At Harris Bricken, we keep close tabs on what is happening around the world, and we know that our friends and clients do, as well. We are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench, where we look at the world by talking with business leaders, innovators, service providers, manufacturers, and government leaders around the world.
In Episode #83, we are joined by Sital Kalantry, Professor of Law at Seattle University, author, and attorney. We discuss:
- The hierarchy of India’s court system, from state courts to high courts to the Indian Supreme Court with 34 sitting judges
- The recent appointment of three female judges to the Indian Supreme Court (but a significant disparity remains)
- India’s first female chief justice
- Indian litigation vs. arbitration
- Judicial appointments and the significant turnover compared to the U.S. Supreme Court
- The increase of more women CEOs in Indian and its legal profession (higher percentages than the U.S.)
- Where India still has room for improvement
- Listening, and watching recommendations from:
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
- Gully Boy on Amazon Prime
- The Americans on FX
We’ll see you next week for another exciting and informative episode when we sit down with Weston Konishi, President of the Sake Brewers Association of North America!
This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.
Fred Rocafort 00:07
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance on the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to Global Law and Business hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort.
Jonathan Bench 00:37
And I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We covered the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.
Fred Rocafort 01:02
We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests. Today, we are delighted to welcome Professor Sital Kalantry to our podcast. Professor Kalantry is an expert in comparative law, business and human rights, feminist legal theory and contract law. And today, our podcast will focus on the Indian Supreme Court, the world’s largest court. I’m very excited about this topic, looking forward to learning more about it. So Sital, welcome to our podcast.
Sital Kalantry 01:45
Thanks so much for having me.
Fred Rocafort 01:47
To get things started, before we dive into the workings of the court and all of those things, we want to first learn a little bit more about you. I did no justice to your CV in my very brief introduction, so please do fill us in. Tell us more about about your yourself about your career, trajectory, and anything else we should know about you.
Sital Kalantry 02:11
So my name is Sital Kalantry and I’m a professor now at Seattle University School of Law. I’ve just recently moved here from Cornell Law School, where I’ve been teaching for 15 years, my work involves looking at contract law, business and human rights as well as gender rights. So I’m particularly excited about talking about India, because I feel very few scholars in our legal community have looked at India have focused on India have kind of studied in thought of it. There’s it’s increasingly happening, but there’s more of a focus on on other countries in Asia, like China and Japan. So I had launched a center which I’m bringing to Seattle U, to try to increase connections between students in both countries, between law schools, as well as practicing lawyers.
Jonathan Bench 03:07
Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background? Where did you grow up, you know, maybe family background, why you decided to get into law and and ultimately become a professor.
Sital Kalantry 03:17
So I was born in India in a very small town, and I moved here with that, for when I was four years of age, actually moved to Queens, New York, Jackson Heights, which is a lot of very big, there’s a big Little India there. And then had continued to grow up in Queens, but I maintain a lot of connections and going back to meet my grandparents. And that’s how I learned to speak the language. And that, you know, that sort of duality and living in these two different worlds and these global contexts, growing up in India that got me interested studying it from a scholarly perspective. And so when I, I also have I practiced I did international law at corporate law firms, Milbank, Tweed, and O’Melveny & Myers. But I was craving more of looking at it from an academic perspective. And so I was able to join Cornell where I started a Human Rights Clinic. And in that clinic, I worked on projects relating to India. So students of mine would, for example, file litigation, along with local human rights organizations in India on issues like the problem of labeling women, witches and murdering them or issues related to surrogacy where we filed a brief us a report in the parliament that they cited along the over the course of 10-12 years of taking students there. I’ve then also started to do a lot of writing a lot of articles and books and currently working on a book on the Indian Supreme Court. And I’ve published a book on immigration that looks at immigration from a global perspective, what impact does it have that we have people coming from India and how that impacts the shaping of our laws here.
Jonathan Bench 05:09
Very interesting background, one of my best friends growing up in a small town in Wisconsin, had a similar story where he and his family moved to the US to New Jersey, when he was quite young. And then we I met him when we were in third grade, and we grew up together all through high school, and we’re still we still remain very good friends. So I never thought about our relationship being particularly international at that point. But as I’ve grown up, I realized how special that was. So I have some some of my best friends, I count among the Indian population. And I think it’s interesting what you said about the focus, the global focus on China has been so heavy, and only now, you know, secondarily India, which I find quite bizarre, considering the the populace, the you know, the language affinity a lot of the Western world has with India, and and a lot of the political alignment as well. So it is I think it’s very interesting.
