ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Quotidian Life of Terror Trials in Delhi

Terror Trials: Life and Law in Delhi’s Courts by Mayur R Suresh, New York: Fordham University Press and Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan, 2023; pp 272, $32 and `1,195.

Mayur R Suresh’s book Terror Trials: Life and Law in Delhi’s Courts (2023) is based on an ethnographic study of terror trials in the Tis Hazari court across a period of 14 months over which Suresh followed 18 terror trials. The ethnographic method’s investment into everyday lives in trial courts leads Suresh to ways in which terror defendants engage with the law. Despite the terror charges being an outcome of the prejudicial and disparate impact of the law, the terror defendants in Suresh’s book are not defined by passivity and victimhood. Instead, they are persons who “find a footing in their trials” by experimenting with legal technicalities (p 14). Terror defendants’ use of the law challenges the “state of exception” academic framework that is often deployed to understand terror laws as per which all law facilitates the use of sovereign force (p 18).

Terror Trials also reveals that legal technicalities are so intrinsic to the trial process that it offers a certain kind of autonomy to the law. The law then produces its own sociality in the courtroom which cannot be explained by social structures outside of it. The book demonstrates this sociality through ways in which defendants work with their lawyers and defendants in other terror cases and build relationships. Suresh’s characterisation of the courtroom as an autonomous social space that cannot entirely be seen as an “extension of politics and society” marks a significant departure from the existing law and anthropology scholarship (p 29).

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Updated On : 10th Sep, 2023
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