In light of diverse experiences around welfare rights over the last two decades, this talk asks: What difference does it make that social policy is rights-based? Does it make courtrooms central sites of welfare policy- and if so, how do judges deal with these deeply political issues, and to what effect? And does it matter whether welfare rights are provided constitutional protection or just laid down in ordinary legislation? By examining experiences from different parts of the world with regard to legal protection of welfare rights, the talk provides perspectives on the potential and limits of court based enforcement, as well as out-of-court rights-based strategies. Indian developments will be compared with experiences from Latin America, South Africa and Scandinavia.