Courts, Law and Judges: An Ethnography of Judicial Reasoning in Sharia and Civil Courts

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 6C P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Suchandra GHOSH, IIT Kanpur, India
The paper is an etnographic foray into the field of judicial reasoning. In India, the phenomenon of 'legal pluralism' is conditioned and facilitated by commitment of the democratic state that confers an informal status to Islamic courts or Dar ul Qazas. The Article 29(1) of the Indian Constiution promises that 'any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.' The community judiciaries function within this Constitutional framework. At the same time, every citizen has the right to approach the civil courts as and when deemed necessary. This practice of judicial pluralism exists in uncomfortable tension with the Directive Principle of the Indian Constitution's commitment to the formulation of a uniform civil code. While the issue of personal law of religious minorities, especially of Muslims in India, has been the cynosure of the uniform civil code debate, there is paucity of ethnography on the procedure of adjudication in these courts and the litigants' experience of conflict resolution. The present study draws on ethnographic material of Sharia and civil courts at Kanpur and Lucknow. It attampts to show how a legally plural context, operative within the judicial system should make us rethink the categories of adjudication and judicial reasoning where family, kinship and gender are the key issues.