Vinay Sitapati, Politics

Measuring the Impact of Court Judgments: Evidence from the Indian Supreme Court

Tue, 11/19/2013
Noon, 438 Robertson Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

Please join us on Tuesday, November 19, for a seminar with Vinay Sitapati, , Ph.D. candidate in Politics, to discuss "Measuring the Impact of Court Judgments: Evidence from 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: My dissertation investigates a foundational puzzle in law & politics: when do court judgments have an impact? I study circumstances when an ‘activist’ court judgment (i.e. a judgment that seeks to bring about significant social and political change) actually brings about that change. I also measure various ways in which court judgments have indirect effects, such as on precedent, the litigants themselves, public opinion and subsequent government policy.

Existing scholarship on judicial impact is limited; most law & politics scholars focus on  judicial independence and judicial behavior. The few case-studies also tend to be US-centric, and some suffer from selection bias. In contrast, I focus on the ground-level impact of judgments, analyze the Indian Supreme Court (between the years 1993-2012), and provide a systematic research design.

 More specifically, I compare those activist judgments of the Indian Supreme Court that have had an impact with those that have not.

I have just finished a year of field work, and will be presenting my research question, research design, and one case study: the Indian Supreme Court’s intervention in a famous eminent domain case. My final project will include four case studies, which are to some extent modular. Your feedback at this early stage will help me think about the other three case studies better."

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.