JUDGES, THE RIGHT TO PROPERTY, AND AFFIRMATIVE DISCRIMINATION: THE INDIAN SUPREME COURT AS A POLITICAL INSTITUTION
AuthorBeller, Gerald Everett
AdvisorWilliams, Edward J.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study analyzes the role the Supreme Court of India has tried to carve for itself in the Indian political system. An introductory section describes institutional characteristics of the Court and assesses its troubled attempts to define a proper doctrine of judicial review. Subsequent sections discuss Court rulings concerned with the "right to property" and affirmative discrimination for Untouchables. It is shown that the Court garnered strong support among educated and propertied segments of the population for its defense of an independent adjudication of issues arising out of agrarian reform legislation. It is also shown that the Court was capable of imposing flexible and effective standards over affirmative discrimination, despite the incapacity of elected leaders to resolve inherent moral and political problems arising out of the identification of beneficiaries. These outcomes bring into question the tendency of existing research to ignore as inconsequential the role played by judicial institutions in rapidly developing societies. Examination of cases concerned with property rights reveals that the Court was faced with genuine affronts to its integrity as an institution. These affronts came in the form of constitutional amendments which would have enabled elected elites to bypass altogether judicial imposition of constitutional limitations. The Court's reaction to this threat radically departed from the passive role usually assigned by analysts to the courts in the Third World. Giving itself the unique power to reject amendments to the Constitution, the Court projected a militant ideological defense of its proper function. This study carefully analyzes the political setting which made such a defense possible. It is suggested that the Court achieved a temporary triumph precisely because of the growing incapacity of alternate institutions to process difficult social demands. This explanation for judicial assertiveness is reinforced in the decisions concerned with affirmative discrimination. The rise of Supreme Court dominance over standards governing policies in this area is traced to conceptual and practical difficulties which courts seem uniquely equipped to handle. It is shown that non-judicial institutions were utterly unprepared to resolve inherent conflicts between group and individual rights implicit within caste-based affirmative discrimination. The Court could "resolve" such conflicts by deliberate obfuscation of legal categories identifying beneficiaries. Not faced with the practical implementation of programs under its scrutiny, the Court was required only to devise a legal language which would satisfy the need to legitimize such programs while keeping them limited to the genuinely needy. Detailed examination of these policy conflicts shows that it is possible for judicial institutions to articulate and act upon their own prerogatives in a country undergoing instability and institutional decay. Comparable research for other countries is suggested in the conclusion.
Degree ProgramGraduate College