South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Litigating Rights-Claims to Land: Two Case Studies from the Courts in Bangalore

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Kadamba, Lower Ground Floor

Do rights in the land have the effect of depoliticizing claims to land? Arguably, the judicial process can be studied as a site of political contestation that emerges in the process of claiming rights to land. But, what kind of politics does it make possible? In this paper, I present two extended ethnographic case-studies of litigation in the courts at Bangalore, of two very different kinds of political contestations around (urban) land. The first is an example of speculative litigation in which the process of going to court, and of proliferating claims in court, is the process by which rights in land come to be created, not by judicial determination, rather, at the crossroads of competing judicial determinations of three sources of title in the same lands. The second is an omnibus litigation involving a mega-infrastructure development project, for which the Government of Karnataka contracted with a private company to acquire 20193 acres of land on the latter’s behalf. While the courts have repeatedly upheld the validity of the contract entered into between the company and the government, in the two decades since the contract was executed, barely 5% of the project has been implemented, bedeviled by hydra-headed litigation, orchestrated in part by landowners unwilling to give up rights to land. In the process, I ask what is revealed about the structure of a right, the structure of normativity itself, by the fact that such diverse contestations are possible in staking a claim to it. 


Sruti Chaganti

Johns Hopkins University, India

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