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.

Conspiracies of Association: Associational Offences, Associational Freedoms and the Rule of Law

Conspiracies of association: Associational offences, associational freedoms and the rule of law

Understanding Conspiracy

Conspiracy, as the definition itself suggests, directly trenches upon the associational freedoms of speech, association and assembly, and the crime of conspiracy has been extensively used in political trials. As an offence per se, it dispenses with the requirement of an overt act. The issue in a conspiracy trial is not manifest criminality,

…but the classic concern in the theory of subjective criminality, namely the demonstration ‘that the conspiracy is at work…(and not) a project still resting solely in the minds of the conspirators…. In line with the pattern of subjective criminality, acts ‘innocent’ …in themselves, such as mailing a letter, or ...

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