The research examines how the Indian Supreme Court has, over the last sixty years, managed tensions between the right to property and the state's power to acquire property for the purposes of social redistribution and economic development. Conventional s cholarly accounts have labelled the Court as reactionary or progressive by focusing attention on the kinds of rights that the Court has enforced during different periods, namely, property rights and socioeconomic rights ("SER") respectively. In contrast, this project argues that the dichotomy between property rights and SER misrepresents the Court's jurisprudence, and seeks to demonstrate that the Court's enforcement of particular rights has been determined less by the kind of right (property or SER) soug ht to be enforced and more by whether the Court sees the enforcement of that right as enhancing development goals.
The project builds on the legal realist insight that constitutional rights adjudication occurs against the backdrop of particular historico- political, social, economic and institutional factors, and argues that constitutional courts operate within certain dominant discourses, including both the "rights" and "development" discourses. Consequently, judges in particular historical and social con texts have a meta conception of what an ideal society should look like. The indeterminacy of rights means that judicial decisions may be determined by whether the decision furthers such a vision of an ideal society. Through a narrative of the evolution o f the rights and development discourses over time, the project attempts to explain the real and perceived shifts in the Court's jurisprudence. Ultimately, the project aims to highlight the limitations of rights-based strategies of empowerment, whether the y focus on property rights or SER and redirects scholarly attention to the broader discourses within which legislatures and courts make decisions about development and resource allocation.