Sital Kalantry 06:01
No, I completely agree with you, and particularly from a legal perspective, where the language is accessible to us in the United States, where we share a common law heritage, where, also, you know, the Democratic political systems are more parallel here than with, you know, other countries.
Jonathan Bench 06:22
So let’s talk for a minute about the court hierarchy in India, because I know some Indian lawyers haven’t practiced in India. I’m very curious how the, how the court system is laid out if it’s very similar to what we find in the US, UK. Can you tell us a little bit about how it’s structured, and whether there are specific courts that deal with certain jurisdictions, you know, subject matter jurisdictions versus geographical jurisdictions?
Sital Kalantry 06:46
So one of the large, biggest distinctions with the United States in as compared to Indian courts is that there’s a unitary system, there isn’t a separate state and court system in the sense that the state courts here in the US have jurisdiction over exclusively or over certain matters. But in India, it’s a federal hierarchy where things you know, even if it’s just a proceedings are appealed to a court of a high court, it’s called in, and there’s typically a high court per state. Some states have two states have one court, and then appeals go to the Supreme Court. Another feature that I find interesting is that the Supreme Court of India actually has a jurisdiction, primary original jurisdiction over certain matters. So if you are bringing in litigation arguing in the name, behalf of public interest, you potentially could go directly to the Supreme Court, increasingly, there are denying such petitions and asking them to go to High Courts. But that’s this is an interesting, I think, observation. And finally, what’s increasing over time are sort of two trends. One is that there’s a lot of their tribunals that have been created, where, as you say, like consumer issues might go to specific tribunals and rather than through the official court system, and finally, through arbitration, a lot of companies are avoiding courts altogether, and just hiring private arbitrators to to manage their disputes.
Fred Rocafort 08:23
So in addition to that original jurisdiction, I presume that well, probably the the bulk of the of the work that the Supreme Court does involves appeals coming from, I guess, from the High Courts. I had a question and and does require a bit of reference to our own system here in the US when when you look at our Supreme Court, right, they’re mostly hearing appeals from the Federal Courts of Appeal, as those courts are primarily organized on geographical lines there, there are some times at the very least, we could say, stereotypes, but perhaps there’s more to it than than a stereotype. Right? I mean, ultimately, the the composition of these appeals courts reflect the conditions of the of the states where they are based. So there are certain expectations regarding what the decision is coming out of a certain circuit, for example, the ninth are some lawyers, at least my might even smirk when they when they hear Ninth Circuit, right, just because of the the association’s what it evokes and then other other circuits as well. So going back to India, I wonder if there are certain flavors that decisions or rather than the decisions themselves, rather the courts that are sending cases up to the Supreme Court, are there trends that can be discerned in terms of what the judiciary is doing in different parts of the country? Obviously, India is a huge country, very diverse, different parts of the country have had different historical track. So I wonder if is that something that is reflected in the in the judicial systems of the of the different states? And in turn, in terms of the kinds of cases that the Supreme Court is reviewing? I mean, is there is there perhaps a sort of stereotypical matter coming out of a particular state as opposed to how things might be elsewhere in the country.
