the new facts;
(ii) The social research is based on the distinct, systematic and precise knowledge;
(iii) The social research is logical and objective in orientation;
(iv)The social research aims at quantification of the social facts;
(v) The social research aims at investigating the facts in depth and comes out with a format.
Socio Legal Research includes a study of human group relationship, aims to discover new facts and to analyse their sequences as scientific undertaking by means of logical and systema-tized methods, or old facts, interrelationships, causal explanations and the natural terms which govern them. Keeping in view the said definitions, we can say that Socio-Legal research is an act that discovers the legal principles relevant to a particular problem and it is the foundation for good legal advice.The originates and functions in a society based upon the particular needs, customs, traditions of the society and it also possesses the ability to greatly influence the social structure and functions of any society. Therefore, just as researchers are clueless and hapless if they have no knowledge of even the basics of the law, legal system and the various important if not all the law institutions, legal researchers too would be clueless and hapless and would do no justice whatsoever to legal inquiry if they do not possess the basic knowledge and are not aware of the mechanics of social research methods. In societies where the development is planned, law plays the role of a catalyst which helps and speeds the process of social reform.
The socio-legal research can not be expected to be carried out mono-disciplinary which is bound to result in haphazard, isolated from society and incomplete and it may turn out to be without any success. Economics, political science, history, philosophy, psychology, religion and science (physical and social): all subjects are to be brought and related with wider implication to capture attention of the policy framers, the member of the bench and bar too. To understand legal problems with wider dimensions, it shall be justifiably binding on the legal researcher to explore interface areas between law and other social discipline; such creative work in the field of law will be unique social achievements the history of law has ever trodden.
Law is not for law sake. Law is an instrument of social control. It originates and functions in a society and for society. The need for a new law, a change in existing law and the difficulties that surround its implementation cannot be studied in a better manner without the sociological enquiry. Law is an important variable in any social investigation. Researchers cannot do anything in sociological research if they do not know at least the basics of law, legal system and law institutions. Similarity, a legal researcher cannot do justice to the legal inquiry if he does not know about the mechanics of social research methods.
In a planned development of the society, law is playing the role of a catalyst to help in the process of social change. In a dynamic society, a legal research must switch over to multi or inter-disciplinary approach as the legal problems are connected with social, political, economical, psychological issues.
Law society are not divisible as water-tight compartments. They are interlinked. Co-operative inter disciplinary research is required to deal with the social-legal problems as socio-legal research is all interdisciplinary approach which extends into the fields of social sciences. UpendraBaxi says that lawyer must know much of sociology and the sociologist must know much of law. Baxi proposed the socio-legal research in the following vital areas:
- Mapping of Indian Legal System
- Mapping of formal and informal legal system
- Studies on the beneficiaries and victims of administration of justice
- Law and poverty
- Compensatory, discrimination of a section of people such as Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes.
- Study of legal system in connection with cultural, social and national legal systems.
This is list is not exhaustive. Area of socio legal research expands with the development in law and technology. Thus in a dynamic or developing society a legal researcher must adopt a multi-disciplinary approach as the legal problems in the society will be largely in connection with the social, economic, political and psychological issues.