Revisiting <i>The Role of the Judiciary in Plural Societies (1987)</i>

Sunil Khilnani, Vikram Raghavan and Arun K. Thiruvengadam

in Comparative Constitutionalism in South Asia

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780198081760
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199082360 | DOI:
Revisiting The Role of the Judiciary in Plural Societies (1987)

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This essay revisits a classic work in the field of comparative public interest law, in relation to its conclusions on the potential of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for countries in the global South. Published in 1987, The Role of the Judiciary in Plural Societies (ROJ) comprises a selection of academic papers presented at two workshops held in Surajkund, India and Eldoret, Kenya in August 1983 and February 1985 respectively. It addressed the role of judiciaries in aiding public interest law movements in five countries across Asia and Africa. It concluded that judicial activism, encouraged by social action litigation [or PIL], inspired by constitutional values, may be regarded as a vital human technology for social change in impoverished societies. After describing the Indian experience with Public Interest Litigations (PIL) in the last twenty five years, the author outlines the growing discontent among progressives over PIL, and the reasons for such a trend. The author concludes that the judiciary should reformulate its role in PIL by giving up the ‘command-and-control’ methods that have led to some of the gravest problems of contemporary PIL jurisprudence, including those where the judiciary has spurned the interests of the original constituency of PIL. The judiciary should focus on being an ally to strong civil society groups and movements in their attempt to make the processes of Indian democracy more participatory, inclusive, and effective in pursuing the developmental goals enshrined in the Constitution.

Keywords: The Role of the Judiciary in Plural Societies; South Asian comparative constitutionalism; Public Interest Litigations; PIL problems; judiciary and civil society movements; participatory democracy; PILs and the Constitution; Indian Supreme Court

Chapter.  11422 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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