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Foundation for Ecological Security, Anand, Gujarat and National Law School of India University, Bangalore

THEME: Legal Liberation of Commons

Variously described as Common Pool Resources, "Common Property Resources", "Common Lands", "Open Ground" etc; "Commons" have been an important and inseparable part of humanity. They have been life support systems and have impacted various cultures, traditions, organizations and environments. They are essential for the livelihood requirements of the poor to be met. It is common knowledge that "Commons" are of ecological, social, cultural, religious, sporting and recreational value. There is ample literature on the subject in many of these fields. It is significant to note that Professor Elinor Ostrom, a political scientist, won the Nobel Prize this year for her work on the subject. It is no less significant that she is the first woman to have achieved this distinction in the Economic discipline.

It is however ironical that "Commons" have seldom appeared in the mainstream discourse (with perhaps the exception of Hugo Grotius referring to the sea as "the common heritage of mankind" well over five centuries ago). The common law tradition, of which India is a part, rooted in eminent domain and private property rights, has hardly any space for them. Commons are uncommon in administrative practice and legal discourse. It is a greater irony that while Indian tradition (and in most other countries as well) offer a place of pride to them, the legal ordering pays scant regard for them.

A few of these disturbing thoughts prompted FES and NLSIU to engage in an exploratory exercise in finding the legal concerns, spaces and mooring for the commons and strengthening them. In doing so, the two institutions found it appropriate to invite and challenge young legal brains to engage in an exercise of scrutinising the law and to suggest reforms in it to restore, secure, strengthen, conserve and celebrate the Commons. Hence, this competition.

Who can participate?
Groups of four to six students registered on the rolls of law schools, law colleges and post-graduate departments of law in Indian universities.

How to participate?
By sending in their applications through the heads of their institutions, indicating clearly the names of the students, their level of study in law (under-graduate or post-graduate) and the tentative title of their research study to:

Mr Niruthan Nilanthan,
Coordinator of the Law Reforms Competition,
"Commons" Cell, CEERA, National Law School of India University ,
Nagarbhavi, Bangalore-560072
Applications for registration may be sent either by post or email. There is no registration fee.

The last date for receiving the application for registration is 15th February 2010. A written submission, duly certified by the head of the institution. The submission should be typed in double space and contain not less than 15000 words in the text of the material (excluding footnotes). All the written submissions should be received by the Law School not later than 15 April 2010.

Content of Written Submission:

1. Literature Review: A review of the available legal literature on the Commons. This may contain various facets like traditional systems of commons management, legislative frameworks, judicial decisions affecting the commons and administrative practices around the country. It would also include the available comparative analyses of different systems of law prevalent elsewhere on the subject.

2. Case Studies at the Ground Level: Case studies highlighting the customs, traditions and practices of people at the ground level, either with or without statutory support, need to be highlighted. This may include field research and the lessons drawn from the same.

3. Critiquing the Law: The participants would be expected to critically examine the legal framework in place today. This would include identifying both constructive and destructive laws that affect the commons scenario. Laws which create legal hurdles and practical difficulties in managing the commons would need a special emphasis. It is equally important to identify the laws and mechanisms that play a positive role in commons management.

4. Legal Reforms: Drawing from the study carried out, as indicated above, an attempt has to be made to either construct a new policy and legal regime or to accommodate solutions in the existing one. It would have to be done in the context of getting the Commons the legal status it deserves by clearly delineating the responsibilities of the state, the people and the individual in the legal frame.

The written submissions will be evaluated by an expert appointed by the Vice-Chancellor, NLSIU and the outcome of the competition would be informed to the heads of the institutions by May 15, 2010.

The top three prize winning teams will be given a cash award of Rs 25000, Rs 20000 and Rs 15000 in a function organized for the purpose at the Law School during the first week of June 2010.

About FES:
Set up in 2001, the Foundation for Ecological Security, a not-for-profit organization, is committed to sustainable and equitable development. This includes the process of ecological succession and the conservation of land, forest and water resources in the country. The primary aim of their organization is to centre-stage an ecological agenda in an economically dominated world view.

About NLSIU:
NLSIU, as the pace setter and a testing ground for bold experiments in legal education, came into existence a little over two decades ago. It is arguably the best example of Academy-Bar-Bench cooperation in the field of legal education and research in India. The Chief Justice of India as the Chancellor of NLSIU and the Chairman of the Bar Council of India as the Head of the General Council of the School provides a stature and prestige to the Law School unparallel in the history of legal education in India. FES and NLSIU are grateful for the generous contribution of CONCERN WORLDWIDE to run this competition.

BANGALORE - 560072
PH: 080-23160532/533/535/23160527

ANAND - 388001
PH:02692-261402 ,261238,261239

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