Although party politics is central to the day-to-day workings of the Indian Constitution, the attention received by parties in constitutional law – whether in practice or scholarship – is conspicuously inadequate. A part of a larger project on the role of political parties in Indian Constitutionalism, this paper restricts itself to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court on the regulation of parties and partisanship. It is divided into two parts.

The first part, ‘Outlines of Partisan Constitutionalism’, deals with cases related to the structure of constitutional government. In particular, I will discuss an unarticulated partisanship principle in the Supreme Court jurisprudence. This principle, I will argue, takes three forms – partisan, partisan federalism, and partisan government – articulating three different conceptions of the role of parties in legislature-executive, Centre-State, and party-government relations respectively. 

The second part, ‘Party Democracy’, deals with democratic contestation of political power (during and between elections). In particular, it focuses on the role of law in regulating (a) party-candidate relationship (cases dealing with election expenditure, speech and candidate selection), (b) intra-party conflicts (cases dealing with splits, mergers and de-mergers of parties), and (c) party-electorate relationship (cases on the role of parties in electoral process).

Based on these two strands of cases, can we discern a clear conception of parties in the Supreme Court jurisprudence? If yes, what should that conception be? If not, what are the points of contradiction, incoherence or convergence? 

Speaker: Aradhya Sethia

Aradhya Sethia is an MPhil Candidate at the University of Oxford, where he is studying the role, status and regulation of political parties and partisanship in a modern constitutionalism with a particular focus on India. Alongside this, he is also working on research projects dealing with the Indian regulatory state and regulation of online political communication. Aradhya completed LL.M. at Yale Law School, where he served as an articles editor of the Yale Journal of International Law, a resident fellow at Yale Information Society Project, and a member of the Lowenstein International Human Rights Project. Before joining Oxford, Aradhya was a visiting research fellow at the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies, Melbourne Law School. He holds B.A. LL.B (Hons.) from National Law School, Bangalore (India), where he was declared the Best Outgoing Student, won three gold medals including H.M. Seervai Medal in Constitutional Law, and served as an editor of the National Law School of India Review, editor-in-chief of the Indian Journal of Law and Technology, and Joint Convener of the Legal Services Clinic, Bangalore.

Discussant: Dr Udit Bhatia

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.

NB: For access to the draft paper, please email rishika.sahgal@magd.ox.ac.uk.