SALDG Event: Papers by Dr Tarunabh Khaitan and Udit Bhatia

Convener: Mariyam Kamil

Speakers: Dr Tarunabh Khaitan (Oxford/Melbourne); Udit Bhatia (Jesus/LMH)

Killing a Constitution with a Thousand Cuts: Incremental Executive Aggrandizement in India

Speaker: Dr Tarunabh Khaitan is an Associate Professor of Law at the Universities of Oxford and Melbourne. His full bio is available here.

Abstract: This paper argues that the government in power in India since 2014 has consistently sought to undermine democratic constitutionalism by incrementally, but systemically, seeking to undermine or capture mechanisms that seek executive accountability. Section 2 will outline three key ways in which liberal democratic constitutions make the executive accountable: vertically by demanding electoral accountability to the people, horizontally by subjecting it to accountability demands of other state institutions like the judiciary and fourth branch institutions, and diagonally by requiring discursive accountability to the media, the academy and civil society. Section 3 will show how the government headed by Mr Modi has incrementally and systemically undermined all these three forms of accountability in the last four years to incrementally enhance the powers of the political executive. Electoral rules have also been tinkered with to give the ruling party a polling advantage in future elections. This incremental erosion of mechanisms seeking executive accountability have been rationalised through a discourse of hyper-nationalism (which equates political opposition to the party with treason) and a managerial discourse that promises probity, decisiveness and efficiency (and paints political opponents as well as institutions that stand in the way as corrupt, indecisive or inefficient).

Primary Discussant: Dr Faisal Devji is a Professor of Indian History and a University Reader in Modern South Asian History at the University of Oxford. He has previously held faculty positions at the New School in New York, Yale University and the University of Chicago.

What’s the Party Like? The Normative Status of the Party in Anti-Defection Jurisdictions

Speaker: Udit Bhatia is a Junior Research Fellow in Politics at Jesus College and Lecturer in Political Theory at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford. His research interests lie at the intersections of democratic theory, social epistemology and constitutional law. He is currently working on the ethics of partisanship and the regulation of political parties.

Abstract: Current commentary in legal and political philosophy conceptualises political parties either as private organisations, immune from legal regulation in their internal affairs, or as quasi-public institutions, where the state may justifiably mandate certain internal regulations. I argue that, in jurisdictions with anti-defection laws, neither conception accounts for the normative status of the political party. Instead, the party ought to be conceptualised as a legislative actor. This paper then examines how conceptualising the party in this way can affect the way in which we understand the relationship between the law and a party. I explore three possible avenues of legal regulation of parties: the process of candidate selection, the selection of party leaders, and interaction between a party and its parliamentary wing. I argue that conceptualising the party as a legislative entity has the most salient implications for the third of these: the interaction between the extra-parliamentary organisation and the parliamentary party.

Primary Discussant: Dr Tarunabh Khaitan is an Associate Professor of Law at the Universities of Oxford and Melbourne. His full bio is available here.

NB: For access to draft papers please email