The Journal of Indian Law and Society in collaboration with Eastern Book Company is pleased to announce the launch of Volume 6 (Monsoon), its first Special Issue in honour of late Dr. Lotika Sarkar. The launch would be followed by a panel discussion on Indian Feminism, Law Reform and the Law Commission of India : Special Issue in Honour of late Dr. Lotika Sarkar.
The launch event is taking place at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. Welcome to the live blogging of the same!
The dignitaries present on the dias for the launch and subsequent panel discussion are Ms. Rukmini Sen and Mr. Saptarshi Mandal (Special Editors of the edition), along with Mr. Nidhin Donald (a contributing author to the current edition) and Mr. Saurabh Bhattacharjee (Faculty Advisor of the Journal, NUJS).
5 PM: The special 6th edition of the Journal is unveiled by the dignitaries on the dias. The printed copies of the edition in their hands (with a beautiful cover page) make for a wonderful photograph!
This paves the way for the much awaited panel discussion for which a number of students and teachers of law and social sciences are present in the audience. Mr. Saptarshi Mandal is moderating the session and lays down the order of discussion.
5:10 PM: Mr. Saurabh Bhattacharjee (Assistant Professor, NUJS) who serves as the Faculty Advisor of the Journal emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary research in his opening remarks. Though he proceeds to highlight certain handicaps which lawyers face in this regard by virtue of being trained in the black letter of the law and thereby, showcasing a tendency to prioritize strictly legal tools in interpretation of texts and often perceiving issues.
5:25 PM: Mr. Nidhin Donald, while discussing the social implications of inter-caste and inter-community marriages, remarks that these couples are often compelled to flee from their homes/localities. Proposes that the Law Commission recommendations should aim to provide legitimacy to their lives.
5: 35 PM: Ms. Yashvi Ganeriwal (a student editor of the Journal) seeks to discuss the problems highlighted in the essays in the new Edition of the Journal and the way to deal with them. She remarks that one of the questions posed by authors is with respect to how informed the Law Commission regarding certain issues. The speaker cites examples such as the ban on commercial surrogacy and how that disregards the concept of bodily autonomy, as argued widely. She provides another example, that of honour killings and the coercion that women face in the current setup. She goes on to suggest that such information asymmetry in the Law Commission needs to be rectified.
5:45 PM: Ms. Ganeriwal lays special emphasis on the problem that is presented by not treating the commissioning parents as stakeholders, with reference to the article on surrogacy in the Journal Edition. She stresses on the need of modified interpretation by the Law Commission of laws in place, as can be evidenced by developments such as the Feminist Judgment Writing Project.
6 PM: The observations and remarks of the dignitaries on the panel give food for thought to the audience and incidentally, brings an end to the first part of the session. This is to be followed by an interactive session, which invites questions and comments from the audience members.
1. In light of the absence of mandatory courses on interdisciplinary writing in law schools, what changes to the course curriculum can help?
Ans: Mr. Saurabh Bhattacharjee remarks that one of the reasons for choosing law for some students is the possibility of reading a number of subjects together. However, in practice it does not end up happening. He suggests that courses be taught together, i.e. in combination; for instance IPC and Sociology, Labour and Gender Rights etc. But he notes that it requires more investment in faculty, greater number of Social Science teachers and better incentives to those teachers.
Ms. Ganeriwal highlight the specific issue of Project writing in law schools and recommends that greater focus be given to empirical studies as opposed to pure legal research and writing.
Ms. Rukmini Sen makes a distinction between what is practiced and envisaged as curriculum of the NLUs. She suggests that teaching social sciences only in the first two years and compartmentalising it away from law is not ideal. Further, she suggests the need of greater conversations between institutions devoted to purely legal education and those offering specialised social science courses, e.g. about social setup of the courts.
Mr. Saptarshi Mandal highlights the fact that there needs to be greater clarity about whether the objective in law schools is teaching the law or developing the capability of thinking about the law.
2. In a scenario where beliefs in the legitimacy of evils such as honour killings are entrenched in society, how can changes in the black letter of law impact these entrenched notions and beliefs?
Ans: Mr. Nidhin Donald points the example of Inter-Caste marriage conferences in Tamil Nadu, which call for a law against inter-caste marriages. He highlights that the issue of honour killings in Tamil Nadu is related to the idea of dominance that exists among castes today. The specific context of the particular state is a relevant factor in such a determination. Thus, the societal notions that are prevalent presently can change in due course of time by way of various socio-legal factors, and are by no means permanently enshrined.
3. In a scenario where the feminist discourse itself differs on various issues, how can the legal system effectively rely on feminist legal discourse? For instance, with respect to the definition of rape and the idea of conferring a gender-neutral connotation to the term.
Ans: Ms. Sen acknowledges the problem that arises due to the lack of consensus on certain issues within social movements such as feminist legal discourse. However,she remarks that a reference can be made to the 172nd Law Commission Report, which includes a discussion around gender-neutral terminology, as an example of understanding one approach to the same.
6:20 PM: Due to paucity of time, the Moderator limits the questions that can be put forth, bringing us closer to the conclusion of the event.
The event formally concludes with a vote of thanks, a huge round of applause and more photographs with the printed copies of the Journal’s special edition!