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Human Rights in the Indian tradition: the quest for a universal model

in association with ATMABODH

Speaker: Professor M P Singh, University of Delhi
Chair: Professor Stan Cohen, Centre for the Study of Human Rights
May 2003


Cultural relativism is a major theme in the current discourse on human rights. Even if there is agreement that the notion of human rights should be pursued and realised, opinion differs about the meaning or content of the notion. This difference leads either to the contention that the ideal of human rights is exclusively the product of a single tradition and is, therefore, absent in other traditions; or to the assertion that the idea is unknown to, or known differently, in that tradition. In either case the universality of human rights is questioned and jeopardised. If the concept of human rights is to be universalised, there must be agreement on the core meaning and essence of that concept.

In this seminar, Professor Singh will examine the place of human rights in the Indian tradition and the relevance of those concepts to a universal model of human rights.

Professor M P Singh teaches law at the University of Delhi, India. He is currently a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin. He studied law at Meerut, Lucknow and Columbia University, New York and then, after six years at the University of Meerut, he joined the University of Delhi, where he has served at the Dean of the Faculty of Law and the Head of the Law department. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at Delhi, Professor Singh has been actively engaged in research and has undertaken visiting professorships at a large number of overseas institutions, including the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg, the University of Hong Kong and Kansai University, Osaka. From 1995-1996, he was a consultant to the Fiji Constitution Review Commission. Professor Singh's publications include over sixty papers in different legal journals and edited works in India and abroad and ten books. His has edited Shukla's Constitution of India since 1987, and his book German Administrative Law holds the distinction of being the only book on the subject in English that has also been translated into Chinese. He is currently working on a project on human rights and protection of minorities in India.