Sital Kalantry 10:37
So, you know, you can’t really have the parallel discussion in India that you have here, where there one sees certain federal court of appeals with certain biases as compared to others. And there are a couple of reasons for that. The first reason is that, since 1991, the appointment system of judges in India has not been through the political branches. And this is another oddity and unique feature of the Indian Supreme Court is that the Chief Justice of India, along with several of his colleagues, chooses, nominates judges to the High Court and to the Supreme Court. And typically, that’s just sort of rubber stamped by the Prime Minister, President and Prime Minister. There’s been conflicts, there’s the Parliament passed a law to try to change this procedure and create a commission for judicial appointments. But then the Supreme Court rules that that’s unconstitutional that that law itself because it impedes judicial autonomy. So that goes to say that it’s in the US. You know, our even Court of Appeals appointments are pretty political. And they parallel the the party that’s appointing the judges. So here, that’s the judges are appointed themselves as not as much political inclinations, there’s mostly many judges are liberal, and they believe in the Constitution is very is a liberal constitution with broad equality rights for women, for minorities, first for people from different castes. So you know, there’s the idea of, of positive affirmative action where people from minority communities are given access to government jobs, as well as seat seats, which is called reservation. So all this is baked into the Constitution, it’s pretty enforced pretty broadly by all as much as possible by by by judges and how they’re appointed. So so that distinguishes it. And that’s why it’s not such a polluted as why decisions are not so political. The other is that there is greater turnover among the high courts, and the Supreme Court then in the United States. And that has to do with the fact that there’s a retirement age in India, for high courts, it’s 60. And for the Supreme Court, it’s 65. So judges, unlike here, you know, our life 10 years, they might spend 520 30 years on a court. So then there’s more of a consistency established in the decision making. So I think with this constant turnover, it’s hard to say that there’s some consistent leaning one way or the other. And finally, I would say no one actually also knows this, because unlike our courts here, where the Indian Supreme Court is issuing, you know, more like a thousand opinions a year, these high courts are dealing with a lot of cases as well. So it’s hard to come up with a sort of sense of what these opinions are. And we are the first people along with my co authors, Aparna Chandra, who’s a professor at the University National University Law School in Bangalore, in India. And William Hubbard, who is professor at University of Chicago were the few people who’ve done and widespread empirical study, where we looked at every published decision of the Indian Supreme Court from 2010 to 2015, which amounted to 5000 cases. And so we have some trends that I can share with you, but the trends are not with respect to whether it was a liberal or political or, or conservative decision, but more reversal rates. So we found some States courts have been reversed, like some high courts like the Sikkim and the Orissa and the Charcha. And high courts, which sometimes are thought of as sort of, you know, the less developed states, their high courts are more likely to be reversed by the Supreme Court than other states than other high courts, like the Bombay the Delhi High Court has, you know, a lower reversal rate. So that’s one trend we we were able to identify.
Jonathan Bench 14:42
So let’s talk a little bit about the trends that you saw, you know, the Indian Supreme Court is the world’s largest common law court in terms of the population under his jurisdiction, but like you said, there has not been a lot of empirical research done about it. You’ve done work for the Indian Supreme Court. You’ve done the scarlet research on it. So what are the types of cases that commonly get heard? I mean, you said a thousand a year, is that right?
Sital Kalantry 15:06
Decisions, you know, they have even more cases that are filed. And they take a subset of those cases, admitted a subset of those cases, and then a subset are published opinions. So when I say around one thousand, it’s published, not not unpublished opinions.
Jonathan Bench 15:25
Wow. And so are the what kind of what kind of litigation trends are you seeing in India that over just let’s just say, by the type of case, right, are we getting a lot of business, mostly business disputes? Are they domestic business disputes, international business disputes? Are these kind of family trends where we have, you know, we’re dealing with nonprofits and family wealth? I’m really curious what types of what types of cases there are out there.
Sital Kalantry 15:49
So we categorize all of these 5000 cases in the period of 2010 to 2015. And we found that the 30%, related to criminal matters. So the court, you know, takes these appeals from, from criminal defendants just you know, in again, it believes itself as a People’s Court. And so we found that it will here wants to give voice wants to hear the individuals, it wants to be there for the individuals, it was envisioned as a court where, you know, the common person can can get heard, the other is just civil matters, is 10%. land acquisition is like 6% constitutional matters, or only 5%, which is interesting, because unlike these sort of newer courts, like South Africa and Columbia, there isn’t a separate Constitutional Court. The Supreme Court is the Constitutional Court. But it only has heard 5% of cases relating to that, then it goes down the line, you know, to just, you know, personal law matters point 3%. But the good majority are sort of civil appeals, what’s called service matters, and criminal matters.
Jonathan Bench 17:04
So were there any trends that you saw that were surprising to you based on? Based on, say other other nations that are at similar, similar developing status of India? Now you say India is not a developed nation? Because I think a lot of people put it put it in the developing nation bucket. I think it’s, it’s quite, it’s quite advanced. So let’s let’s talk about India compared to any other countries, are you are you surprised by what you see in the in the way the types of cases that are heard by the Supreme Court?
