ILS Law College is inspired by the idea of Alternate Judgement Writing from the profound scholarship of Jack Balkin in his two edited works, “What Brown v. Board of Education should have said” (New York University Press, 2002) and “What Roe v. Wade should have said” (New York University Press, 2005).
We have identified this initiative as one of the best academic practices. To the best of our opinion, ILS Law College has pioneered this initiative in India.
One of the senior faculties of our college Dr. Sanjay Jain has modified the concept into a competition involving students of LL.B. and till this academic year, the college has conducted 6 editions of this competition successfully, with participation of 15-20 teams on an average across India every year.
The rules of this contest are very simple. We select a landmark judgement delivered by Supreme Court or High Court, ensuring that it is not a prolix one. The participants are expected to confine their analysis by using material prior to the date of the judgement. Although the participants are allowed to predict evolution of a particular principle/standard/doctrine, but they are not expected to use any material post the date of the judgement. The participants can write either a majority opinion, concurring opinion or a dissenting opinion. One of the main objectives of this contest is to sharpen the reasoning ability of the students and encourage them to overcome the ‘awe’ complex by reimagining and questioning contestant and criticizing the judgment delivered by Supreme Court and High Courts.
The main advantages of this contest are to cultivate the knack/art of writing judgements among students to push the students to write the judgement within prescribed time line. The students are given the feel of assuming the role of the judge. While performing this role, sometimes they would modify the judgements, at times they would supply the missing judge on the bench, say by engaging in feminist or ablistic styles of judicial reasoning. The students are also encouraged to do research, to explore possible criticism against the judgement or even to completely substitute the new judgement with the existing one. However on the balance of advantages and limitations, we feel that Alternate Judgement writing is a good initiative to ignite the minds of the students and encourage them to assume the shoes both lawyers and judges. The greatest strength of this contest is to engage the students with
multi-tasking of both creative lawyering and innovative judging.
Students are also required to practice the art of writing judgement within the bounds of judicial process so that their judgements may prove to be guidelines or tipping points which judiciary in real time may employ.
The main limitations of this contest are often the participants find it extremely difficult to question the line of original reasoning adopted by the Court. They find it difficult to come out of the ‘awe’ complex. It is extremely difficult to identify a judgement of Supreme Court or High Court which is both challenging, landmark and yet prolix. A judgement running into more than 10-15 pages is a disincentive for students to participate in the competition as day by day there is loss of interest in arduous and voracious reading.
The contest being in its infancy lacks glamourous appeal, unlike moot courts and other allied contests which bring the result in one performance, for writing Alternate Judgement comparatively long drawn research has to be undertaken and that too within the bounds of timeline thereby making the matters very complex.
(Use the following paragraph if required to establish how well the college has synchronized these two contests)
College is able to synchronize Alternate Judgement Writing Competition with another of its creative initiative Judgement Writing Competition. The former is based predominantly on desk work and rigorous research, whereas the latter gives real-time experience to the students of being in the shoes of the judges as they have to write the judgement based on the arguments advanced before them by senior and proficient lawyers. As a cherry on the cake they are also offered words of wisdom by prominent jurist, guest of honour of the competition and most importantly they are required to accomplish the judgement within a limited time by resorting to library research.