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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78055 Find in a Library
Title: Western Law in India - External Law and Local Response (From Social System and Legal Process, P 155-180, 1978, Harry M Johnson, ed. - See NCJ-78053)
Author(s): R L Kidder
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 26
Sponsoring Agency: Jossey-Bass Publishers
San Francisco, CA 94103-1741
Sale Source: Jossey-Bass Publishers
989 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103-1741
United States of America
Type: Historical Overview
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The impact of Western law (primarily British) upon India's culture is examined.
Abstract: The British goals for introducing Western law into India were to create an instrument with which Indians could fairly and rationally enforce their own norms and values and to adopt acceptable procedures for regulating relations between colonial administrators and subjects. Disputing, which had been conducted through mediation and a mixture of caste, village, familial, and territorial tribunals, was funneled into the courts, producing constant pressure to expand the system. In the courts, however, local customs were distorted beyond recognition by simplistic judicial routines of interpretation. Court became a place where the only way to influence the all-important outcome was to manipulate the procedure by any means available, including perjury. The system did not allow for compromise; there had to be winners and losers. For the losers, the impact on family finances, personal integrity, and reputation was devastating. Since the style and mechanisms for dealing with conflict are such an important part of a culture, the British effort to impose an external dispute settlement system on Indian society radically changed the existing forms of social control. Efforts to return to a more localized village council form of dispute settlement have continued to bear the characteristics of an externally-imposed system. External models of law inevitably disrupt the more informal means by which communities have managed the interactions of their members. The consequence of a growing reliance upon the external legal system tends to be a growing alienation between those who know how to manipulate the system for their own ends and those who feel abused by it. Implications of this analysis for American society are briefly considered. Sixteen references are listed.
Index Term(s): Cultural influences; India; Judicial process; Social change; Social cohesion
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