Sital Kalantry 17:33
So one other kind of institutional feature that I think it would be helpful for you and the audience to be aware of is that the court has a capacity of 34 judges, but by and large, it sits in benches of two. So these kind of everyday matters are decided in short opinions, one or two page opinions, most opinions are don’t even have precedents cited to them. Only these handful of constitutional opinions would have a larger bench, maybe maximum of seven, and they are doing a lot of citing of precedent. So you know, what, to me is surprising about the court. And I think a problem, right? Because it’s been the whole Indian court system. If if someone knows one thing about it, what they know is boy cases take a long time, you know, a case could take 10 years from from trial to the Supreme Court, probably more. And, you know, to deal with this kind of backlog, I think the answer the Supreme Court has said is well, we’re just going to need to add more judges and work faster. But I think reducing the number of cases they take would be, I think, extremely beneficial, because that would allow them to focus more on creating precedent, rather than feeling like they have to hear every matter that comes before them. This also is another surprising feature. Many people who have ever gone to the Indian Supreme Court are like, where am I am I at a trial court, if you go two days a week on Mondays and Fridays, is reserved for what they call admissions matters, and the admissions are done orally. So the practically, you know, the petitioner is there talking to one judge explaining why their case should be admitted. And that board just is deciding, and I think that takes a lot of the court’s time. So one could imagine that they do it more on the papers like the US Supreme Court or one could imagine that they streamline that admissions process.
Fred Rocafort 19:44
It almost seems that I mean, especially given India’s size, right i mean it almost seems as if there is space for for an added added layer in the in the court higher are key. Is there? Is there any any talk of perhaps introducing some other layer? I mean, for purposes of discussion, you know, I guess one, one idea would be you could have something equivalent to two circuits. Right. But but but it could be any other any other model. But I’m just wondering if there’s any formal discussion of maybe adding rungs to the to the ladder to sort of help with his caseload?
Sital Kalantry 20:31
Yeah, that’s a great question and observation that you made, it has been discussed quite significantly with by the court itself, as well as outside of the court, which is to set up something called National Court of Appeals to decide appeals cases, before they get to the court. That, you know, some of them argued that these cases would allow them the Supreme Court to turn its attention on constitutional matters, these National Court of Appeals could take these sort of everyday issues. While the Supreme Court retains other powers, yeah. And I think that, you know, my view of that is that’s definitely possible. That’s certainly not a it’s it could be worth trying. But the worry would be, if the Supreme Court then still doesn’t self regulate themselves, and then they want to take appeals from the National Court of Appeals, then you you’re back to the same situation.
Fred Rocafort 21:39
Turning to term limits. You mentioned earlier that there are age based limits, which is something that, notably we don’t have here in the US in our Supreme Court. And I think that it’s fair to say that there there are many people in the US probably think that would be a good idea. But India does give us a practical or concrete example of a country that has has instituted that, based on your research and your your observations more more generally, and perhaps even based on what perceptions are among the population. I mean, what what lessons can we draw? Is there anything in India that would suggest that term limits are a bad idea? Or have they not been an issue or perhaps even been something positive? And I, I guess you mentioned earlier that there’s greater greater turnover? Looking at the at the Indian example, what lessons could we draw here in the US from the term limits that exist there?
