On January 25, 2024, the Centre for Law and Policy Research launched its Constitution Defenders Fellowship program, with an inaugural session at the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court. The inaugural session was followed by a three-day training for the Fellows with the aim of arming them with better knowledge and understanding for addressing human rights and social justice in legal arguments. Both the new and previous cohorts of Constitution Defender Fellows attended the training.
The Inaugural Session was conducted in the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court at the Advocates Association Hall. It was chaired by Hon’ble Justice Sunil Dutt Yadav, Dr. Kamala Sankaran (Professor at NLSIU Bangalore), Jayna Kothari (Senior Advocate & Executive Director, CLPR), and Sri. Vivek Subba Reddy (President, AAB).
The event commenced with the speech of Advocate Vivek Subba Reddy who introduced CLPR, the constitutional defender fellowship, and the panel. The speech was followed by Senior Advocate Jayna Kothari, Executive Director, CLPR, who quoted Dr. Ambedkar to emphasise on the point that democracy can be maintained only by adhering to constitutional methods of achieving social and economic objectives.
She added that the 75th year of the Indian constitution coming into force is an opportune moment to introduce the fellowship programme. She also introduced our new cohort of national fellows, namely, Advocate Kuldeep Kumar Baudh, Advocate Kiyeka V. Arkha, Advocate Ujjaini Chatterji, Advocate Jomol Joy, Advocate Vasudha Chandwani, and Advocate Deepak Chatap (read about them in more detail here) and also welcomed the previous cohort of Constitution Defender Fellows namely, Advocate Aparna Mehrotra, Advocate Muninarayanswamy and Advocate Shobha M.R.
Thereafter, Dr. Sankaran discussed the nuanced nature of defending the constitution by highlighting provisions like Articles 16(4)(5)(6) and 15(3). She put emphasis on the fact that defending the constitution extends beyond constitutional bodies to addressing the structural challenges of the legal and bureaucratic system.
Finally, Hon’ble Justice Yadav appreciated the effort by CLPR to create a community of lawyers working towards the goal of making social justice accessible to people and deemed it fit that the programme was being inaugurated a day before the Republic Day. Justice Yadav spoke about the need to interpret laws in the benefit of the marginalised community for judges to do their part in the pursuance of social justice. The session ended with a hopeful note on the future of public interest lawyering in India.