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Introduction to a Discipline

Bikram Jeet Batra

Edited by Indra Deva
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 376, Rs. 650.00


Published in 2005, the book under review is an eclectic collection of papers with contributions by prominent law teachers and sociologists covering broad areas including ‘Functioning of the Legal System’, ‘Legal Profession’, ‘Law and Religious Identity’, ‘Law and the Disadvantaged Groups’, ‘Societal Role of Judiciary’ and ‘Law and Social Change’. The editor of the collection (a sociologist at the Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur) correctly observes in his introduction that the sociology of law has not yet developed in India as a full-fledged formal discipline. In such circumstances, this volume can be of use to students and scholars alike as an introduction to this discipline. Unfortunately only one of the 21 papers included in this collection is contemporary. Of the remaining, the bulk are over two decades old. A few are classic texts – Derett’s ‘Administration of Hindu Law by the British’, Marc Galanter’s ‘Pursuing Equality in a Land of Hierarchy’ and Upendra Baxi’s ‘Colonial Nature of the Indian Legal System’ are notable amongst them. Some choices, however, are puzzling, especially since a few contributions appear dated. Further, is it a coincidence that there is hardly any contribution by women scholars to this volume? One also wonders whether the absence of more recent work was deliberate or one necessitated by the absence of scholarship in this area. This absence of scholarship, research and empirical study has been oft-noted by the editor, and one cannot but agree. The experience with ‘marital cruelty’ in Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code is illustrative. This provision has often been targeted by senior officials alleging misuse and such views have now seeped into the judiciary. There has, however, been little research or empirical evidence to support such a position. While some regional research exposing this myth of overwhelming misuse is available, a lot more needs to be done. This is not an isolated example – studies on impact of law and legislation are rarely available. The absence of research on the use of the death penalty in India has also led to unsupported and misleading conclusions of its deterrence value. The editor’s introduction, while useful in parts, tends to be simplistic and therefore inadequate. The discussion on traditional Indian law is limited only to the ancient Hindu system and there is no acknowledgement that various other codes and systems operated not only amongst tribal communities but within the myriad states that made up ‘traditional’ ...

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