More on Mumbai
by Margaret G. Arnold
The International Association of Law Libraries held a highly successful 26th Annual Course in International Law Librarianship in Mumbai, India this past December. The speakers were outstanding, and the conference social events provided attendees with an opportunity to get to know Mumbai, formerly known as "Bombay." The program began on Saturday, December 1st with an opening ceremony at the conference venue, the National Center for the Performing Arts in Mumbai. The ceremony included an inaugural address by the Honorable Mr. Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, former Chief Justice of India, as well as a welcome address by the President of IALL, Jules Winterton of the University of London. Delegates were also treated to a candle lighting ceremony and a delightful cultural program of folk and Bollywood dances of India.
The formal course sessions which began on Sunday, December 2nd were well worth attending. The Honorable Mr. Justice B.N. Srikrishna, retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India, provided attendees with an introduction to the Indian legal system and an opportunity for comparative analysis of legal systems. The session on Women's Rights, by Women's Rights Activist Flavia Agnes, provided some particularly poignant information about the current status of women in India and the slow progress in achieving rights for women. Likewise, the session on human rights was filled with many stories of human rights challenges facing the citizens of India today. While great progress has been made in passing laws to improve Indian society, the implementation of these laws has not been as successful. As a result, the courts are now becoming more heavily involved in the follow-through and enforcement of laws. Other sessions that followed in the coming days included topical sessions on intellectual property, global environmental law, international trade, and constitutional and administrative law.
Part of the focus of the program was on law libraries and the publication of legal information in India. As in other countries, databases proliferate and the building of websites to make legal information widely available to the public is of primary importance. The Indian Legal Information Institute (INDLII) is taking the lead on making Indian cases and other legal materials available on the web. Their website is www.indlii.org. Other websites that contain Indian cases include www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in and www.indiancourts.nic.in.
Not all of our time was devoted to work. IALL delegates enjoyed some wonderful dinners at fine Indian restaurants and took a Mumbai city tour by coach. Our well-informed guides provided us with a tremendous amount of historical, religious and social information about the Mumbai community as we passed notable sights of old Bombay which means "beautiful bay" in Portuguese. Of most interest was the Dobi Ghat, an outdoor laundry covering many acres and unlike any laundry you have ever seen! Additional stops included a visit to the Ghandi museum and a stop at a Hindu Jain Temple. Other sightseeing trips included visits to local libraries, a walking tour of the Bombay Fort Area Heritage and a day-long excursion to Elephanta Island, known for its rock-cut cave temples dating to the 4th - 9th centuries dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Hindu god, and the Gharapuri Caves which contain masterpieces of Indian sculptures.
Our visit to Mumbai did not go unnoticed. "The Times of India" ran two articles about the law librarians' visit to India. Overall, delegates were warmly welcomed to the City of Mumbai, and the trip provided us all with a wonderful opportunity to share information and learn about another legal culture of great interest.