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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

8 - PUCL v. Union of India

from Part II - The Supreme Court of India, Social and Political Mobilization


Activists have long turned to courts to influence policy. Much of the literature analyzing the experience of activists using courts has focused on judicial outcomes, yet accomplishments beyond successful judgments can be of equal importance as they also effect social change. In particular, engaging in litigation can have a demonstrable impact on the social movements themselves – building and strengthening movements, and providing spaces for manoeuvring. This chapter examines the impact of litigation on the development of the Right to Food Campaign in India, one of India's largest contemporary social movements. Using qualitative data from in-depth interviews with activists and lawyers and a comparative analysis with an earlier case, this chapter analyzes the factors and conditions under which courts can be catalysts for social mobilization, including the existence of opportunities for reform, pre-existing rights consciousness and organizational resources available for mobilization.