Legal Literacy and Application in India

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1PO7344

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Ishita Mehrotra

Email of course coordinator: ishita.mehrotra[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None


This course will explore how law operates as a system of political, economic and social control; as a tool to bring about a certain type of development; and, increasingly, how law serves as a site for reform through popular pressure. The course is divided into two sections. Section one is concerned with legal literacy. This discussion will focus on the basic philosophy and design of the Indian Constitution. It will, also, provide an overview of judicial institutions and processes in India. Section two is the application part which will look at how the constitutional philosophy has played out in practice. This is done by way of looking at the role of law in select domains such as labour, land and women.

Course Outcomes:

  1. To be familiar with basic philosophy of the Constitution of India
  2. Basic knowledge of Judicial structure and processes in India
  3. Develop understanding and critical thought on how law is used as a tool to control or reform political, economic and social domains

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. Understanding Constitutionalism and Constitutional Law: This unit will will discuss the guiding principles of the Indian Constitution – how these have been enshrined in the text of the Constitution of India itself and how these have evolved over the years through some of the seminal judicial interpretations. Here, we will look into the relationship between a constitution and a democracy, the debates on language, secularism, federalism and equality.
  2. Judicial Structures and Processes in India: In this unit, students will be introduced to the institutional structure of judiciary, major functions of jurisdiction of courts/tribunals etc.
  3. Women and Law: This module introduces students to various laws addressing gender issues, especially ones dealing with violence against women, criminal offences, inequality and discrimination. The idea is not just to make students aware of existing laws but to also understand the underlying power dynamics and hierarchy that operates in society.
  4. Laws on Land: Be it governments, international organisations such as the IMF and the World Bank, donor agencies or the MNCs, all have stressed on the centrality of rule of law in fostering economic development, especially since the rise of neoliberalism. This manifests in various ways – strengthening property rights, establishment and enforcement of contract law, patent law, making labour laws flexible or enabling land acquisition for industrialisation. In this unit, we will explore the relationship between law and development through the theme of land.
  5. Laws on Labour: This module introduces students to the world of labour and labour laws that regulate workers’ rights and places of work. While familiarizing students with the key elements of important statutes, this module would also equip students to think critically about labour issues in current times and also identify the challenges in practice of these laws at workplace.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Presentation (20%)
  • Mid-Sem Exam (40%)
  • End-Sem Exam (40%)

Reading List:

  • Seth, Leila. 2010. We The Children of India: The Preamble To Our Constituion. Haryana: Penguin Books. (entire book)
  • Khosla, Madhav, et al. 2016. The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution. New Delhi: OUP.
  • Mody, Zia. 2013. 10 Judgements that Changed India. New Delhi: Penguin Group. (entire book, to be covered through student led presentations and class discussions)
  • Kirpal, B.N. et al (eds.). 2000. Supreme but not Infalliable: Essays in Honour of the Supreme Court of India. New Delhi: OUP. (chapter 10).
  • Menon, Nivedita, ed. 1999. Gender and Politics in India. New Delhi: OUP. (Chapter 6)
  • Sampat, Preeti. 2013. ‘Limits to Absolute Power: Eminent Domain and the Right to Land in India’, EPW, Vol. XLVIII, No. 19.
  • Levien, Michael. 2011. ‘Rationalisinng Dispossession: The Land Acquisition and Resettlement Bills’, EPW, Vol. XLVI, No.11.
  • Sud, Nikita 2007, ‘From Land to the Tiller to Land Liberalisation: The Political Economy of
  • Gujarat’s Shifting Land Policy’, Modern Asian Studies, 41 (3), pp.603-37.
  • Bhattacharya, S. 2007. Vicissitudes of the Relationship between State, Capital and Labour: an Appraisal of Neoliberal Labour reforms in India and Beyond. Labour, Capital and Society, Vol 40, 1 and 2.
  • Sood, Atul, et al. 2014. ‘Deregulating Capital, Regulating Labour: The Dynamics in the Manufacturing Sector in India’, EPW, Vol. XLIX, Nos. 26 and 27.
  • Singh, Jaiveer. 2009. ‘Labour Law and Special Economic Zones in India’, Working Paper CSLG/WP/08. Working Paper Series, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, JNU, New Delhi.
  • Sankaran, Kamala and Singh, Ujjwal (ed.). 2008. Towards Legal Literacy: An Introduction to Law in India. Delhi: OUP. Select Chapters.


  • Hasan, Zoya. Et al (eds.). 2002. India’s Living Constitution: Ideas, Practices, Controversies. New Delhi: Permanent Black. (Chapter 3).
  • Samvidhan series by Syam Benegal (available on youtube)
  • Sathe, S.P. 2002. Judicial Activism in India: Transgressing Borders and Enforcing Limits. New Delhi: OUP. Select Chapters.