U.S. – India Comparative Constitutional 2.0 – Workshop 1

January 27, 2022 | Kalyani Menon

The Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) in collaboration with its partnered Indian and American universities organised a series of workshops on U.S.- India Comparative Constitutional law in October, November 2021 and January 2022. The partnered Indian and American law universities were paired for an interactive session.  

  

Between October 23-24, 2021, CLPR organized its first two-day workshop under the project at the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai (TNDALU). The U.S. law school partner for this workshop was the University of California Los Angeles School of Law, Los Angeles (UCLA). Over 40 students from both universities participated. Faculty members from the two universities invited speakers, and CLPR staff were also in attendance.

 

The focus of this workshop was equality and affirmation in U.S.-India comparative constitutional law. A set of readings curated by CLPR were distributed to the students in advance to facilitate informed discussions.

 

The schedule of these sessions was as follows:

 

9:30 am – 11:30 am – Session I: Constitutional Founding 

 

Part I  

In the first part of this session, CLPR resource persons reviewed the constitutional founding of the United States and India. They posed a provocative question to the students: ‘Were the U.S. and Indian Constitution-making processes democratic?’

 

This triggered lively and insightful discussions among the students. They were able to appreciate the unique historical and political circumstances under which the U.S. and Indian Constitutions were framed and gained a richer understanding of constitution-making in general.

  

Session readings:  

 

Presentation slides: Session I Part I 

  

Part II  

In the second half of the workshop, CLPR resource persons introduced the students to two key documents of U.S. and Indian constitutional history: the Federalist Papers and the Constituent Assembly Debates. Students used these historical materials to understand how constitution framers in both countries engaged with the separation of powers—a critical concept in Constitutional Law.

 

They proceeded to engage with a unique exercise: students applied the constitutional arguments of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and James Madison, the architects of the Indian and U.S. Constitutions respectively, to a hypothetical constitutional case study developed by CLPR. This exercise allowed students to better appreciate how U.S. and Indian Constitution framers approached the separation of powers, as well as the value of engaging with constitutional history while studying contemporary Constitutional Law.

  

Session readings:  

 

Presentation slides: Session I Part II 

  

Speaker Remarks

 

Professor Pritam Baruah, Dean, School of Law, BMU Munjal University, delivered a special lecture on how ‘founding moments chose to articulate common projects through distinct values in the two countries and how that has unravelled in different ways for each. Professor Baruah proposed a theoretical framework to understand and evaluate the Indian and U.S. Constitution-making projects.

 

***

 

11:45 am – 1:45 pm – Session II: Merit and Affirmative Action in U.S. and India 

 

Part I  

CLPR presented students with an overview of the constitutional and legal frameworks surrounding equality and non-discrimination in the U.S. and India. Students were encouraged to situate the ideas of merit and affirmation within these frameworks using a comparative lens.

 

Session readings 

 

Presentation slides: Session II Part I 

 

Part II 

Students engaged with two contemporary cases of university admissions that involved ideas of equality and affirmative action: the Harvard Admissions case in the U.S. and the NEET case in India.

 

Students were divided into two groups: one group represented the Supreme Court of India and the other the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of India was asked to decide the U.S. case, while the U.S. Supreme Court had to decide the Indian case. Through this exercise, students were able to appreciate the similarities and differences in the nature of constitutional disputes around affirmative action in the two countries.

 

Session readings:  

 

Presentation slides: Session II Part II 

 

Speaker Remarks

 

Professor Siddharth Chauhan, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, closed the session. He spoke on a foundational question animating affirmative action policies in the U.S. and India: how do we decide which groups come under the umbrella of affirmative action? Professor Chauhan suggested that this question must be approached through an interdisciplinary framework that goes beyond the law. He urged students to pay attention to how dominant groups—that enjoy immense social and cultural capital—shape ideas of merit in society.

 

***

 

9.00 pm – 11.00 pm – Session III: Interactive Session with UCLA School of Law Students on Affirmative Action in Education 

 

Part I  

In Session III, TNDALU law students were joined by law students from UCLA School of Law. The two groups of students collaboratively situated, compared, and presented their views on affirmative action in the U.S. and Indian constitutional frameworks.

  

Session readings:  

 

Presentation slides: Session III Part I 

  

Part II  

CLPR introduced students to two important affirmative action cases from the U.S. and India related to university admissions. Students were split into groups and asked to design an affirmative action policy that took values like diversity into account and present them before the larger group. In the ensuing discussion, Indian and U.S. law students were able to use their learning from both countries’ constitutional experiences.

  

Session readings:  

 

Presentation slides: Session III Part II   

 

Speaker Remarks

 

Professor Stephen Gardbaum, University of California Los Angeles School of Law, was the invited speaker for this session. He traced the trajectory of affirmative action in the U.S and compared contemporary debates around affirmative action in the U.S. and India.  

 

***

 

9:00 am – 11:00 am – Session IV: Reflections, Feedback, Going Forward and Essay 

Competition 

 

CLPR resource persons recapped the three preceding sessions. Students reflected on their learnings with the larger group. Based on a prompt given by CLPR, students proceeded to write on-the-spot essays for the essay competition. Ranjit Abraham, Professor, TNDALU, concluded the session with his remarks.

 

Presentation slides: Session IV 

 

U.S. – India Comparative Constitutional 2.0 – Workshop 2

Kalyani Menon

Research Associate

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