JUR201 | Jurisprudence I

Course Information

  • 2019-20
  • JUR201
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.)
  • II
  • Nov 2019
  • Core Course

The course on Jurisprudence aims to introduce students to legal philosophy and ways in which the discipline of law has been imagined. At NLSIU, it is a core course, mandated by the BCI Rules of Legal Education, 2008. The course on Legal Methods may be thought a thematic predecessor to some of the ideas in Jurisprudence. However, in terms of depth or nuance with which legal philosophy is discussed, this course may be considered standalone.

I have approached the course with the core idea that legal philosophy has profound implications on the everyday practice of law. I strive to show students how schools of thought in jurisprudence have a relation to interpretative tools, for instance. I also deal with specific themes which I believe, bring to the fore, contested conceptions of law, rights, and justice. We also analyse movements within legal thought and their implications on policy. In conclusion, I strive to explore the idea as to what it means to design a legal system with the entire personhood of an individual at its centre. An act, which I believe, has profound implications on how we view legal philosophy.

I exclude from this course that ambit of jurisprudence prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which is more focused on uncovering core meanings of legal concepts. I believe that these definitions have attained some degree of finality, and I also believe that some of these concepts are covered in other courses at NLSIU (Eg. mens rea in Criminal Law-I).

The readings for the course include academic writing, which includes writings on legal philosophy as well as on themes to be discussed in class, and predominantly Indian case law.

The classroom instruction is designed to be mostly Socratic discussion with readings done in advance. I expect students to engage with the conceptual aspect of the discussion and for my role to be to clarify that if needed, and to lead the discussion to an application of the concept to practical legal issues. These may be case discussions, or problems posed in class.
The course starts with a primer on legal thought leading up to the twentieth century, and tries to uncover where legal philosophy fits into the development of law as historical and social facts. Then the course enters thematic discussion on the nature of the law, primarily, its interaction with morality, rights, and justice. Thereafter, the course explores legal movements and their shaping of the idea of law. The concluding part of the course looks at the idea of placing a more complete individual as the centre of the entire structure of law and what that would mean. This part uses the death penalty as the factual counterpoint.


Andrew Altman, Arguing About Law (Belmont, 2nd edn., Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001).
Alon Harel, Why Law Matters (Oxford, OUP, 2014).

Instruction for the students

Additional readings may be assigned Projects shall not exceed 2000 words in the main body and 3000 inclusive of footnotes. A list of project topics will be sent across and the class may devise a method of choosing topics from the list. Projects on topics not in the list may be made only after consultation with the course instructor.


Kunal Ambasta

Assistant Professor of Law