Vinay Sitapati, Politics

Do Courts Matter: Evidence for the Indian Supreme Court

Wed, 12/05/2012
Noon, Kerstetter Room, 301 Marx Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

Please join us on Wednesday, December 5, for a discussion with Vinay Sitapati, Ph.D. candidate in Politics, to discuss "Do Courts Matter: Evidence for the Indian Supreme Court."

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Vinay writes: " I will be presenting an early draft of my dissertation prospectus. It investigates a foundational puzzle in law & politics: do courts matter? Courts lack institutional autonomy, popular legitimacy, and enforcement powers. Logically, they should not have an impact. Yet in practice, there seem to be circumstances in which courts have an independent impact on politically salient issues. This dissertation will investigate those circumstances.  

Existing scholarship is limited by (a) its excessive focus on judicial independence (when are courts immune to political pressures?) and assertiveness (what explains judicial behavior?), (b) the US-centric nature of the cases studied, and (c) the lack of systematic design. In contrast, I focus on the ground-level impact of judgments, analyze the Indian Supreme Court, and provide a systematic research design.

More specifically, I compare those assertive judgments of the Indian Supreme Court (between the years 1993-2012) that have had an impact with those that have not. This dissertation will measure a variety of impacts – short-term, long-term, and legal-institutional – as well as analyze three possible causes for the variance: outside political context, nature of the legal issue, and state capacity to implement the judgment."

Vinay Sitapati is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics.  He grew up in Mumbai, Chittoor and Bangalore, and graduated from National Law School Bangalore and Harvard Law School.  His current interests are at the intersection of law and politics, focusing on the relationship of democracy to the rule of law in South Asia.  He acknowledges that this interest was shaped by his previous internships and experience in public interest law as well as his prior academic studies.  Among his internships were positions with the Pakistani court, a Pakistani human rights lawyer, the UN Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, and the Delhi-based advocacy organization Public Interest Legal Support and Research Centre.  As a visiting scholar at Indiana University Law School, he compared caste-based quotas in India with race-based affirmative action in the United States.