ANR Programme 2009-2013
image of courtroom
A Joint Programme on Justice and Governance in India and South Asia
(Hosted by Centre for Himalayan Studies)

The Context


India is often defined as a country of paradoxical democracy. The paradox would lie in the fact that, on the one hand, it is a secular country with a strong independent justice, a free press, and a growing economic and political liberalism which has integrated the effects of globalisation, of consumerism, of social justice, or of international and human rights. On the other hand, this democracy has been superimposed upon a society which remains largely based on local servitudes of religion, gender, age, and caste status, on territorial, kinship and feudal allegiances – all highly coercive mechanisms through which authority was, and still is exercised, especially at the rural level. This is not to say that today a "modern" state coexists with "traditional" forms of authority, since even at rural level the local society participates in a context of modernisation and globalisation. However, the interactions between state and local society may have different connotations in the 21st century, and may lead to different outcomes compared to those observed previously. For instance,  some of the commitments that India has made both at national and international level – such as in the field of the legal protection of "underprivileged" groups, of environmental policy, of narcotics control, of human rights, and so forth – create a number of "new" situations where the state and the local society find themselves interacting. These interactions may create tension, conflicts or misunderstandings, whenever the state commitment goes against local forms of relationships or local economic or political interests; or they can create reciprocal adjustments and adaptations.

The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to study such interactions at the legal and judiciary level.

Judiciary Cases

Case studies, both criminal and civil, will be studied at various levels:

lawyers and clients in front of Mandi Court

  • at the level of trials in  low Courts, focusing on the interactions taking place during the proceedings.
  • in the frame of  "interactional legal settings" - public prosecutors' offices, court compound with the defence lawyers, or various state or non-state contexts of mediation.
  • recording the 'judiciary story', and delving into the legal reasoning expressed in judgements, court reports, and press articles
  • analysing the legal reasoning as it may be perceived by those involved - taking into consideration their different and contrasted narratives
  • at the level of Highest Court cases, including that of the Supreme Courts' judgments and the way they influence the legislative institution