The Sabarimala Verdict, Recognising Customs as Law, and More With Dr. Janaki Nair

Mar 6, 2023


In this episode, historian Dr. Janaki Nair discusses why religious scriptures formed the basis for colonial law in India, how women fought against child marriage in the 20th century, and why Indu Malhotra’s dissenting judgement in the Sabarimala verdict is significant.

‘In Perspective’ is The Swaddle’s podcast series where academics reveal little-known facts about Indian history, society and culture.


00:01:00:20- How and why did religious texts and traditions become central to determining women’s position in colonial legal frameworks? 

00:04:58:03- What are the difficulties with deciding when religious custom becomes law? 

00:07:08:01- What was the Madras case on the question of ‘can women inherit under Mitakshara law?’

00:09:24:02- What were the problems with interpreting scriptures, especially with norms pertaining to sati and child marriage?

00:12:27:09- How did the notion of not interfering in social customs define the attitude towards child marriage laws in colonial India? Do we see a continuity in that till today, or did something change in the 1920s? Was there an active pushback then? 

00:27:06:19- What was the significance of Indu Malhotra’s dissenting judgment in the Sabarimala verdict?


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