Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Prof Faizan Mustafa, on the unanimous recommendation of the University’s Executive Council and in consultation with the Chancellor has invited Dr Amita Dhanda to the coveted position of Professor, Emerita. She is the first amongst NALSAR’s faculty to be honoured with this title, the highest academic recognition a University can bestow.
In a press release on Tuesday, the university said ,Dr Dhanda, who is retiring effective November 30, joined the University in 1999 and has since played an unparalleled role in building the institution to what it is today. Prior to her association with NALSAR, she worked solely in research at the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi. Her pioneering work in disability rights, and in mental health law in specific, set the stage for several legislative and judicial interventions at the national level.
In making the shift to full-time teaching, Dr Dhanda brought with her an exacting research ethic and the love of a well-crafted argument. Her teaching encouraged a generation of students at NALSAR to view the world of the law through a critical lens and her trademark course in Law and Poverty pushed the student body to reckon with the structural inequities that the law creates and maintains.
Through her two decades at NALSAR, Dr Dhanda has seamlessly juggled teaching, academic research, legal advocacy and, more recently, administrative responsibilities as the Chair of the University’s Academic Committee. As an internationally recognised authority on legal capacity, she has lectured and taught on the subject across the world. She joined the Ad Hoc Committee tasked with drafting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as part of the civil society—a member of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry. She was the spokesperson for the International Disability Caucus on legal capacity (Article 12) throughout the negotiations. The contribution that Dr Dhanda made to the concept of universal legal capacity with support was recognised by the United Nations by inviting her to speak on the concept in order to inform State parties and members of the treaty body. Her writings on the subject have been relied upon in the formulation of the General Comment No 1 on Legal Capacity and in law reform efforts in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, France, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Moldova, Philippines, Poland, Serbia and South Africa. Since the ratification of the Convention by India, the Centre for Disability Studies at NALSAR (which she heads) led the consultative drafting of the Disabilities Rights Act and worked on State Report on Disability to be submitted to the United Nations.
Dr Dhanda strove, through her career, to match theory with practice. She was instrumental in bringing in wide-ranging changes to NALSAR’s academic programme, in order to centre students’ and faculty members’ preferences and to move away from a one-size-fit-all system. Under her guidance the University embraced a reasonable accommodation policy and universalised its application to the entire student body. In time, she has become one of NALSAR’s most steadfast pillars, a source of support in times of crisis and mentorship for students and junior faculty alike. Over the last few years, she has spearheaded two Ford Foundation funded research projects which have supported several young academics and produced scholarship published by renowned international academic publishers.
The Vice-Chancellor notes that it is a matter of satisfaction that the grateful NALSAR family has recognised Dr Dhanda’s institutional and academic contribution and decided to confer on her the the title of Professor, Emerita and our good fortune that she has very kindly consented to remain associated with the University and guide its research programme in the years to come.