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Changing Patterns of Justice

Mahtab Alam

Edited by Harsh Dobhal
Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), New Delhi, 2011, pp.688, price not stated.


It may sound ironical but the fact is that the production of literature on human rights as well as human rights violations is moving at the same pace. There is no dearth of Human Rights literature in India. However, the available literature can broadly be divided into two categories, academic and non-academic, the latter mostly comprising journalistic works, reports by rights groups and bodies. Academic works, despite being rigorous and well articulated, hardly prove useful in making a comprehensive understanding of the issues pertaining to human rights in India, due to the use of technical terminologies and jargon. Similarly, the non-academic literature fails to impress jurists, legal practitioners and policy making bodies, regardless of being grounded and full of first hand information. The biggest lacuna of this kind of literature is 'over-simplification or generalization' of the facts. In between lies the semi-academic and quasi-legal work as both the above categories of the literature have their own limitations. The Combat Law, a Human Rights Bimonthly Magazine was started in 2002, initially under the joint editorship of two senior human rights lawyers, Colin Gonsalves and Mihir Desai, and later under the editorship of long time journalist, Harsh Dobhal. It has to its credit the merit of gaining enormous popularity in a very short period of time. The publication has sought to bridge the gap between academic and non-academic style of writings, and is read amongst legal practitioners, academicians, students and activists alike. It serves as the reference material for a wide range of people working on issues related to human rights, not only in India but in various other countries of South Asia as well. Notably, over the years, as rightly claimed by the editor, the publication, 'apart from publishing established experts, gave immense space to a number of individuals, otherwise shunned by the mainstream media, to write, question, rebel, experiment and express'. The book under discussion is an anthology of selected writings published in the Combat Law between 2002 and 2010. The subjects covered in the anthology are mainly socio-legal, political and economic in nature, encompassing the entire gamut of human rights issues. It ranges from the issues of Criminal Justice, State Repression, and Trafficking to Communalism, Patent, WTO, Special Economic Zone, Right to Information, Education, Food, Housing, Work and other issues of contemporary as well historical relevance. Commenting upon the prevailing situation of the Criminal Justice System in India, the editor writes, 'In ...

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