Sudhir was one of the speakers alongside Christophe Jaffrelot, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for International Studies and Research, as part of a debate series hosted by the Yale Law School. The debate was titled “The Rule of Law in South Asia: Is ‘Secular’ India lagging behind ‘Religious’ Pakistan?” and was held on 31st October 2012.
In 1947, India and Pakistan embarked on separate constitutional journeys. While India adopted a constitution which it called ‘secular’, Islam was given a central role in Pakistan. Nevertheless, the Indian state continued to be interventionist in religious affairs. Religious groups have continued to be governed by separate religious family laws, and ‘secular’ courts are asked upon to adjudicate on these religious laws. It has partly succeeded to reform Hindu law but failed to touch minority Muslim law. Controversially, religion and politics are more intertwined than ever before, and in some cases, courts have given this their stamp of approval. On the other hand, in Pakistan, religious and secular courts have remained separate, and codification and reform of sharia law have been undertaken.
Has the ‘secular’ Indian system succeeded to maintain an adequate separation of religion and state? Has the ‘religious’ system of Pakistan allowed for a more dynamic reform of religious law? Has the Indian model provided better protection of minority rights and preservation of the rule of law? How different or similar are the paths charted by the two countries, and are their fates diverging or converging?