Monday, August 27, 2012

Photocopying and the Public Interest

Late last week, The Hindu's Delhi edition reported about a raid on a photocopying service at Delhi University at the behest of Oxford University Press and others. Lawrence Liang offers a very stinging critique against this ridiculous legal proceeding, which seems most bizarre.

In full disclosure, I am co-editing a book to be published by OUP later this year. At the same time, the whole strategy of suing a university photocopying service seems deeply troubling, not to speak of the case's shaky legal foundations to which Lawrence points.

I earnestly hope that the Delhi High Court will dismiss the law suit taking into account the larger public interest, which includes lakhs of poor students who cannot afford to buy academic textbooks or even student editions (which hardly exist in many cases).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Frontline's Cover Story on the Death Penalty

The latest issue of  Frontline  (hitting the stands tomorrow) has a cover story on death penalty in India. The issue contains articles dealing with the following matters:

  • Cover story focusing on the recent appeals of 14 judges to the President of India to commute the death sentences of prisoners where the Supreme Court judgements affirming the sentence of death were subsequently declared per incuriam by the Supreme Court.
  • Deterrence and the Death Penalty: an analytical discussion (featuring unpublished research) of the claim that the death penalty deters murder more than life imprisonment.
  • Article arguing that the Supreme Court’s death penalty jurisprudence is inconsistent, arbitrary and discriminatory.
  • Death Penalty and Terrorism
  • An account of the first case in India where a person sentenced to death by the Supreme Court was subsequently declared a juvenile.
  • An account of recent developments in the USA resulting in a change of position on the death penalty by the American Law Institute, the premier body of jurists in America who had drafted the original death penalty statutes.
  • Article focusing on the Innocence Project in the USA where many death row convicts have been exonerated.
  • A survey of international trends on the use of the death penalty.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Law, Culture, and Queer Politics in Neoliberal Times

The Jindal Global Law Review is out with the first part of a special double issue on Law, Culture, and Queer Politics in Neoliberal Times.  Several of the contributions focus their attention on the Naz Foundation judgment, while others look at queer politics more broadly in India and elsewhere.  Contributors include Ratna Kapur, Brenda Cossman, and Ashley Tellis amongst others.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Public Seminar: Should the Right to Property Return

World Bank New Delhi Seminar Series

Should the Right to Property Return?

Namita Wahi 
(Harvard Law School and Center for Policy Research)

Friday, August 17
Second Floor Conference Room, World Bank New Delhi Office
(VC Connection to HT Building)
12:30 to 2:00 PM

Abstract: The Indian Constitution adopted in 1950 guaranteed to all citizens the fundamental right to “acquire, hold and dispose of property” subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest. Moreover, Article 31 of the Constitution provided that any state acquisition of property must only be upon enactment of a valid law, for a public purpose and upon payment of compensation with exceptions for certain zamindari abolition laws. The following decades saw conflict between the legislature and the courts in cases of acquisition of property (movable and immovable) with the Supreme Court striking down acquisition laws (including but not limited to land acquisition laws) on constitutional grounds and Parliament responding with amendments to the Constitution which redefined property rights. This culminated in the 44th amendment in 1978 which abolished the fundamental right to property. However, a legal right to property was retained in Article 300A of the Constitution.
 Prior to 1978, the Supreme Court was vilified in political rhetoric and scholarly discourse as being reactionary and anti poor. The Court’s enforcement of property rights was criticised for defending the rights of rich property owners and impeding the Parliament’s land reform agenda. Recently however, widespread state acquisition of land has received public attention due to dispossession of poor peasants and traditional communities like forest dwellers, cattle grazers, fishermen and indigenous tribal groups. Consequently, scholars have renewed focus on property rights. It is now argued that the “weakening of property rights” by Parliament in response to the Court’s pro-property rights decisions in the first phase has “dispossessed the poor” rather than the rich. In accordance with this view, in February 2009, a public interest petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking invalidation of the 44th amendment and restoration of the fundamental right to property.
In my presentation, I will examine the chequered history of the constitutional property rights provision in order to provide a revised narrative of how state institutions in India, the Parliament and the Supreme Court have, over the last sixty years, managed tensions between the right to property and the state’s power to acquire property for the purposes of redistribution and economic development. I hope my presentation will contain useful insights for evaluating the current discourses surrounding the new Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement bill and the reinstatement of the fundamental right to property in the Constitution. 

About the author:  Namita Wahi is an S.J.D candidate at Harvard Law School and affiliated with the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.  Her doctoral dissertation traces the historical evolution of the right to property in the Indian Constitution and examines how state institutions in India, the Parliament and the Supreme Court have, over the last sixty years, managed tensions between the right to property and the state’s power to acquire property for the purposes of redistribution and economic development.  Her representative publications include “India: Citizens, Courts and the Right to Health: Between Promise and Progress?” Litigating Health Rights: Can Courts Bring More Justice to Health? (Harvard University Press, 2011) (co-authored with Sharanjeet Parmar) and “Human Rights Accountability of the IMF and the World Bank: A Critique of Existing Mechanisms and a Theory of Horizontal Accountability", 12 U.C. Davis J. Intl L. & Poly (2006).

Please confirm your attendance by email to Jyoti Sriram at by Thursday, August 16th.

NUJS Law Review: Copyright Amendment Act

The Copyright Amendment Act, 2012 recently passed by both houses of parliament promises to thoroughly revise the laws currently governing the Indian Copyright regime. This legislative moment, provides an appropriate opportunity for academic reflection on the proposed changes, their probable impact and a holistic appraisal of the provisions as they now stand. The Editorial Board of the NUJS Law Review invites contributions for its forthcoming special issue on “The Copyright  Amendment Act, 2012: Welcome change or missed opportunity?”. Interested contributors should submit their respective entries no later than 15 November, 2012 to