Scholars Engage with Indian Constitution

In First Comparative Law Event, Columbia Law School's Center for Constitutional Governance Hosts Academics from Around the World for Discussion of Indian Supreme Court's Impact on Progressive Social Change

New York, October 1, 2015—Scholars from around the world gathered at Columbia Law School recently to examine the impact of India’s Supreme Court on progressive social change at a two-day conference held by the Center for Constitutional Governance with generous support from the Dr. Ambedkar Chair in Indian Constitutional Law.

There is a widespread belief among Indian academics, political activists, and journalists that the Indian Supreme Court is not only an effective agent of politically progressive social change, but, in addition, perhaps the only governmental institution capable of furthering the interests of the relatively disadvantaged. The conference was designed to explore this belief by rigorously examining the empirical effects of decisions of the Indian Supreme Court on the everyday lives of marginalized citizens on issues such as electoral corruption, communal riots, sex-selective abortion, caste discrimination, and the right to education. 

Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School’s Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, welcomed attendees and the opportunity to engage scholars and students in collaborations that span countries.
Gillian E. Metzger, director of the Center for Constitutional Governance and the Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law, said the conference—the center’s first to explore comparative constitutional governance—would not have been possible without the support of University Professor Jagdish Bhagwati and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Visiting Professor of Indian Constitutional Law Sudhir Krishnaswamy. The Indian government established the Ambedkar chair in 2010. The title of the chair honors Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, who graduated from Columbia University in 1915 and later earned his doctoral degree there.
Since the chair was created, the Law School has expanded its engagement with Indian constitutional law, including  hosting three lectures by acclaimed Indian historian and writer Ramachandra Guha and a conference celebrating the 100 years since Ambedkar first came to Columbia University.
Krishnaswamy said empirical analysis of the Indian Supreme Court is a relatively new field with little scholarship. He emphasized that the conference was the start of a new focus on this area: one that is “terribly important” especially as the “Indian court is a progressive beacon of hope—a pioneer in the developing world.”
The Center for Constitutional Governance at Columbia Law School is a non-partisan legal and policy organization devoted to the study of constitutional structure and authority. The center provides a forum for the discussion of constitutional issues and governance challenges across all sectors—academia, government, nonprofit, and private practice.