Vinay Sitapati, Politics

After Judgment Day: Under What Conditions are Court Decisions Implemented

Wed, 02/18/2015
450 Robertson Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

NOTE LOCATION:  450 Robertson Hall

Please join us on Wednesday, February 18, for a seminar with Vinay Sitapati, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics.

Abstract: "Courts in democracies play a critical role in securing rights and holding governments to account. But their spheres of influence are considered distinct from those of legislatures and executives. Scholars, however, have noted the increasing tendency of unelected judges across the world to pass judgment on matters of governance. The implications of this “judicialization of politics” on judicial power and democratic legitimacy are well studied. Less understood is the implementation of these decisions, especially in a developing country. I study judgments of the Indian Supreme Court, an activist judiciary in a non-Western democracy, and explore constraints to implementation such as weak state capacity and political opposition.  

My presentation will focus on one of my case studies: the implementation of Indian Supreme Court decisions on justice for the 2002 Gujarat riot victims. The 2002 Gujarat riots killed 1272 people, mostly poor Muslims. In India, state governments control police and prosecutors, and in the criminal trials in the aftermath of the riots, this created a conflict of interest since the BJP state government was widely suspected of a leading role in the riots themselves. Worried that justice was being sabotaged, the Supreme Court intervened at various stages of the trials to improve conviction rates. I measure and explain the effectiveness of these court interventions using original police station-level data, as well as interviews with victims, witnesses, those accused, lawyers, civil society groups, police, judges, and politicians."

Vinay Sitapti is a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. He previously studied at National Law School Bangalore and Harvard Law School. Sitapati also worked as a full-time journalist. These three intellectual and methodological dispositions -- of a lawyer, journalist, and political scientist -- heavily shape his doctoral dissertation, titled 'After Judgment Day: Under What Conditions Are Court Decisions Implemented?"   


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.