A key component in the narrative on law and development is the legal régime that enables private parties to engage with each other through the medium of contracts, property transfers, trusts, securities markets, corporations, etc. We may call this régime ‘private law’ to contrast it with legal systems relating to the regulation of public or government functions (public law). While a deep and thorough engagement with the fundamentals of private law adds significantly to the general academic proficiency of postgraduate law students, such a study is especially relevant to students studying law and development, as private law, as much as public law , plays an instrumental as well as a constitutive role in the economic development of a country.
Private laws derive strength from specified belief systems/philosophies which may or may
not be subscribed to by the State, which inform the handling of key issues such as the
meaning of property, what constitutes an obligation, the standard of care to be exercised by agents and fiduciaries, the most appropriate responses to liability, etc. In some cases, as with the theory of property, the preferred philosophical basis changes over time. While the UGC has mandated core courses on public law, the scholarship on private law has not been a major area of focus and it is rare to find emphasis on these foundational bases in the teaching of private law courses in India.
The study of private law rules, especially at the undergraduate level seldom questions the
rationale for the manner in which the rules are structured and the philosophical
justifications they serve. This course remedies this in part by examining and questioning the foundations of private law to enable us to develop a critical understanding of the successes, frailties and socio-economic undertones of our private law régime generally, with a specific focus on Indian law. It offers a foundational view of the entire domain of private law that can shape perspectives and approaches to subsequent specialized courses in private law.