Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ramnath on the Criminal Jury in Colonial India

Kalyani Ramnath, a graduate student in the Department of History at Princeton University, has published The Colonial Difference between Law and Fact: Notes on the Criminal Jury in India, which appears in the (gated) Indian Economic & Social History Review (July 2013) 50: 341-363.  Here is the abstract:
This article tracks the rise and fall of criminal jury in colonial India through official and non-official debates, discussions and interventions. The discussion on criminal juries in the Anglo-American system has typically focused on the division of legal labour between judge and jury. In colonial India, this conventional difference between ‘law’ and ‘fact’ were shaped by notions of belonging to a different race, religion and language. These were frequently articulated as the story of the ‘unreliable’ juror or the ‘religious’ native who feared eternal damnation. From the jurors who were allegedly intoxicated by the publicity over the infamous Nanavati trial to women jurors who claimed to be followed on the way home from court, to the religious Brahmin juror who would not swear an oath, the story of the criminal jury is peopled with anxieties over undesirable forms of influence, that impinge on legal impartiality. Using the criminal jury as a lens, I look at the claims of universal legal reform as particularly lending themselves to contestations over sovereignty.