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Prolegomenon to a Southern Jurisprudence

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It is good to take stock from time to time and to see how things stand in jurisprudence. So, what is the relationship of doctrine and theory with jurisprudence? Is private law theory apolitical while public law contains politics for the very many constitutional ends in the Global South? In India, legal theorist Chhatrapati Singh very originally asked if legal systems and normative systems were the same? Chhatrapati’s enquiry was however a species of the classical approach to the law that promotes the law’s purity. On the contrary, the postcolonial approaches account for the historical life as well as the political proclivities of the law. The private law theory often seen as impersonal and non-imperial comes under scrutiny in the postcolonial approaches. Duncan Kennedy and Roberto Unger notably problematized contract theory, while Upendra Baxi argued for mass tort as public law—contract and tort are both private law—to offer, if you will, a jurisprudence of the South. A southern jurisprudence essentially rejects an impersonal reading of the private law.

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  1. Foucault (1998: para 10).

  2. ‘[A]cademic doctrines and formulas count for very much more in American schools, it seems also in American Courts, than in ours.’ Pollock (1923: 163).

  3. ‘This conception of man as by nature a free and reasonable being gave rise to the potion of the liber et legalis homo, the free and lawful man of the English Law.’ O’Sullivan (1937: 27). ‘Arguments from precedent and analogy are two central forms of reasoning found in many legal systems, especially “Common Law” systems’. Lamond (2016: para.1).

  4. Finnis (1985: 23).

  5. Santos (2018: 4).

  6. Hegel (1824: 412).

  7. Marx (1847: 495).

  8. The Brazilian jurist Miguel Reale theorized ‘the law as experience’. Reale (1992: 7–20).

  9. Weber (1978: 53).

  10. Hegel defines custom as ‘activity without opposition’. Hegel (1824: 486).

  11. Anghie (1999: 1–80).

  12. Singh (1985) although original in his analysis is a dense writer. On 4 November 2019, an Indian Supreme Court bench comprising Gupta and Bose J.J. chided the Bombay High Court, one of the original colonial Presidency courts along with Madras and Calcutta, observing ‘we find it is unintelligible and we could not decipher what has been decided by the High Court.’ Accordingly, they ordered ‘the High Court to pass on an order which we can understand.’ Kapse v. State of Maharashtra (2019).

  13. Kennedy (1976: 1687).

  14. Ibid. 1778.

  15. Hart (1958: 594).

  16. Robert and Dreier (1990: 1).

  17. Singh (2019a: Section 2).

  18. Dagan and Kreitner (2011: 672).

  19. Ibid.

  20. Khaitan and Steel (2019: 1). Morss, on the other hand, reminds that “structuralism” was ‘a reaction against Husserl’s phenomenology.’ Foucault's ‘straddled the later phases of structuralism’ and those innovations were later defined as “post- structuralist”. Morss (2018: 246).

  21. Unger (1983: 565).

  22. Munshi (2017: 207–235)

  23. Baxi (2015: 21–40). ‘Human rights are as much about populations as they are about individuals.’ Morss (2019); Gupta (2019) on “mass tort” and India.

  24. Siddiq v. Das (2019: para 751).

  25. Unger (1983: 568).

  26. In Asia, while the civil law states often recruited European and Japanese lawyers to conduct legal reforms, the common law states were ex-colonies of Britain. Thus, semi-colonialism yielded civil law even as full-colonialism resulted in common law states. See, Singh (2019c).

  27. Santos (2018: 5).

  28. ‘[T]he global law “growing out of fragmented social institutions” does not emerge as integral but as itself fragmented’. Fitzpatrick (2001: 205).

  29. ‘Providing hospitable ground for critical and interdisciplinary projects aimed at exploring the colonial roots of both the contemporary nation-state system and globalized racial formations.’ Munshi (2017: 207).

  30. Kelsen (1982).

  31. ICJ Statute (1945, Art. 38.1.C). Finnis however gets it wrong when footnoting it to subsection “D” instead of “C” of the ICJ Statute Article 38(1). Finnis (2014: 134).

  32. Kelsen (1982, 65). Morss (2008: 85).

  33. Unger (1983: 567).

  34. I have tried to chart elsewhere the journey of jurisprudence in its many forms. Singh (2019a).

  35. ‘In common law, the method differs but is even more explicitly concerned to present determination as a function of prior determination, as the consequence of precedent decisions and their dry reiteration. In either case, the law is firmly placed “in the books,” and the method of extrapolation, elaboration, and instant determination is that of recovery and interpretation.’ Goodrich (2005: 190).

  36. Singh (2019a).

  37. Hart (1958: 593).

  38. Ibid.

  39. Ibid 595.

  40. Fuller (1958: 632).

  41. Fuller (1958: 632).

  42. Unger (1983: 563).

  43. Ibid. 564.

  44. Ibid.

  45. Finnis (1985).

  46. Unger (1983: 618).

  47. Finnis (1985: 21).

  48. Ibid. 26.

  49. DTC v. Mazdoor Congress (1990: para 15).

  50. Ibid.

  51. Ibid.

  52. Kennedy (1976: 1694).

  53. Jakson (1980: 5–20).

  54. Singh (2019b: 440).

  55. Serbian Loans case (1929: 40).

  56. Lauterpacht (1927: v).

  57. ‘The pure legal act, the determinant positing of autonomous law, has long been considered an inadequate rendering of what law “is”, even by legal positivists, yet there remains an operative commitment to its possibility that is hardly marginal. Without such a possibility, the rule of law could have no purchase.’ Fitzpatrick (2001: 73).

