Tarunabh, who is affiliated with both the University of Oxford and the University of Melbourne, was chosen as the winner after a unanimous committee placed him on a shortlist with four other candidates, including researchers from the University of Cambridge and University College London. The five shortlisted candidates were selected from a pool of more than 200 applicants from all over the world. The committee, which was chaired by Ole Petter Ottersen, Vice-Chancellor at Karolinska Institutet, were extremely impressed by the interdisciplinarity of Tarunabh's work, as well as the tangible impact it has had on law, both in his native India and elsewhere.
In their statement announcing Tarunabh as the prize winner, the committee said, "It is clear that his research has had - and will continue to have - an impact across national borders."
Tarunabh has published two books, as well as a number of book chapters and articles, whose social impact has been documented. In particular, his 2015 book A Theory of Discrimination Law (Oxford, 2015) was cited before the UK Supreme Court and by the European Court of Human Rights, and informed the Indian Parliament's Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill. He is also the founder of India's leading academic law journal. In addition to his academic publishing, he has written many newspaper articles, disseminated his research through other media, and mentored young academics from the Global South. He plans to put the prize money of 2 million Norwegian kroner (215,000 EUR/260,000 USD) towards an 'Indian Equality Law Program' hosted at the Melbourne Law School, which will support doctoral students and early-career scholars. His aim is to combat the mechanisms of discrimination that operate based on gender, sexuality, race, religion, and caste.
In response to the news of his win, Tarunabh said:
I am very grateful to the Letten Foundation and the Young Academy of Norway for this Prize, which I hope to use towards contributing, in a small way, towards a vision of an India free from unfair discrimination. This ideal, reflected in the principled pragmatism of Dr Ambedkar, the chief architect of India’s pluralistic Constitution, has been a guiding light for my scholarship. I would like to think that Professor Letten F. Saugstad—a refugee herself, who appreciated the role of scholarship in social transformation—would have approved.
The Letten Prize is to be awarded every other year by the Letten Foundation, in partnership with the Young Academy of Norway, to honour the memory of Professor Letten F Saugstad, who passed away in 2014. It will be awarded to researchers under the age of 45 working to solve global challenges in health, development, environment, and equality. The inaugural prize will be presented to Tarunabh in Oslo on 13 September 2018.