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NLSIR Online Book Symposium 2021: Introduction

The National Law School of India Review is proud to announce NLSIR Online’s first Book Symposium. In a series of NLSIR Online posts over the upcoming weeks, constitutional law experts from across the globe will engage with Professor Richard Albert’s (William Stamps Farish Professor in Law, Professor of Government, and Director of Constitutional Studies – University of Texas) latest book, Constitutional Amendments: Making, Breaking, and Changing Constitutions (Oxford University Press 2019), through book reviews.

The significance of a discussion on Professor Albert’s book is reflected by this sentence in the book — “[a] constitution and rules for its amendment are like lock and key: one can hardly work without the other”. Striking an appropriate balance between the two is particularly important in India, where constitutional amendments made by the legislature are increasingly testing the limits of legal constraints on such amendments. Constitutional Amendments: Making, Breaking, and Changing Constitutions is a guide for democracies around the world on the manner of drafting, adopting and implementing constitutional amendments. The Symposium will see constitutional experts revisit classic and contemporary questions on constitutional amendments, transformative constitutionalism, and legal continuity, among others, as they analyse popular trends as well as regional experiences of constitutional law making. At its heart, the Symposium is a series of intellectual exchanges amongst international experts committed to strengthening democracies around the world.

The Symposium will commence with an Introductory Note by Professor Albert. This will be followed by five book reviews. In the first review, Professor Milton César Jiménez Ramírez (Research Professor in Public Law, Universidad de Caldas, Colombia) asks a fundamental question on constitutionalism — ‘to whom does the constitution belong’? Professor Ramírez asserts that as citizens, we are on the cusp of an opportunity to build better democracies; ones capable of carrying out and respecting the constitution, ones that transform the myth of sovereignty into concrete opportunities for citizen decision-making. Ms Kritika Vohra (Bob Hepple Equality Law Fellow – Equal Rights Trust; Graduate – Harvard Law School and WBNUJS) extends this inquiry to ask whether profitable alternatives exist to judicial review of constitutional amendments, since the latter is often characterised by a democratic deficit. Next, Mr Simon Drugda (Ph.D. Candidate, University of Copenhagen, Denmark) highlights important concerns of constitutionalism in a digital era, focusing his inquiry on how the digital age will change the way we read and understand constitutions.

Our next reviewer, Ms M. Paz Avila (Ph.D. candidate, University of Texas, Austin), probes the distinction introduced by Prof. Albert between a constitutional amendment and a constitutional dismemberment. What is pressing about Avila’s question is her challenge to scholars to explain the significance of maintaining legal continuity — or breaking it — when making a transformative constitutional change. In the final review, Professor Malkhaz Nakashidze (Jean Monnet Chair on Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights – Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University, Georgia) takes up Ms Avila’s question. He draws from his own jurisdiction, the Republic of Georgia, to argue that the ruling party passed a constitutional dismemberment — not a mere constitutional amendment — when it reformed the constitution this past decade. Professor Nakashidze raises a crucial question for scholars of constitutional change: how do we protect the constitution from its legal but illegitimate replacement? The Symposium will conclude with Professor Richard Albert’s response to the five reviews above.

We hope the contributions and exchanges between these constitutional stalwarts resolve theoretical and practical dilemmas on constitutional amendments, and meaningfully advance Indian legal discourse on the subject.


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