Sanya Samtani, currently a Research Assistant at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and Research Associate at the Oxford Human Rights Hub, completed her BCL (2016) and is a DPhil (in law) candidate. Her research on ‘The Right of Access to Educational Materials’ articulates students’ right of access to educational materials, and lies at the intersection of the right to education and copyright exceptions in international law, as well as case studies in India and South Africa. She completed her undergraduate law degree at National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR), in Hyderabad, India (2010-2015), and was recognised as the best all round female student in the batch of 2015.

Sanya received the Apgar Prize 2018 from Magdalen College and the 2017 Samuel Pisar Traveling Fellowship from the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, to enable her to take up an appointment as a foreign law clerk to Justice Mhlantla at the South African Constitutional Court between July-December 2018. In the course of her time in South Africa, her photographs, on the theme of decolonising knowledge, were exhibited at Wikimania 2018, Cape Town.

At Oxford, she has conducted tutorials for FHS Undergraduates as a part of her role as Graduate Teaching Assistant in Public International Law in 2017-2018, and in Copyright Law in 2019-20. She also ran the Mooting at Law Programme, over 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 as Graduate Mooting Co-ordinator. Her interest in oral advocacy and moot courts led her to be appointed as Assistant Moot Co-ordinator for the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition from 2017-present. 

She has also served Admissions Assistant for Magdalen College and University College over the past two years. 



Displaying 1 - 6 of 6. Sorted by year, then title.
Filter by
  • S Samtani, 'International Law, Access to Courts and Non-Retrogression: Law Society v. President of RSA' (2020) 10 Constitutional Court Review (forthcoming)
    In 2014, the President of the Republic of South Africa, signed a Protocol to the SADC Tribunal which aimed at stripping the Tribunal of its individual jurisdiction. This, along with the President’s 2010 decision to effectively suspend the operations of the SADC Tribunal, was challenged at the Constitutional Court in Law Society v. President of RSA. The Court held that the President’s conduct was irrational, unlawful and unconstitutional on three grounds. In this article, I focus on the ground that the President’s conduct violated or threatened to violate the Bill of Rights and was therefore held to be unconstitutional. The right of access to justice is guaranteed through the right of access to courts under s 34 and the right to the enforcement of the Bill of Rights under s 38 of the Constitution. The right of access to courts ensures that rights-bearers have an effective remedy through the formal systems of justice. In Law Society, the Court engages in an expansive interpretation of s 34, to apply the right of access to courts to international tribunals. The Court held that South Africans have a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to access the SADC Tribunal. The President, in stripping the Tribunal of its individual jurisdiction, breached his duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right under s 7(2). The reasoning behind this conclusion, however, is sparse. This leaves several unanswered questions about the implications of the judgment and the relationship between international law and domestic law. In this article, whilst agreeing with the outcome, I point to the gaps in the Court’s reasoning. I go on to highlight how the Constitution offers a framework for these gaps to be filled, and I briefly trace the various reasons that could have been employed by the Court in justifying its decision. In doing so, I split my analysis into three parts: first, I locate and analyse the Court’s holding in relation to s 34 and its extended application to the international plane. Second, I analyse the finding that there is a directly applicable ‘Treaty right’ that emerges from the SADC Treaty and its attendant 2000 Protocol in two ways: first, as a free-standing application of a provision of an international treaty under s 231, and second, as the application of international law as an interpretive framework under s 39(1)(b) for the proper interpretation of the right in s 34. I then go on to analyse the corresponding duty that arises from a proper interpretation of s 34 and the contours of this duty. I argue that although the Court does not explicitly invoke the principle of non-retrogression, Law Society employed a novel application of the principle to hold the President accountable under s 7(2). I explore the extent and limits of this holding, and explain how it is arguably in line with existing constitutional commitments. Finally, I discuss the implications of the Law Society judgment: for international dispute resolution mechanisms created by ratified treaties, the relationship between international and domestic law in South Africa, and access to justice.
  • S Samtani, 'Deporting Rohingya Refugees: Indian Supreme Court Violates Principle of Non-refoulement' (2018) Oxford Human Rights Hub Blog
    On 4 October 2018, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court of India refused to stay the deportation of seven Rohingya refugees from India to Myanmar. These men were arrested and incarcerated in 2012 for the offence of entering the country without valid documentation. After having served their three-month sentence, they were detained for an additional period of six years. This deportation is a flagrant violation of India’s international human rights obligations.
  • S Samtani, 'Global South: India decriminalises homosexuality through Supreme Court verdict' (2018) Southern African Liaison Office
    On 6 September 2018, after over twenty-four years of litigation, and several more of advocacy, the Supreme Court of India declared section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional to the extent to which it criminalised homosexuality. A constitutional bench of the Court, comprising Justices Malhotra, Nariman, Khanwilkar, Chandrachud, and Chief Justice Misra, held that the criminal provision was used to prosecute, harass, and blackmail the LGBTI+ community, including people who engaged in consensual sexual acts with same-sex partners, and it therefore flagrantly violated the equality, dignity and privacy guarantees of the Constitution of India.
  • S Fredman, M Campbell, S Atrey, N Ramalekana, S Samtani and J Brickhill, OxHRH Submission to the Committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilites (Oxford Human Rights Hub 2017)
    Under the auspices of the Oxford Human Rights Hub, Director Sandra Fredman (Oxford) and Deputy-Director Meghan Campbell (Birmingham) joined with Shreya Atrey (Bristol) and Oxford DPhil Candidates Sanya Samtani (OxHRH Associate), Jason Brickhill (OxHRH Research Director) and Nomfundo Ramalekana (OxHRH Blog Editor) have made a submission to the CRPD Committee on the Article 5 of the Convention. The report recommends that: the meaning of equality in the Convention needs to be clearly defined and consistently applied. We recommend that the Committee adopt the four dimensional model of transformative equality; specific measures need to be considered an essential element of achieving transformative equality; intersectional discrimination be defined as being based on two or more grounds that is inextricably synergistic and cannot be separated out into discrimination based on each ground individually; and reasonable accommodation and undue burden need to be assessed from the perspective of the persons with disabilities. The Committee’s draft General Comment is an important chance to contribute to the evolution as equality in international human rights law and we welcome the opportunity to participate in this development.


Research programmes

Research Interests

Public International Law, International Human Rights Law, Constitutional Law, Critical Theory, Intellectual Property Law

Options taught

Copyright, Trade Marks and Allied Rights, Public International Law

Research projects