Thursday, July 11, 2013

Conference Announcement: Human Rights Lawyering in India

The Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore and the Human Rights Program, National Law School, Bangalore are organising a conference titled "Courting Justice" at the campus of the National Law School, Bangalore, over the coming weekend (July 13-14, 2013). 

More about the focus of the conference, from the event description page of the ALF website:

"India has a rich history of the use of the legal system as a site of contestation for issues of social, economic and political justice. These legal battles have often been the culmination of a longer social struggle. In that sense, the expansion of the domain of rights in India has emerged not through benign judicial authorship, but through the interaction of social movements with institutions of law and justice, coupled with the use of innovative legal strategy. While we have extensive accounts of social movements and detailed histories of the judiciary, what seems to be missing is a qualitative account of the dynamics of human rights lawyering in India.

The challenge of human rights lawyering in the last decade has been considerable. From the euphoric era of social action litigation after the Emergency through the conservative judicial pronouncements of the 2000s, lawyers have had to rethink the legal strategies that they deploy. Many individual lawyers have devised innovative approaches and strategies to tackle emerging challenges in the field of human rights. These challenges include the issues of development, land acquisition, community resources and livelihood; anti-terrorism, mass crimes, increased militarism, impunity and the response of the criminal legal system; workers’ rights in the organized and unorganized sectors in the face of aggressive policies pertaining to economic globalisation;matrimonial rights in a changing legal and social scenario; and shrinking space for freedom of speech and expression, rights of the underprivileged and the marginalized and the misuse of repressive laws.  The knowledge, expertise and experience that vests with individual lawyers engaged in human rights work deserves to be shared widely among like-minded people, in the interests of empowering social movements further. In this context it is imperative that lawyers who are working on similar social issues exchange ideas, strategies, success stories and challenges and engage more closely to expand their collective knowledge- political, strategic and technical- to address the challenges of human rights litigation in the coming future.

At this conference, the focus will be on the motivation for lawyers to take up human rights work, the challenges they face, key cases they have been involved in, and legal strategies that have been successful and otherwise. The conference will facilitate   solidarities to be forged across geographies and specific areas of work and provide for the exchange of information on the work being done by human rights lawyers around the country. This could be a starting point for more regular interaction between individual human rights lawyers who are otherwise often isolated in their work.

We have invited 50 lawyers from across the country, and the focus will be on young lawyers practicing in the trial court and High Courts. Most of the lawyers at the conference will be from amongst a pool of human rights lawyers we have already interviewed over the last year, from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka and Orissa. The format we use will ensure adequate space for interaction and deliberation among lawyers, as well as brief presentations by senior practitioners."

The themes of the conference include: i) Breaking Impunity: ii) Movement lawyering; and iii) Support structure for human rights lawyering.  The schedule of the conference, including names of confirmed participants, is available here.  Those interested in attending should email Siddharth (
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