Sital Kalantry 22:40
Yeah. So as everyone is aware, the question about reforming our Supreme Court has taken center stage with the various retirements that we’ve had and the hasty replacements. And you know, in case of Justice Ginsburg, of course, you know, her death probably needed a replacement with another justice. So Biden to set up this judicial commission to review two things, one, whether the court should be increased in sized into whether there should be term limits added the major conversation occurring, the major proposal for reform, which there’s also a House of Representatives bill, on, which parallels this is one where there will be a 13 year term limit on court on the on Supreme Court justices, and they would retire every two years. So that would be staggered, when presidents to President would then each get one judge that he or she could appoint. I have argued, though there’s be in doing that the judicial commission should look at countries which have experience with term limits. Courts, like the Colombian Constitutional Court, South African Court, they have term limits, Indian Supreme Court doesn’t have a term limit. But effectively, the retirement age creates a term limit. Increasingly, judges are appointed later in age, we have found in our empirical study, and as a result, they spend the Supreme Court at least you know, four to five years, on average, some some judges have spent like two days just on the Supreme Court is sort of like a, you know, a feather in their hat. The longest serving has said, you know, a couple of years. So, I think what this, I think they’re a couple of results of the short period of time that judges spend and the fact that they leave the quarterly. So in the US context, while there’s no age limits, it’s still arguably that the presidents are going to want to appoint judges that are young enough so they can live out their term limit. And they don’t want to give another judge another President the opportunity to replace that that that judge that they appointed. So when judges are appointed wouldn’t judges leave a court at young ages? And in that 65 Now was young when the Supreme when the Constitution was written in, you know, the late 1940s in India that maybe wasn’t young, with increasing life expectancies. So there’s an empirical study done by some scholars at the University of Singapore that has found that there are some press, the judges of the Indian Supreme Court that are retiring farther from an election rather than closer to an auction are more likely to rule for the government and the employers of the government and have the judges judges, our government, the government. So unlike here, the Constitution bars, retiring judges from going back into private practice, a lot of them actually go on to be arbitrators. That’s increasingly a trend because it’s very profitable. But some will be reappointed in other positions, like Human Rights Commission’s or tribunals. So there’s the risk of pandering, then the other is the inconsistent precedents. So one another study has found that if there were 30 Year Term limits, then Roe v. Wade, for example, would have would be overturned multiple times, overturned, put back again, overturned, you know. So that creates a lot of policy problems, I think, around the country to have that kind of inconsistency. So those are some of the lessons, I think we can learn whether they would be applicable here. Whether they would actually happen here or not, is a different question. But I think it’s worth looking at the practice of other countries when we’re trying to reform our own Supreme Court.
Jonathan Bench 26:40
So let’s talk about the representation of women on the Supreme Court and in the greater judiciary seems like representation is quite limited. So what thoughts do you have when you have that low representation? The only weird place to go is up, I guess, right? So can you tell us a little more about what what’s been happening lately and what’s what the discussions are surrounding the those improvements.
Sital Kalantry 27:03
So one of the articles that we wrote with these co authors, William and Parnham, we looked at the diversity of judges at the Supreme Court, what we wanted to see was how those trends have changed over time. Before 1991, the was an executive LED system while the Chief Justice had to be consulted, the executive was more responsible for appointments. And we found that what has remained the same between the two systems is that the diversity of regional diversity. So India, as you say, is a diverse country. But in order for the Supreme Court to gain credibility as a court that represents everyone. They’ve attempted to have regional diversity, they also try to have religious diversity. Religion has been very divisive in India over time. But the Supreme Court when it appoints other justices takes into account whether there are enough Muslims, whether there’s a Sikh, but the, what they have not been concerned about significantly is gender diversity, at least not proportionally. Of the 257, women, I mean, people judges that have been on the court since 1950, when it was created. Only eight have been women. Right. And many that much of them have many of them have been women. The women have been appointed, at least in the last several decades. So what currently there are three out of 34, which is, you know, this the largest number of women that has ever been on the court, sometimes they’re zero, sometimes there’s one, but eight out of 257 is you know, under 3%. And, and three out of 34 is is under 10%. So, the proportional representation is not something that the court has been interested in, in getting to what is being hailed as a plot it is that the there India is going to have its first female Chief Justice. And how do we know that? Well, the Chief Justice is appointed or chosen based on seniority. It’s not appointed by the executive. And this is again, for reasons of judicial independence. Extreme court feels it this has to be the rule and the judge supreme the Chief Justice has to be is the most senior most judge on the Court. And we know they know based on other judges retiring, that there’s the woman that they want woman that they appointed is likely to be a chief justice. So while that’s incredible, and about time, because she would be you know, I still think there that’s not nearly enough.
Jonathan Bench 29:52
Did you say that the Chief Justice remind me again, how the how those justices are chosen for the Supreme Court will Will this female chief justice have on uncharacteristically large sway in in helping to choose upcoming, upcoming judges? Or is that out of her hands?
Sital Kalantry 30:12
Oh, no, she that’s called the collegium. That is the people who are nominating other judges are it’s going to be she’s going to be the one, you know, in charge of that. And, you know, along with four colleagues, she would have the ability to choose who is nominated. So within her tenure as Chief Justice, she’ll have incredible powers to appointed to appoint the other judges. She’ll also, you know, one of the other things we found in our study is this thing called Master of the roster. So judges have Chief Justices appoint other judges to different benches. So there could be the sort of run of the mill criminal bench, which may or may not make a difference, which may or may not be that dramatic, but it’s the constitutional benches that are really important. Because they’re deciding case situations such as you know, will same sex, intimate behavior, is that constitutional or not? Is it? Can women be prohibited from entering, you know, a Hindu religious site on the basis of religion? So these cases are significant. And the chief justice can handpick who he appoints to, to these panels. And it turns out, it seems from some empirical data, initial research that there it could be dispositive the, the outcomes, Chief Justice, even if when he or she is on the he is on the panel, they rarely dissent from those panel decisions.
