The Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy (Vidhi), in association with the Oxford University Faculty of Law, hosted a talk by Professor Timothy Endicott, Dean of the Oxford Faculty of Law, on Saturday, 15 March, 2014 at 5:00 pm, in the Vidhi office premises in New Delhi. The subject of the talk was “Arbitrariness”, in the context of the judiciary and the rule of law, published in the most recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence. The topic fitted perfectly within Vidhi’s range of activities, which is to advise the Government of India and state governments on drafting of new law and regulation.

Professor Endicott spoke about arbitrariness in the context of the judgment of the Supreme Court of India in the 2G case (CPIL v Union of India) and the judgement of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Insite case (Canada (Attorney General) v PHS Community Services Society). In both these landmark decisions, the judges had struck down executive action on the ground that the public authorities had acted arbitrarily. Professor Endicott also discussed these cases in the context of Jeremy Bentham’s work on the rule of law, and his notion that the interpretive power of judges is itself an arbitrary power. He argued that the interpretive role of judges is not necessarily hostile to the rule of law, but that there is a standing tension between the two.

Professor Endicott’s speech was followed by an interaction with the audience which consisted of about forty lawyers from diverse backgrounds – practising advocates, academics, partners from law firms, as well as politicians. Given that most present were alumni of Oxford Law, it was hardly surprising that there was an informed and enriching debate on the issues raised that continued over wine and canapés on a pleasant spring evening in Delhi.