U.S. – India Comparative Constitutional Law 2.0 : Workshop 1 at TNDALU, Chennai (Session I and II)
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 23 and 24 October 2021, CLPR organised its first two-day workshop under the project with the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai (TNDALU). This video covers session I and II of the first workshop. 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 Agenda for session I and II are provided below:
9:30 am – 11:30 am – Session I: Constitutional Founding
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.
- Making of the U.S. Constitution compiled by CLPR
- Constitution Making in India: A Primer by Sudhir Krishnaswamy and Vineeth Krishna
- Excerpts from The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of A Nation by Granville Austin (Oxford India Paperbacks, 1999)
- Excerpts from The Federalist by Jack N. Rakove (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
- The Making of India’s Constitution, YouTube, CLPR Trust
Presentation slides: Session I Part I
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.
- Excerpts from Indian Constituent Assembly Debates on Separation of Powers
- Federalist Paper 51 on Separation of Powers
Presentation slides: Session I Part II
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
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.
- Article 14, 15, 16 of Constitution of India, 1950 and Fourteenth Amendment of Constitution of the United States
- Excerpts from The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? by Michael J. Sandel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020)
- Excerpts from The Caste of Merit: Engineering Education in India by Ajantha Subramanian (Harvard University Press, 2019)
Presentation slides: Session II Part I
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.
- Can Affirmative Action Survive? by Nicholas Lemann (The New Yorker, July 2021)
- NEET and the illusion of ‘merit’ Salem Dharanidharan (The NewsMinute, September 2021)
Presentation slides: Session II Part II
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.