International Conference on Law, Governance and Development Indian Legal System Reform: Empirical Baselines and Normative Frameworks

May 17, 2012 | Jayna Kothari

Azim Premji University is organising its First Conference on Law, Governance and Development on 18th and 19th May. Sudhir Krishnaswamy will speak in the introductory session on the themes in Legal System Reform. Jayna Kothari will participate as a speaker in the Panel on Criminal Justice Reforms. Other speakers include include experts such as Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Arun Thiruvengadam, Simon Chapman, Menaka Guruswamy, Nick Robinson and Justice Ravindra Bhat.


The Conference promises to be one of the most interesting ones this year on law and governance in India. Here’s the Conference Note:

The Law, Governance and Development Initiative (LGDI) was established at the Azim Premji University in 2010 to analyze the relationship between development and governance with a particular focus on the structure and practices of government and the constitutive and instrumental role of the legal system. The Initiative seeks to investigate and reconfigure our understanding of governance problems in India and relocate legal system reform as a central element of governance reform in India. The annual conference of LGDI aims to create a forum for academic enquiry and debate on law and its relationship to governance and development, and explores empirical and theoretical questions of reform of the Indian legal system using a multi-disciplinary approach. The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Indian Legal System Reform: Empirical Baselines and Normative Frameworks’.


This Conference will be organized around a set of original research contributions, made available to all the participants prior to the Conference. The Conference will encourage informed debate on the central issues of legal system reform in India, organized around panel themes described below. This year’s conference will be held on May 18th and 19th, 2012 at TERI, 4 Main, Domlur II Stage, Bangalore.


R. Dhavan and P. Kalpakam in The Supreme Court Under Strain: the Challenge of Arrears (1978) first developed an empirical approach to legal system analysis in India with their study of the performance of the Indian Supreme Court in the first three decades after Independence. Upendra Baxi’s The Crisis of the Indian Legal System (1982) was the first book length study of the legal system that brought together empirical analysis with a wider theoretical and normative understanding of the role and significance of the legal system. In this work, three decades ago Baxi warns us that the crises facing the Indian legal system had reached a point where the legality and legitimacy of the system had substantially eroded and the institutional capacity for self-correction seemed bleak. R. Moog’s more recent work on the problem of delays in the lower courts reflects on the role of judges in Indian lower courts using an ethnographic perspective (Moog, 1992, Delays in the Indian Courts: Why Judges Don’t Take Control). Hazra and Debroy’s edited collection titled Judicial Reforms in India (2007) makes the case for a judicial reform using a law and economics approach to understand delays in the Indian legal system. Despite these varied academic engagements with the problems of reform of the Indian legal system, in the last two decades the sense of crisis has only deepened as piece-meal policy reform and glaring media scrutiny has hollowed out any remaining faith in the possibility of meaningful change. This Conference seeks to reconnect the policy and academic engagements with judicial reforms by identifying key empirical baselines and methods and to revisit the normative frameworks that should guide efforts towards reform of the Indian legal system.

Jayna Kothari

Executive Director

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