Of law and order


The fifth edition of Difficult Dialogues 2020 that began yesterday February 14 and will conclude on Sunday, February 16 focuses on ‘The State of Law’. NT BUZZ gets talking with Surina Narula, the lady who has always kept society and its several issues as priority, creating a platform for healthy discussion and deliberation

Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ

Q. Difficult Dialogues is hosting its fifth edition. Quite an achievement, isn’t it? What inspired you to organise Difficult Dialogues?

Difficult Dialogues has come out of my working with street children’s charities and women organisations. Having worked with these causes, it became quite apparent that without a change in policy on street children no government would work with us. We, that is the Consortium for Street Children, started lobbying and creating a momentum at the United Nations to include street children’s rights in the rights of the child, which is ratified by many countries now. We have managed in thirty years to get a comment included in the rights of the child but it will take a lot of work before it becomes a right. This started my quest on working with policies. Instead of marching on the streets when a law is passed, it is important to get included in the difficult conversations when the initial proposals are being made. For example, if the representative in our area shows us his manifesto and we find objectionable content, that is when we have to have a difficult dialogue, not when we have chosen him and it becomes the new norm.

Q. Tell us about the event this year.The theme is law… With all the unrest in the country around the Citizen Amendement Act, will any of the panel discussions focus on issues around the constitution?

When we conceived this conference title a year ago we were looking at the whole state of law which included questions of access, due process, implementation, speed of resolution and many other general matters. New issues have risen since we formulated our panels. No doubt individual commentators may wish to raise them but our main focus remains the structural focus relating to the law in India.

Q. You have a focus on gender rights, children’s rights, the environment, and others. How do you pick and choose topics under the theme?

My experience of working with NGOs spanning over 20 years has given me a deep understanding of the pressing need to work with policies. Brilliant ideas fall short at the formation, implementation and dissemination stage. Difficult Dialogues endeavours to provide a common platform to bridge the gap between policymakers and NGOs involved with implementation through discussions. The fifth edition of Difficult Dialogues is obviously even better than the best. As you can see the stakeholders were initially only participating in a limited way. Oxford University’s Law Department, OP Jindal University, Goa University, the International Centre and even NGOs Plan India, PHIA and Consortium for Street Children have all partnered with us to organise this year’s event and choose the topics for the panels.

Q. What can the audience look forward to at the event this year?

Besides the engaging panels on topics from aadhar, technology, accountability of the judiciary, reforms in the justice system, legal aid services for women and children, gender backlash in the legal profession, free speech, discrimination against minorities, the environment and law in Goa specifically, there are also other events. There is a talk called ‘Above the Law’ taking place at Vivanta on Saturday evening at 6.30 p.m. by Massimilano Mazzotta, who organises a film festival in Italy called ‘Life After Oil’, examining corporate accountability after environmental disasters such as oil spills.

The value being a benefit to everybody from students to participants. The level of discussion is above any ordinary sponsored event because the stakeholders are academics and very conscious of the component of discussions. Nobody can make uninformed statements and the discussion on policy is then taken seriously.

(The Navhind Times is media partner for the event)


10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Panel: After the Aaadhar Judgment: Do individuals have the right to privacy?

Speakers: Independent policy researcher, Usha Ramanathan; research director, VIDHI Arghya Sengupta; former Central Information Commissioner, professor M Sridhar Acharyulu; senior advocate, Supreme Court of India, Shyam Divan

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Panel: Law & Technology (Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics)

Speakers: Ben Tucker, Venkatesh Iyer, Latha Reddy, Urvashi Aneja

12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Panel: Accountability v/s Independence of Judiciary: Is the balance right?

Speakers: JGU, MP Singh; vice chancellor, Tamil Nadu National Law School, Kamala Shankaran; JGU, Alexander Fischer; JGU, Khagesh Gautam

2:30p.m. to 4p.m.

Panel: Reforms in the administration of justice: What can help?

Speakers: Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir; founder partner, Lex Alliance, Enakshi Ganguly; development researcher and child rights activist, Sreejith SG; professor and vice dean, JGU, Sushant Chandra; JGU, advocate Avani Bansal

2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

A panel by PLAN INDIA on ‘Free legal aid services for women and children in India – Opportunities and challenges

4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Panel: Gender, legal profession and the courts: Is there a backlash?’

Speakers: Advocate Vrinda Grover, Justice Sujata Manohar, Linda Mulcahy

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

A talk on ‘Above the law’ by Massimilano, Marilu Henner at Taj Vivanta