The Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) in collaboration with its partnered Indian and American universities is organising a series of workshops on U.S.- India Comparative Constitutional law in October and November 2021. Four Indian law universities have been paired with four U.S. law universities for an interactive session. These workshops are supported by the U.S. Consulate General, Chennai.
On the 30 and 31 October, CLPR conducted the second virtual workshop of the series with students at the National University for Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi (NUALS) anchored around the concept of Freedom of Speech. The engrossing interactive session had the pairing the students of Seattle University School of Law, Seattle and NUALS. The workshop was attended by over 30 students from the two Universities and 10 others including faculty members, U.S. Consulate staff and the CLPR team.
The workshop sessions were rigourous with discussions and simulation exercises that focused on critical constitutional law tensions on freedom of speech with a U.S. - India comparative framework.
The first session, ‘Constitutional Founding’ recounted the constitutional stories of U.S. and India. This was followed by students discussing critical institutions and processes that informed the democractic foundations of the constitution making processes in both countries. With this background, the second half of the session focused on originalist conceptions of the doctrine of separation of powers in both countries. After understanding the framers' views on separation of powers, the students participated in a simulation activity where they evaulated the U.S. and Indian perspectives on separation of powers between the executive and judiciary. Concluding the session with the application of originalist method, Prof (Dr.) Arun Thiruvengadam (Professor of Law, National Law School of India University, Bangalore) delivered a special lecture on how courts have used originalist interpretation in adjudicating cases using the example of Balaji Raghavan v. Union of India.
With an understanding of the constitutional stories of the two countries from the first session, the second session devled on the constitutional principle of freedom of speech in U.S. and India. Students engaged with constitutional and legal provisions on freedom of speech in both U.S. and India. Their discussions invoked these provisions to discuss the concept of free speech and obscenity. Students deliberated on the idea of restrictions on free speech in U.S and India and participated in activities that helped them use the constitutional framework to understand contemporary issues on freedom of speech in literary publications with sexual content. Prof Sitharamam Kakarala (Director of School of Policy and Governance at Azim Premji University) concluded the session with his remarks. He highlighted the need for comparative studies to understand the history of modern law and the importance of shifting from a functionalist study of comparative law to a method that analyses law with context of its time and place.
The third session was a key component of the workshop - the video interaction between students of Seattle University and NUALS. In this session, we discussed the hate speech legal architecture, provisions and case laws in U.S. and India. Students also participated in an activity which required them to determine if certain videos would be considered as hate speech in the two countries. The activity encouraged students to reflect on the rationale for restricting hate speech, what classifies as hate speech and the different approaches to balancing free speech and curbing hate speech in U.S. and India. This was followed by Prof Nandita Narayan’s (Assistant Professor at NUALS) remarks on hate speech jurisprudence in the two countries and emerging issues with the use of digital spaces and the concept of freedom of speech and expression. Prof Monika Batra Kashyap (Affiliate Faculty, Seattle University School of Law) closed the session with her remarks where she tied together the discussions on free speech and hate speech within the larger theoretical framework of Critical Race Theory.
The final session on 31 October 2021 began with a summary of the discussions and reading material used in the first three sessions. It was followed by an essay competition where students were given one hour to write an essay reflecting on the reading material and discussions. Students used this time to think about the issues and concepts discussed and to indulge in a form of comparative enquiry into the constitutional themes. The purpose of the essay was also to help students explore the subject further. The top 2 essayists will be invited to attend the grand finale in December 2021. Prof (Dr.) Mini S., (Professor at NUALS) and Prof Nandita Narayan, (Assistant Professor at NUALS) concluded the session with their remarks.
Students participated in workshop sessions with enthusiasm and have expressed interest to engage further with U.S. – India comparative constitutional law themes.