Krithika Ashok, PhD Student, Department of Anthropology
The Supreme Court of India, since the 1980s, when it first articulated its “public interest litigation” jurisdiction, has often been flatteringly described as a “people’s court.” This reputation, however, has come into question in recent years, with legal scholars beginning to ask whether or not, the court is indeed a “people’s court,” and who might the people that the court apparently represents be. My approach instead, in this paper, has been to take this reputation, or mythology, with all the contradictions, seriously; and examine how this myth appears in the narratives of lawyers about themselves. In this version of the paper, I focus specifically on “first-generation lawyers,” i.e., those without family in the profession, and find that the court is invoked in their narratives as a figure that aids their success, even while it remains a starkly unequal playing field for them. I suggest that their descriptions of the court, as the spatial setting of their work, curiously mirrors perceptions of the Supreme Court as a legal institution, offering further insights then into the ways in which the symbolic significance of the court is reproduced.