Fred Rocafort 31:49
Just to just to make sure I understand, what you’re saying is that it’s not only a matter of whether women or for that matter, persons belonging to to any group are appointed to the Supreme Court, but it also makes a difference. That, you know, the specific bench to which they are appointed is also critical. Is that Is that a correct understanding?
Sital Kalantry 32:11
For the important, you know, policy, political matters, the constitutional cases? Yes, that does make a difference. It also may make a difference to some criminal if your criminal matters, possibly because, you know, some courts have known to always oppose, you know, death penalty cases other courts have not. But yes, generally, I think that’s the idea. Outcomes can very much be manipulated by what Judge is placed on what bench?
Fred Rocafort 32:40
Speaking of criminal courts, there’s something else that I’m curious about, and it’s it’s more, it’s more of a trial court issue than? Well, it is it is entirely a trial court issue. Not not really an appeals issue. But but I’m interested in, in the issue of juries. And my understanding is that jury trials in India have largely been abolished, which is I guess we could say it’s contrary to the to the worldwide trend where we are seeing countries that historically have not had juries pick them up. And then within the it’s it’s sort of moving in the opposite direction. And it is, of course, for for a country rooted in the common law tradition. It’s it’s, it’s something something of interest for sure. This might not be an area that you have you have researched, but to the extent that that you you are able to comment on this in the same way that we talked about term limits on the and the lessons that might exist there. For us here in the US. What about this issue of juries? Just to be clear, I I’m I’m certainly not going to discredit the institution of the jury wholesale. But I do think that certainly, it shouldn’t be something that is completely off limits, either in terms of, of discussing how we, how our judicial system develops, especially if we’re talking about cases involving misdemeanors and things, things of that of that sort. Right. I mean, obviously, there’s there’s always going to be a place for for the jury, in my view, but could you talk to this? I mean, perhaps, what drove India to to move away from from juries? And and how is that experience playing out? And is there is there something there that we should be looking at here in the United States?
Sital Kalantry 34:34
Yeah, that’s a great question. The Indian court has abolished jury trials for pretty much everything. And, you know, whether or not what impact that has had, it’s not something that I have studied, and it’s very hard I think to to progress study that was overturned that that system based on one particular case, and in that particular case, it was a military officer that was accused of murdering the person who’s whom his wife, I think was having an affair. And so this outcome would lead the court to believe the juries can particularly do a good job of deciding cases. Now, I again, I don’t know why there’s something that I have not studied or looked at as to whether what the problems are I know that I might one of my former colleagues, Valerie Han’s has done a lot of work on juries. And you’re right to say, you know, she’s looking at helping juries and set up jury systems in Argentina where they didn’t exist. Clearly the jury should be representative of the person and also should represent the society but also be representative of the person being tried. So I don’t think there’s any talk of jury system coming back.
Jonathan Bench 35:56
So your work at the India Center for Law and Justice, which you founded is amazing to hear about. Understand, from what you explained earlier, that you’re trying to promote engagement across the ocean, and especially focusing on human rights, love to hear more about the program about what you’re seeing the types of students that that tend to get engaged on, on on the US side and the India side. Some victories you’ve had anything else we’d love to hear you toot your horn about about the great things that are happening there.
