Inaugural Special Remarks

Session Report
Swetha Shanker Pydimarry

The inaugural session of the Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship Program by IMPRI
marked a significant milestone in empowering young minds to contribute meaningfully to
law and public policy. The event brought together a diverse range of speakers and an
enthusiastic audience of aspiring youth passionate about creating positive societal change. It
set the stage for an intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking journey to shape the
participants’ understanding of the complexities of law and public policy.

Overview of the Inaugural Session

The program kick-started with the Chair, Prof Vibuti Patel, Visiting Distinguished Professor
at IMRPI, delivering her opening remarks. In her address, she emphasized the pressing
challenges of justice, inequity, and exclusion, which directly hinder and impede economic
progress and development. With this purpose, the Chair expressed the significance and
substantial need to study public policies that inform state and non-state actors on effectively
responding to these complex challenges.

The course’s importance was briefly discussed by the Chair, who emphasised its significance
in addressing the crucial gaps in knowledge and practical application of policies that advance
and promote social justice and inclusivity. The Chair underscored the course’s role in
fostering ethical decision-making, critical thinking, and a thorough understanding of the
interplay between law, policy, and societal dynamics.

Consequently, Dr. Simi Mehta, the CEO and Editorial Director at IMPRI, expressed her
enthusiasm for this pioneering program by the institute, recognizing it as a remarkable
initiative that brings together experts from diverse fields such as law, public policy,
academia, legal practice, policy-making, and thought leadership. She warmly welcomed the
distinguished session expert for the day, Shri Sandeep Chachra, Fellowship Lead Advisor,
Adv. Dr. Shalu Nigam and all the participants of the course.

Following this, Adv. Dr. Shalu Nigam, the Fellowship Lead Advisor of the program and a
practising advocate, author, researcher, and Gender and Human Rights activist, provided a
comprehensive overview of the program and delivered general instructions. Notably, she
emphasised the significance of the upcoming interactive sessions, designed to facilitate in-
depth discussions on a wide range of policy and legal issues, thereby encouraging participants
to engage in high-level thinking and analysis.

Inaugural Special Remarks

The inaugural session featured the prominent speaker, Shri Sandeep Chachra, the Executive
Director at ActionAid Association India and Advisor at IMPRI. He shared his expertise,
experiences, and perspectives on various aspects of law and public policy.

Drawing from his three decades of experience as a practitioner, Shri Sandeep Chachra
provided a concise overview of the fundamental definitions of law and policy. He highlighted
that ‘policy’ can be understood in various ways, including courses of action, programs, or
funding initiatives undertaken by public representatives or government institutions. In
contrast, he signified that ‘laws’ primarily stem from two sources. Firstly, laws derive from
the Constitution to advance its legislative intent, which is subject to judicial review.
Secondly, laws also originate from international covenants, encompassing a broader spectrum
of jurisprudence ranging from human rights to other areas. However, he underlined the
nuance that laws are not strictly limited to these two contexts, expressing his neutrality in this
definitional framework.

Continuing along the same lines, he emphasised that laws breathe life and give flavour to the
intentions enshrined in the Constitution. He delved into the significance of progressive laws
and the undeniable and non-negotiable principles of liberty, equality, and freedom. He
highlighted that those who have historically borne the weight of oppression and injustice
view laws and public policy as crucial tools for attaining a more equitable world. This
perspective, he concluded, aligns with the notion of a ‘good public policy and laws.’

He then elucidated his interpretation of ‘strong public policy and laws’ as distinct from merely
‘good public policy.’ He explored this distinction within the context of representative
democratic systems. According to him, strong public policy and laws are characterised by

their legitimate derivation, encompassing both substantive and procedural aspects of
legitimacy. He provided an example highlighting India’s public consultation system, mandate,
and passage in the Lower House and Upper House of Parliament. He mentioned the
importance of feedback loops, corrections, and robust processes, such as forming standing
committees, in ensuring the legitimacy and effectiveness of public policies and laws. He
stressed the significance of transparency, public participation, and accountability in shaping
strong public policy and laws.

He further clarified that laws, a subset of public policy, are rooted in evidence, data, and
social knowledge. They incorporate considerations of costs and benefits across different
domains, such as economic, environmental, and social aspects. Shri Sandeep Chachra said
that the “formulation of sound public policy entails its implementation by the bureaucracy,
which he referred to as the converters of policies on the ground”. Their involvement is crucial
in translating policy into practical action.

In addition, he highlighted the importance of separating instruments within a parliamentary
democracy to address conflicts of interest. This ensures that the different branches and
institutions of governance operate independently and without undue influence. The need for
checks and balances was underscored by signifying the maintenance of integrity,
transparency, and accountability in the policy-making process.

His insights resonated with the audience, shedding light on the multifaceted nature of public
policy, the role of evidence-based decision-making, and the importance of effective
implementation. Shri Sandeep Chachra’s remarks prompted participants to reflect on the
complexities and challenges inherent in crafting and executing robust public policies within a
democratic framework. He provided examples of recent public policy-making instances,
citing same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ rights, and the inclusion of numerically marginalized
communities such as tribals. Furthermore, he addressed the rise of religious influence in
public policy-making, the impact of majoritarian elements, and the role of corporations and
businesses.

Lastly, Shri Sandeep Chachra concluded by urging active citizens to defend, promote, and
conceptualize just and equitable societies. He stressed the need for public policy laws that
cater to the vast diversities within our continent-sized country, India.

Swetha is a research intern at IMPRI.

YouTube Video of Inaugural session for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship Programme: https://youtu.be/fT0XLKGJ6LY

See picture gallery from the session on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CtYXQnav1jF/?img_index=1

Read more session reports for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship:

Policy Initiatives and Role of Indian Judiciary