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The chapter presents an analysis of the practice of limitation analysis in the case law of the Indian Supreme Court. Based on both a qualitative and quantitative analysis of a large sample of case law relating to claims for limitation of the rights to equality, fundamental freedoms, and life and personal liberty, the chapter deconstructs the Court’s approach to identify the distinct elements of limitation analysis, and argues that though the Court has not expressly articulated a single structured test for the validity of rights limitations, in practice the Court generally examines three elements: worthy purpose, rational nexus (at times including narrow tailoring), and a general balancing between various interests at stake. Quantitative indicators are used to provide an overview of the characteristics of limitation analysis in action, including the rights and subject matters to which limitation analysis is applied and the division of labour between the components of the analysis when striking down measures. The findings demonstrate that the majority of limitations struck down are based on either lack of legitimate purpose, lack of rational nexus, or both. The chapter further analyses qualitatively the formulations and applications in practice of each of the components of limitation analysis.
The Indian Supreme Court has been called “the most powerful court in the world” for its wide jurisdiction, its expansive understanding of its own powers, and the billion plus people under its authority. Yet scholars and policy makers have a very uneven picture of the court’s functioning: deep knowledge about the more visible, “high-profile” cases but very little about more mundane, but far more numerous and potentially equally important, decisions. This chapter aims to address this imbalance with a rigorous, empirical account of the Court’s decisions from 2010 to 2015. We use the most extensive original dataset of Indian Supreme Court opinions yet created to provide a broad, quantitative overview of the social identity of the litigants that approach the court, the types of matters they bring to the court, the levels of success that different groups of litigants have before the Court, and the opinion-writing patterns of the various judges of the Supreme Court. This analysis provides foundational facts for the study of the Court and its role in progressive social change.