South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Market Regulation and Parliamentary Sovereignty in Post-Independence India

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Juniper, New Building

The right to property, enshrined in the 1950 Constitution of India, was one of the most contentious points of debate during the country’s constitutional drafting process in the late 1940s. It also became the only fundamental right to be ultimately abolished through the amendment in 1978. The right to property was more central than any other constitutional provision to the Indian state’s projects of market regulation and socio-economic transformation; the scope of property rights in Indian constitutionalism determined the nature of land reform, industrialization, and economic rights in the post-independence years. This paper traces the history of the right to property during India’s Constituent Assembly Debates (1946-50) and during debates on the First Amendment (1950-51). The paper argues that the trajectory of property rights in India, from the initial drafting process in the late 1940s to parliamentary debates and judicial interpretation in the early 1950s, indicates the rise of parliamentary or legislative supremacy as a guiding doctrine in Indian politics. Underlying attempts to reshape property rights, I suggest, was a view of the legislative branch as a sovereign body intended for economic transformation and the redistribution of resources. The paper draws out this point by analyzing the relationship between parliament, market regulation, property rights, and the rule of law during the early tenure of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. It shows the transformation of property rights in postcolonial India into a strategic tool to consolidate a vision of postcolonial democracy as economically transformative lawmaking.

Tejas Parasher

University of Chicago, United States

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