Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) and Jindal School of Government and Public Policy (JSGP) at the O.P. Jindal Global University jointly hosted the International Conference on “Law and Liberty”. The convention was organized in collaboration with The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order and justice, a public interest legal advocacy initiative of the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) aiming at advancing laws promoting personal, social and economic liberties, and at the same time imposing limits on the powers exercised by the state, through strategic litigation and legal advocacy.
The forum on ‘Law and liberty’, had multiple tracks addressing a host of legal issues around Liberty vs Equality, License-Permit Raj to Competition Era, Separation of Powers–Judicial Activism, Usurping Executive Powers, Individual Rights vs Minority Rights and Right to Property.
Over sixteen eminent speakers, both from India and abroad presented at the two day conference.
“It is not very often, that one gets to see the word, ‘liberty’ appear beside, ‘law’,” said, Dr. Parth J. Shah, President, Centre for Civil Society, Delhi, while deliberating on the oxymoron that existed in the name of the International conference on ‘Law and Liberty’. Delivering his opening remarks at the conference, Dr. Shah, further examined the history of the concept of liberty in the democratic system of governance, and said, “Around the world, liberty, equality, justice and fraternity are known to be the cornerstones of any constitutional framework, with liberty taking precedence each time.”
Delivering the inaugural address at the conference Professor (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar, Vice Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU), spoke of the ideological challenges pertaining to law and liberty in the country, he said, “In India particularly, we are living in the 19th, 20th and the 21st century together, and in a situation where you are living three centuries together, you simultaneously experience a form of political and constitutional discourse for which ideology alone does not suffice, and hence arises a need to develop a more nuanced understanding of issues”. Stressing on the critical need for the legal system to assume a larger role in the political and social discourse of the country, he stated, “As lawyers and public policy academics, one of the big challenges for many of us today, is to look at how law can actually be relevant to the larger political and social discourse that is taking place, we need to develop a deeper understanding of issues relating to law and liberty and we must have a contemporary view of these issues, I am certain that this conference will help address some of the fundamental and underlying issues related to law and liberty.”
Speaking on constitutionalism in emerging states and the challenges faced by emerging democracies, Prof. Michael Davis, Distinguished Visiting Professor, JGLS & Professor, Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong, said, “Constitutionalism is not just about development of institutions, constitutions are not just words on paper endowed with original intent, rather they are avenues for interaction and mutual consent of the core institutions of government”. Debating if the process of constitutional judicial review actually serves the purpose of constitutionalism, he said, “Scholars have long appreciated that, constitutional judicial review, not only constraints but legitimates government undertakings, while simultaneously empowering people and in many cases functioning as a guardian of core institutions.
Speaking on the ‘State’s right to exercise eminent domain’ and ‘how the difference in the public opinion influences the judiciary to take discourses from its past judgments’. Prof. James Huffman, Erskine Wood Sr. Professor of Law, Lewis and Clarke Law School, said, “The main purpose or objective of the state to use eminent domain is to ensure equal generation of wealth in the society by equal distribution of natural resources to the people. But once the main objective becomes far-fetched or impossible to accomplish, there is no point of exercising such an arbitrary right.”
The International conference on ‘Law and Liberty’ included perspectives from several other speakers. Shruti Rajgopalan, Asst. Prof, Economics, Purchase College, State University of New York, spoke about the concept of Socialism vs. Constitutionalism in India, and Separation of Powers, where she underlined the four key aspects of judicial overreach namely, legislative, constitutional, executive and self -adjudicating. Prof. James Kelly, President, Solidarity Center for Law and Justice, Atlanta, Georgia USA, spoke on, ‘How liberty is being questioned or restricted in the education sector because of racial, caste, class based reservations in the law?’, He illustrated his statement by citing the frequent occurrences of inequality and arbitrariness in the states; in the sector of higher education where non-deserving student personals are given a chance, denying the chance of the deserved who have better academic records.
The other distinguished speakers at the conference were Dr. Vijay Kumar Singh, Associate Professor and Head at the School of Corporate Law, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA); Former Deputy Director (Law), Competition Commission of India, Professor Khagesh Gautam, Assistant Professor and Assistant Director, Centre on Public Law and Jurisprudence, JGLS and Mr. Gautam Bhatia, Rhodes Scholar, Author and Advocate.