The Role of the Judge and Judicial Independence in Democratic Societies Judicial independence is a core element of any democracy. Yet, this phrase connotes many different concepts and is so overused that it has almost become an empty signifier.

Judicial independence can be defined in at least three ways.

First, it could pertain to independence in the selection of judges. This is a very topical issue given the recent debate over the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.

Second, judicial independence could refer to the institutional autonomy of judges. What are the constitutional/legal safeguards to ensure that judges decide cases on the merits and not based on their own preferences or for their own gain? What are the checks against conflict of interest?

Finally, this phrase could be applied to judicial outcomes. Do court judgments reflect the “correct” result or are they unduly influenced by political actors or other powerful interests? This definition of judicial independence has an important rule of law dimension, seeking to insulate judges from coercion and outside interference.

In all these conceptions of judicial independence, judges play an important role.

We invite participants to analyze and question the role of a judge in contemporary democratic societies.

Suggested topics include:

(1) Judicial appointments – how and by whom should judges be appointed? What safeguards are necessary to prevent bias in selecting judges?

(2) Judicial Interpretation – how should judges approach contested social and political issues? To what extent and under what conditions is “judicial activism” – where judges strike down unjust laws – acceptable in a democratic society?

(3) Language in legal judgments: what are the societal impacts of judicial language beyond the ratio of a particular case? Can judges influence social movements, either deliberately or unintentionally, through the way they frame judgments and/or through the words they choose? Is this kind of influence permissible/desirable in a democratic society?

(4) External influences on judicial decision-making: which external influences (i.e., political actors, powerful business interests, religious groups, etc.) affect judicial decision-making? How can judges be effectively insulated from these influences? And how/why is such insulation beneficial for judicial independence?

Jindal Global Law School invites law students from across India to present scholarly papers on the role of the judge and/or judicial independence at the 3rd JGLS National Student Research Colloquium.

Applicants may engage with any of the 4 topics suggested above, but these topics are merely suggestive – applicants are also welcome to submit papers on other issues within the broader topic of the role of the judge and judicial independence.

Applicants may focus solely on India, but may look at other democratic societies as well. Comparative papers are also welcome.

Important Dates

The Colloquium is open to current BA/LLB, LLB and LLM students. Interested applicants should submit an abstract of 300-500 words by 1 March 2015 to this email address: [email protected].

Applicants must also submit a cover letter and proof of affiliation with a university.

Applicants who are accepted for the colloquium will be notified by 15 March 2015.

Final papers are due no later than 28 March 2015.

Finance and Logistics

JGLS is committed to keeping the Colloquium as cost-free as possible for admitted applicants.

Meals and lodging will be provided to all participants and travel stipends will be awarded on a case-by-case basis.

The Colloquium will take place on 2-3 April. All participants will present their papers before panels comprised of renowned Indian and international academics. Each paper will be assigned a faculty and a student commentator, who will offer detailed feedback to participants following their presentations.

The Colloquium will also include sessions conducted by JGLS faculty on research methods, writing, and how to pursue careers in academia.

Finally, the Colloquium will arrange interactive sessions for participants in which they can share their own research experiences and engage in peer-to-peer learning.

The strongest papers will be considered for publication in the next volume of the Jindal Law Journal.

Prizes will also be awarded for the best paper and the most creative/original paper.

Full details are HERE.


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