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Legal rights to food, shelter and work? An Indian perspective

January 21, 2014

Professor Mahendra Pal Singh

Can constitutional law provide the tools for improving housing, healthcare, education and other basic needs in countries where large segments of the population struggle in poverty and want?

Professor Mahendra Pal Singh, a leading Indian scholar, will explore how India has sought to address socioeconomic rights through the national constitution and courts when he presents the 2014 Eason-Weinmann Lecture at Tulane Law School on Jan. 28. The event is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Wendell H. Gauthier Appellate Moot Court Room. A reception is set to follow the program in the Marian Mayer Berkett Multipurpose Room.

The Indian Constitution requires the government to pursue socioeconomic justice, and the country’s Supreme Court has issued rulings saying the document protects a “right to live with dignity” and directing states to address inadequate food supplies, urban poverty and a right to employment.

Such rights have been included in the constitutions of other countries, for example South Africa, Kenya and Iraq, and have been the subject of high-profile lawsuits across the globe. Inclusion of socioeconomic protections also was a key issue in the drafting of a new Egyptian Constitution that voters approved in mid-January. That document requires the government to allocate fixed percentages of the GDP to health, education and scientific research.

Singh, one of India’s most distinguished constitutional scholars, has a BA and LLB from Agra University in India, an LLM from Columbia Law School in New York and an LLM and LLD from the University of Lucknow in India.

He was vice chancellor of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta) until 2011 and chaired the Delhi Judicial Academy until December 2013.

He has written more than 100 papers in leading legal journals and edited works. His 10 books include Shukla's Constitution of India; German Administrative Law in a Common Law Perspective; Freedom of Trade and Commerce in India; Comparative Constitutional Law; Legal Dimensions of a Market Economy; and Human Rights and Basic Needs.

The Eason-Weinmann Lecture is funded by the Eason Weinmann Center for International and Comparative Law, established in 1981 through the generosity of Virginia Eason Weinmann and John Giffen Weinmann, a distinguished Tulane Law School graduate (L ’52). Ambassador Weinmann is a former chair of Tulane’s Board of Administrators, and the law building is named for him.



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