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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Assessing the Social Rights Jurisprudence of India: Perspectives from Constitutional Theory and Comparative Law

Prof. Dr. Arun Thiruvengadam, National University of Singapore
May 7, 2015, 18:15–20:00
University of Zurich, Main Building, Room KOL F-117, Rämistrasse 71, 8006 Zürich


In recent years, there has been considerable debate in the field of comparative constitutional law on the issue of social rights and their enforcement by the judiciary in particular. This talk will engage with these debates by focusing on the record and experience of the Indian judiciary in enforcing the social rights provisions of its Constitution. The Constitution of India contains several provisions relating to social rights, many of which are housed in a part of the text that is expressly stated to be 'non-justiciable.' Over time, however, the Indian judiciary has, through a process of creative interpretation, mandated that the executive and legislature take proactive steps towards the implementation of these rights provisions. The talk will focus on this process, which has been the subject of considerable controversy but has, over time, gained the qualified support of progressive communities in India. The talk will focus on cases from the early 1980s through to more recent cases in the new century, and will also cover the scholarly literature in India and abroad that has developed around these issues. Finally, the talk will seek to draw contrasts and comparisons with the approach to social rights taken by judiciaries in South Africa and Colombia in particular.