  58. “Indian judges have long used equity to ‘mitigated the rigour of the common law.’ Parelkar v. Mantri (1942: para 7).”

  59. ‘It is also well settled principle that the courts while interpreting the provision of an Act or rule the paramount consideration’ is “the ends of justice”. Reddy v. Bank of India (2002). ‘It was left to the discretion of the court to prescribe the limits of the retroactivity. There by, it enabled the court to mould the reliefs to meet the ends of justice.’ ECIL, Hyderabad v. Karunakar (1993: para. 29). ‘To enhance the sentence to seven years R.I. [rigorous imprisonment] by merely saying the “ends of justice” demand it is to continue the question, as Prof. Kelsen put it, not to meet it.’ Vijayakumar v. Public Prosecutor (1978: para 10). Gujarat v. Ambica Mills (1974: para. 37).

  60. Singh (2019a). ‘Laws in the postcolony do not lead to an automatic harvest of justice; justice requires us to harvest the law in a particular way.’ Singh (2018: 128).

  61. One of Baxi’s many contributions to jurisprudence in India is the rediscovery of Chhatrapati Singh. Baxi (2014: 5–24).

  62. Singh (1985).

  63. Ibid. 6.

  64. Ibid. 9.

  65. Singh (1985: 8).

  66. Law is a ‘juristic normative system’. Ibid.10.

  67. Ibid at 57.

  68. Ibid at 59.

  69. Singh (1985: 33).

  70. Swaminathan (2017: 28).

  71. Kesavananda Bharati case (1973: para 210) as cited in Madras Bar Association v. Union India (2014: para 56).

  72. Ibid 5.

  73. Ibid.

  74. Singh (1985: 22).

  75. Ibid. 22.

  76. Ibid. 23.

  77. Ibid at 37.

  78. Ibid at 37.

  79. Ibid. 38.

  80. Singh (1986: 38).

  81. Ibid. 38.

  82. Singh (1985: 38).

  83. Ibid. 39.

  84. Ibid. 60.

  85. Ibid. 61.

  86. Macaulay (1835: para. 34).

  87. Dworkin (1978: 7).

  88. Macaulay (1835: para. 34).

  89. Masani (2014: xiv).

  90. I make a distinction between Indian judges and the Indian Supreme Court. While the former is often methodless, the Supreme Court by the alchemy of legitimacy has created its own jurisprudence. Singh (2019a). It could be that the Court cares more for solutions than baring its method. And some judges, like Krishna Iyer, had more flare than other judges when writing opinions.

  91. ‘[O]ur constitution made legal issues out of problems that in England were political’. Dworkin (1978: 3).

  92. Baxi (2007: 7).

  93. Santos’s ‘Epistemologies of the South’ came out in 2014.

  94. Novartis case (2013: para 66).

  95. Kennedy (1976: 1777).

  96. Santos (2018: viii).

  97. Ibid. 12.

  98. Ibid.

  99. Hart (1958: 529).

  100. Fuller (1958: 669).

  101. Dworkin (1978: 3).

  102. Goodrich (1985: 112).

  103. ‘If the judgment does not represent in whole or in part the unanimous opinion of the judges, any judge shall be entitled to deliver a separate opinion.’ ICJ Statute (1945: Art. 57).

  104. Gingsburg (2010: 3).

  105. Ibid. 6.

  106. Anand (1965: 807).

  107. Karnataka v. Reddy (1977: para 45). About the addenda attached to Siddiq v Das (2019), Baxi says ‘anonymous judicial opinions are constitutionally impermissible’ and therefore ‘cannot be part of the judgment’. Baxi (2019: para 4).

  108. Ibid. para 50.

  109. ‘Legal relations between collectives can be analysed with reference to the classic account of Hohfeld without reducing those collectives to mere aggregates of individuals and without recourse to the legal fiction of treating the collective, for example the state, as a quasi-individual.’ Morss (2009: 289).

  110. Unger (1983: 569).

  111. Swaminathan (2019).

  112. For a critique of Dicey, see, Lino (2018: 739–764).

  113. Gupta (2019).

  114. Finnis (1985: 31).

  115. Baxi (2000: 301).

  116. Baxi (2015: 21–40). British and Indian courts have, moreover, generated remedies by finding tortious breach when contractual breach was not proved. Vader Veil and Compnay (1936: 405); National Bank of Lahore v. Sohanlal Sehgal (1965: 147).

  117. Khaitan and Steel (2019).

  118. Zumbansen notes ‘the recognition of a “world risk society” points to far-reaching consequences for legal theory, which has to assert itself’. Zumbansen (2012: 36).

  119. Unger (1983: 569).

  120. Jha (2019)

  121. Halpérin (2019)

  122. Hegel (1824: 487).

  123. Unger (1983: 568).

  124. Baxi (2015: 25).

  125. Santos (2018: 1).

  126. Kennedy (1976: 1685).

  127. Inspired by Richard Feynman’s tweet ‘Progress in science comes when experiments contradict theory.’ @ProfFeynman (31 October 2019, 7: 22 PM).


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Singh, P. Prolegomenon to a Southern Jurisprudence. Liverpool Law Rev 40, 155–178 (2019).

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