U.S. – India Comparative Constitutional Law 2.0 : Workshop 2 at NUALS, Kochi (Session I and II)

October 30, 2021

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.

On 30 and 31 October 2021, CLPR conducted the second virtual workshop of this series with students from the National University for Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi (NUALS). It comprised of 4 sessions. This video covers session I and II. The U.S. law university partner for this workshop was Seattle University School of Law, Seattle. The workshop was attended by over 30 students from the two universities. 10 others were also in attendance—including faculty members, U.S. Consulate staff, and the CLPR team. The workshop was anchored around freedom of speech—particularly, hate speech. A list of reading materials was shared with the workshop participants in advance to facilitate an informed discussion.

The Agendas for session I and II are provided below:

9:30 am – 11:30 am – Session I: Constitutional Founding

Part I

CLPR resource persons reviewed important strands of the U.S. and Indian constitution-making projects and posed a provocative question to the participating students: ‘were the American and Indian constitution-making processes democratic?’.

The student discussion that followed, steered by CLPR, invoked different aspects of the two countries’ constitution-making processes. While doing so, students were able to better appreciate concepts like constitutionalism and democratic legitimacy—as well as their relevance in making sense of the constitutional founding of the U.S. and India.

Session Readings:

Presentation Slides: Session I Part I

Part II

CLPR resource persons introduced the Federalist Papers and the Constituent Assembly Debates to the students. The session focused on how the framers of U.S. and Indian Constitutions engaged with the separation of powers through a simulation exercise.

Students were divided into groups, each adopting the persona of a U.S. and Indian Constitution framer. They were asked to engage with a hypothetical situation that involved the separation of powers. This exercise reinforced the importance of primary constitutional history materials and their relevance in contemporary debates.

Session readings:

Presentation slides: Session I Part II

Speaker Remarks

Professor Arun Thiruvengadam, Professor of Law, National Law School of India University, was the invited speaker for this session. He tied together the preceding student discussions with the broader question of constitutional interpretation. His remarks were anchored around an important Supreme Court case—Balaji Raghavan v Union of India (1996). This was followed by a student question and answer session.


11.45 am – 1:45 pm – Session II: Freedom of Speech in India and U.S.

Part I

CLPR resource persons introduced students to the constitutional and legal architecture surrounding the freedom of speech in the U.S. and India. Students identified the similarities and differences in how the two jurisdictions treated freedom of speech.

Session readings:

Presentation slides: Session II Part I

Part II

CLPR presented students with the overview of how the U.S. and Indian Supreme Courts have adjudicated on freedom of speech cases—particularly those involving obscenity.

A student activity followed where students were presented with an excerpt from the story Lihaaf by Indian writer Ismat Chugtai. They were asked to determine how U.S. and Indian Courts would decide if the excerpt violated freedom of speech. This activity gave students a deeper insight into constitutional debates surrounding freedom of speech in the U.S and India.

Session readings:

Presentation slides: Session II Part II

Speaker Remarks

This session was followed by remarks from Professor Sitharamam Kakarala, Director, School of Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru. Professor Kakarala argued that comparative Constitutional Law must be based on a sound understanding of the history of modern law. Comparative law must be analysed in the context of time and place. Students found Professor Sitharamam’s remarks valuable in comparing the U.S. and India’s constitutional law and history.