Sital Kalantry 36:30
So I think that in today’s world is you know, as global lawyers and working at, you know, a top global law firm that law, is it it doesn’t respect national borders. And to be a great lawyer, I think you have to understand multiple concepts. So contexts. One of the programs that we launched together with the the best law school in ranked, at least according some rankings is the Jindal Global Law School is a dual degree program. And we’re launching this at the Seattle University Law School where somebody could get both an Indian and a US law degree, and save two years of time doing that. So we would accept one year from Jindal, and they would accept one year from us. And I think this is fantastic, because it saves students two years of tuition, it also trains them to be American lawyers, they take all of the first year courses. So it’s not like an LLM, where they can pick and choose whatever, you know, they’re going to the rigorous boot camp a first year law. And they can either work in the US or leave or go back to India. So this is a program that I’m very excited about training dual degree lawyers, who can work at law firms in India representing clients who are working to buy or work globally, you know, but but, but be trained in two of ones, I think two of the most important legal systems in the world. I’ve also done a huge series where I’ve had a number of comparative law podcasts and webinars. And our podcast is called Law and Common, were actually in one of our met my interns did a terrific job bringing together law professors from India, the US to discuss freedom of religion, to discuss privacy to discuss, you know, reproductive rights from both countries. Another project that we’ve been doing is trying to summarize important Indian Supreme Court cases. These cases are interesting, but they’re often 1000s of pages long. Read, these are recalled constitutional cases, you know, the run of the mill cases are like one or two pages long. And in order to make them more accessible, that’s something that that we’ve done. While also launching exchange programs, I have taken students to India, we did a report on you know, there was a big issue about citizenship rights in India due to a law that was passed. But even before that, in the state of Assam, the citizenship issues were were contested and pending. We went there interviewed people and wrote a report about the problematic ways in which citizenship is being adjudicated. And that reports live and published, it’s called Death by paperwork. So those are some of the things I’ve done through through the system through through the need system. My next goal is to organize a conference, you know, hopefully we can be in person soon, and to do a conference of scholars who study India in the US, as well as Indian law scholars and publish some papers from from that conference.
Jonathan Bench 39:45
Can you talk for a minute about human rights trends in India? You mentioned a little bit about freedom of religion. I know there’s certainly been some, some big clashes lately. I’m especially concerned about gender rights of women are are the women you know, I mean, these are the cases that get get publicized widely around the world, right. And these are our, you know, young girls and women who are accosted by groups of men. I want to know, how is that going? What is the general consensus in India on on those cases and how they, how they’re being handled and the rights of those women?
Sital Kalantry 40:20
So I don’t think one can say that there’s a general consensus, at least not one that I’m aware of, you know, people who are advocating for women and women’s rights continually are seeing horrific cases in you’re talking about violence against women, right. There’s, there’s the horrific violence against women. But there’s also the everyday sexual harassment at work. There’s, you know, structural discrimination. So there’s multiple layers and types of discrimination that women face in India, as well as the United States, which is not an easy, uncomplicated solution. But, you know, baked into the, to the, to the Constitution, there is equality rights. And I think that there’s a distinct, there’s a big gap between what the framers of the Constitution had hoped for India and what we see, clearly there’s progress been made over time, you know, women CEOs are probably more women CEOs and in India, perhaps, than even in the United States. And some studies have found actually at the law, in the legal profession with since 1991, when there’s liberalisation, and there’s increasingly larger corporate law firms, there’s actually more women who have been making it to higher ranks and partners than than you would expect. Whereas in the US, it’s been stagnant. You know, the top law firms have not increased the number of women partners. In the last 25 years, it’s only been quarter of the women are partners for the last 25 years. So yeah, it’s a complicated, you know, there’s people at the high levels, women that have more opportunities, who have support of their families, for the kids who have support of domestic helpers, and servants, you know, lower levels, people are struggling for different things.
Fred Rocafort 42:08
When we talk about certain countries that have human rights issues, as we’ve described, in many cases, these countries are not democratic, and it can seem at least like an EC prescription to say, Well, look, they need to become more democratic. And then we’ll see progress now within the heart of what is jumping out to me at the moment is the fact that well, this, this is a democratic country, what’s the what’s the missing link here? Right, because one would expect that, at least at the theoretical level, where you were you have democracy, the the people will be represented, and that representation will, will be, at least again, in theory will will reflect the the characteristics of the population and represent the different sectors, considering that India is already far ahead of other countries in the sense that it already does have these democratic foundations. What do you think is necessary to fulfill that democratic vision for all of India’s citizens?
