Speaker: Surabhi Shukla is a D Phil candidate in law at the University of Oxford. Her D Phil engages with the research question: What is constitutional morality within the context of the Indian Constitution? She completed her undergraduate degree in law from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore in 2011 and then went on to read for an LLM from the UCLA School of Law in 2012. She was awarded the Dean's Tuition Fellowship and the Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation Scholarship to attend UCLA. She has also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the Williams Institute at UCLA, the Supreme Court of India, and taught as an Assistant Professor of Law at the OP Jindal Global University, India before starting her D Phil at Oxford.

Abstract: This talk, based on the author’s ongoing PhD research, seeks to argue that constitutional morality can be a helpful aid in interpreting the constitution and providing enduring and legitimate solutions to constitutional law questions. With a focus on the Indian Constitution, it demonstrates, however, that this concept is understudied and there is no agreement over its exact contents and locations. By laying out the sources for the concept and by proposing a methodology to harmoniously read these sources, the thesis will propose certain features of constitutional morality. At present, the list contains: (1) commitment to liberty; (2) constitutional supremacy; and (3) Parliamentary form of government. This list is expected to grow as the research progresses. Finally, this thesis seeks to address a current trend in constitutional adjudication. The most pressing human rights questions in contemporary constitutional practice pitch individual human rights claims against religious or cultural morality. Case law on abortion, surrogacy, speech and sexual orientation and gender identity rights can be looked at as examples. Case review suggests that though these rights claims may not be regulated statutorily by religion and culture, courts do give them a lot of importance while deciding these claims. This research will suggest that in such situations, the constitutional morality standard, as opposed to the religious and cultural morality standard, must be employed by courts.

Primary Discussant: Rishika Sahgal is an M Phil candidate in law at the University of Oxford. She completed her BCL in 2017 as Rhodes Scholar at Magdalen College. Prior to the BCL, Rishika clerked with the Chief Justice of India. She obtained her undergraduate degree in law from National Law University Delhi, India. Her areas of interest are constitutional law, equality law, human rights law and criminal justice.

Blogger: Aradhana Cherupara Vadekkethil is a BCL candidate at Somerville College, University of Oxford and scholar at the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development. Prior to the BCL, she completed her BA LLB (Hons) from National Law University, Delhi in August 2017. Her areas of interest include constitutional law, equality law, human rights law, family law and criminal justice.