Sen’s Reflections on Indian Jurisprudence — Nyaya and Neeti Considerations

I don’t usually dabble in jurisprudence for, unlike our other blogger-scholars, I’m just a word-smith like most ordinary lawyers. Yet, I find it increasingly hard to resist legal theory through the erudite mediation of Amartya Sen. Unlike many economists (and sadly many whom I work with), Sen hold a marvelously capacious view of what economics is about. He is neither a trained lawyer nor a convert to the insipid technical analysis of the Law and Economics movement. Yet, Sen confidently acknowledges and asserts the influence of law and legal principles on economics and development.

Previously on this blog, we carried a summary of Sen’s talk at Harvard Law. There, among other things, the Nobel laureate discussed the complimentary, yet duelling, concepts of nyaya and neeti. In simple terms, nyaya refers to outcome-oriented justice, while neeti is the concept of rule-based law. Yesterday, Sen returned to this theme in his lecture to an alumni conference at the IIT-Madras, where he makes an impassioned plea for nyaya-based outcomes. The full text has not yet been posted on the IIT alumni association’s website, but here is a good summary from this morning’s Hindu. I wonder to what extent modern Indian constitutional and legal jurisprudence is nyaya, rather than neeti in its orientation and outlook.

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  • Isn’t the concept of PIL and judicial activism actually nyaya based in approach? Can the way Article 21 was expanded and the courts being more and more willing to come out of the strict water tight compartment prescribed by separation of powers, could be understood as a tilt towards nyaya based approach ?