Sital Kalantry 43:16
Well, if I could answer that I’d probably win the Nobel Prize. But, you know, in fairness, it’s it’s a difficult and challenging question. There are a lot of barriers to fulfilling to fulfilling the rights that are embedded in the Constitution that embedded in the vision of India, and there are just so many different, you know, economically, socially, social inequality is enormous. within India, the rich have only gotten richer through economic growth and liberalisation. And it hasn’t kept up for the poor and in the rural rural villages. It’s, it’s like living in two different countries. There’s continued, I’ve studied the decrease in in the female population because of sex selection, and, and that I think the population shifts there are having impact on on on violence and, and other women’s rights that I think have yet to really be documented and observed in a thorough way. And I think the government isn’t necessarily focused on that. So, you know, COVID has just made it all worse for for many people. I’d create, you know, exacerbated the inequalities. So I think we have a lot of challenges as we as we move, hopefully, out of out of COVID and, and maybe we can reimagine a world that we want to live in and reimagine a new world and maybe we can reset and try to reach it in a way that we couldn’t before.
Jonathan Bench 45:02
I should tell we’re nearing the end of our time together, which is unfortunate. But we certainly have enjoyed having you with us. We always love to end our podcast with recommendations for our audience to go deeper into the topic or just to know what’s on our minds lately that we think has been influential in some way. So we’ll start with you. And then we’ll go to Fred and me with our recommendations.
Sital Kalantry 45:24
So for people who are interested in learning about, you know, the lives of sort of the everyday person in India, the person that large groups of people in cities, you know, live in our squatters, they live in slums. And there’s multiple layers of of inequalities that they face. So one book that is an older book that I’ve liked is called the Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by by Katherine Boo, it takes place in Dharavi, which is one of the biggest slums in Mumbai, the other one movie I would recommend, I know, everyone, Bollywood is a big industry but and there’s a lot of it’s patchy, though, but some good and some bad is Gully Boy, which is also set in a in a in a, in a slum, and it’s a really a kind of a story about rising from the hip hop scene and, and a person rise, you know, based on a true story of, of how they have how the hip hop scene developed in India, but gives you also visual insight into how people have the common or the poor person lives.
Jonathan Bench 46:31
Those are great recommendations. Thank you, Fred, what do you have for us today?
Fred Rocafort 46:35
Well, my recommendation today is squarely in the entertainment bucket, I finally got around to the Americans, which is a a TV series. And it’s presumably loosely based on these deep cover operatives that the Soviet Union had operating in the US and other countries during during the Cold War. There, there is some element of truth to it. There were basically sleeper agents that that were trained to to blend in the show is really well done. Surely there are some exaggerations there in terms of what the the world of espionage a little sexier than it than it probably is in real life. But overall, really, really well done. And just to try to make it a little bit of a highbrow or pretend it’s a highbrow recommendation. This is taking place in the in the 80s. So there are a lot of references to historical events, and then historical figures. So in addition to being highly entertaining, it’s it’s also somewhat educational. And the the acting in particular, I find it to be excellent. And not just the the acting, but also the way in which they recreate the world of the 80s. Which, you know, is is a world that I remember. So it brings back memories, it shows that I’m getting old enough to the point where they’re making, you know, shows about historical eras that I already experienced, but But it’s been an enjoyable experience in that regard. So the Americans, I watch it on Amazon Prime. And Jonathan, what do you have for us?
Jonathan Bench 48:16
I have two recommendations today. One is from a prior guests that I thought she would be interested in knowing about her name is Valerie Hudson, she’s a professor at I can’t remember the University in Texas, but she her focus is on on women and the physical security of women, and national security, all overlapping all those, all those areas. And so one project that she works on, it’s called the WomanStats project. And that’s at womanstats.org. And their lot, it’s all data driven. And the analysis is about how how secure women are based on a variety of factors. So that’s a very interesting resources. For those of you who weren’t around in the early days of our podcast. The second recommendation I have is the Council on Foundations has country notes. And this website is designed for families, individuals who want to invest to help certain part of the world certain areas to get a feel for how nonprofits and other types of foundations are treated in those jurisdictions. And so that’s available. Few Google Council Foundations will include the link as well, but I found the country notes are very deep 20 to 30 pages on the various types of nonprofit entities, how they’re treated, tax treatment wise, very, very deep. So if you’re interested in that in any way, and nonprofits work around the world, that’s a great resource. And with that, Sital, we want to thank you so much for being with us today. Again, it was fascinating and enlightening, and we’re certainly happy to hear about the work you’re doing.
Sital Kalantry 49:55
It was great talking to you, Fred and Jonathan. Thank you.
Jonathan Bench 50:00
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