Over the past three decades human rights movements in India have persistently interrogated systems of criminal justice in the country. The concerns have ranged from addressing the problem of arbitrary detention during the emergency to constructing entire communities as criminal thereby justifying forced dispossession and/or mass violence. While overt violence by state actors and their complicity in violence by dominant private actors has been a major concern, there has also been the problem of the abdication by the state with respect to provision of the means for bare life to a majority of the people, the denial of the right to bare life compounding their vulnerability to a repressive rule of law. There is a widespread acceptance of the fact that the law is unequal especially in terms of access to and delivery of justice, inequality of process negating the fundamental guarantee of equality.

This collection of essays re-examines the field of criminology through an interdisciplinary lens, challenging in the process unproblematic assumptions of the rule of law and opening out avenues for a renewed and radical restatement of the contexts of criminal law in India. This collection is a significant step towards mapping the ways in which interdisciplinary research and human rights activism might inform legal praxis more effectively and holistically. The contributors are a diverse group – widely respected activists, bureaucrats, scholars, and professionals – who share concerns on criminal justice systems and the need to entrench human rights in the Indian polity.

Law and Life in the State of Nature: Archiving Stories from Legal Literacy

Law and life in the state of nature: Archiving stories from legal literacy

England circa 1651: Hobbes wrote his treatise1 outlining the theory of the State as a social contract. The theory presupposes human beings as primarily selfish and always in competition with each other. Force and fraud are mentioned as the ‘cardinal virtues’ of this state of existence, which Hobbes called the ‘state of nature’. There is a lack of the finer instincts or aesthetic or literary development.

India 2006: Hobbes’ description of the life of man in the state of nature as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’ seems to sum up the condition that a vast majority of people live under. ...

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