1128 | “Judging Critically: Indian Feminist Judgments Project”

Course Information

  • 2021-22
  • 1128
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), LL.M.
  • V
  • Jul 2021
  • Elective Course

Judging Critically: The Indian Feminist Judgments Project brings the world of shadow judgment writing to the classroom by borrowing its pedagogical tools from the feminist judgments projects (FJPs) worldwide, especially the Indian Feminist Judgments Project. The course aims to critically ‘read’ judgments by employing feminist legal methods and explore the possibilities of rewriting them as alternate judgments.

The FJPs are several jurisdiction specific projects that have grown in the last decade globally, writing alternative judgments to judgments that could have been written better or written differently by using a feminist lens. In 2008 number of Canadian feminist scholars, activists and lawyers set up the Women’s Court of Canada, a collaborative to rewrite Supreme Court decisions on section 15, the equality clause in Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. The goal of this ‘shadow judgment’ project was to see what substantive equality could look like in judicial expression. The Canadian experiment was repeated in UK, Australia, USA, New Zealand, Ireland and Northern Ireland. An Indian project has also begun and joined its sisters few years ago.

The course will aim to serve as a critical pedagogical tool bridging the distance between feminist theory and practice by radically re-imagining the role of the judge to adjudicate differently by remaining faithful to the same constitutional and legal rules that bind her. Feminist scholarship has indicated how legal rules as well as their applications by the courts continue to remain sites of embedded patriarchy with the reasonable man being the standard against whom reasonable expectations are evaluated. The pedagogical potential of the feminist judgment project lies in the fact that the ‘alternative judgments’ or ‘missing judgments’ or ‘dissenting opinions’ reveal the extent to which cases could (and should) have been decided while remaining faithful to the legal and constitutional limitations. At the heart of the project (and the course) is an attempt to engage in ‘real-world’ judgment writing exercise and move away from a detached exercise in feminist academic critique of judicial decisions.

In the first few days, students will be introduced to the feminist world of legal theory, by exploring what happens when law is read through a feminist lens. What indeed is the ‘feminist’ way of ‘doing law’? What has been the relationship between law and feminism to begin with? These questions will be accompanied by introducing participants to scholarships that scrutinize the complexities of reimagining feminist theory in practice. This will be followed by exploring the role of a feminist judge, and the tools that she must use for feminist judging. In doing so, the course will borrow from the Feminist Judgments Projects across jurisdictions to discuss how to read and write judgments as feminists. The second half of the course will be devoted to closely ‘read’ judgments of trial courts, High Court and the Supreme Court to understand, to execute what Roland Barthes proposed as ‘reading’, that is, ‘rewriting the text of the work within the text of our lives’. We would discuss these judgments in detail by scrutinizing their legal reasoning and narrative style, discuss the multiple ways in which these judgments could be re-written and think about the politics and possibilities of these different ways of re-writing.