Tarun Khaitan is an Associate Professor and the Hackney Fellow in Law at Wadham College. He is also an Associate of the Oxford Human Rights Hub. He completed his undergraduate studies (BA LLB Hons) at the National Law School (Bangalore) between 1999-2004. He then came to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and completed his postgraduate studies (BCL with distinction, MPhil with distinction, DPhil) at Exeter College. Before joining Wadham, he was the Penningtons Student in Law at Christ Church. 

OUP has recently published his monograph entitled 'A Theory of Discrimination Law'.


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  • T Khaitan, 'Equality: Legislative Review under Article 14' in Pratap Mehta, Sujit Choudhry & Madhav Khosla (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Indian Constitutional Law (OUP 2016)
    This chapter provides an analytical overview of the jurisprudence of the Indian Supreme Court when reviewing the constitutionality of statutes for potential breaches of the right to equality
  • T Khaitan, A Theory of Discrimination Law (Oxford University Press 2015)
    Marrying legal doctrine from six pioneering and conversant jurisdictions with contemporary political philosophy, this book provides a general theory of discrimination law. Part I gives a theoretically rigorous account of the identity and scope of discrimination law: what makes a legal norm a norm of discrimination law? What is the architecture of discrimination law? Unlike the approach popular with most textbooks, the discussion eschews list-based discussions of protected grounds, instead organising the doctrine in a clear thematic structure. This definitional preamble sets the agenda for the next two parts. Part II draws upon the identity and structure of discrimination law to consider what the point of this area of law is. Attention to legal doctrine rules out many answers that ideologically-entrenched writers have offered to this question. The real point of discrimination law, this Part argues, is to remove abiding, pervasive, and substantial relative group disadvantage. This objective is best defended on liberal rather than egalitarian grounds. Having considered its overall purpose, Part III gives a theoretical account of the duties imposed by discrimination law. A common definition of the antidiscrimination duty accommodates tools as diverse as direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, and reasonable accommodation. These different tools are shown to share a common normative concern and a single analytical structure. Uniquely in the literature, this Part also defends the imposition of these duties only to certain duty-bearers in specified contexts. Finally, the conditions under which affirmative action is justified are explained. Readership: This book would be suited to legal academics, philosophers and students of legal philosophy and discrimination law.
  • T Khaitan and F Ahmed, 'Constitutional Avoidance in Social Rights Adjudication' (2015) 35 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 607 [Review]
    In Judging Social Rights, Jeff King makes a powerful case for a limited, incrementalist, judicial approach to social rights adjudication. We argue that while King’s prescriptions are justified, he is too cautious about the applicability of his incrementalist prescriptions to legal systems that suffer systemic administrative inefficiencies. Using the Indian experience as a case study, we show that such caution is misplaced, and that at least one of King’s incrementalist strategies, constitutional avoidance, has particular salience for such jurisdictions.
  • T Khaitan, 'Koushal v Naz: Judges Vote to Recriminalise Homosexuality' (2015) 78 Modern Law Review 672 [Case Note]
    In Koushal v Naz the Indian Supreme Court overturned a High Court judgment which had declared unconstitutional section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalising 'carnal intercourse against the order of nature‘. In doing so, it has rebranded gay and transgendered Indians as criminals. This case note explores some of the structural problems that led to this judgment. The first problem is the transformation of the Indian Supreme Court into a populist, quasi-legislative, institution that sees itself as a tool of governance. This has put significant pressure on its counter-majoritarian role. The second relates to the sheer size of the Court's docket (given its wide jurisdiction and lax standing rules), coupled with the Indian legal academy's inability and unwillingness to continuously demand judicial fidelity to the law. These factors have led to the normalisation of unreasoned or poorly-reasoned judgments and a breakdown of stare decisis.
  • T Khaitan, 'Prelude to a Theory of Discrimination Law' in Deborah Hellman & Sophia Moreau (ed), Philosophical Foundations of Discrimination Law (Oxford University Press 2013)
    This paper engages with George Rutherglen's pessimistic view of the possibility of theorising about discrimination law. Part I will deal with the claim that discrimination law lacks internal coherence, that there is no common thread running through all the norms that together constitute the body of law we call ‘discrimination law.’ I will show that this it is possible to identify four conditions which are individually necessary and cumulatively sufficient for characterising a norm as a norm of discrimination law: the norm should have some connection with a ground that divides all persons between two or more groups, at least one of whose members must be significantly more disadvantaged in relation to members of another group defined by the same ground; and the norm must be designed to distribute the direct substantive benefits or burdens in question to some, but not all, members of a protected group. The second aspect of Rutherglen’s paper, which I will uncover in Part II, is based on an important assumption that the proper role of legal theory is to determine the outcome of adjudication in hard cases. I will show that this assumption — arising from Rutherglen’s commitment to the interpretive jurisprudence of Ronald Dworkin — is the main reason for his pessimistic conclusions regarding theoretical possibilities in discrimination law. I will also show that theorists who do not share this commitment — and perhaps even those who do — need not share Rutherglen’s pessimism. These two — relatively independent — parts together constitute a prelude to a theory of discrimination law. The findings in Part I, if true, impose important constraints on any theoretical enterprise relating to discrimination law. Part II, on the other hand, highlights the numerous possibilities that lie beyond these minimal constraints.
    ISBN: 978-0-19-966431-3
  • T Khaitan, ''Constitution' as a Statutory Term' (2013) 129 Law Quarterly Review 589
    There are at least fifteen statutes which use the term 'constitution' or its cognates to refer to the constitution of the United Kingdom (or that of England or Scotland, before the political union of these countries). Of these fifteen pieces of legislation, two date back to the 17th century, one was enacted in the 18th century, another in the 19th century, and one more between 1900 and 1995. In the seventeen years since 1996, at least ten statutes making explicit references to the British constitution have entered the statute books. In this article, I categorise these statutory references to the British constitution, and point to some important legal and constitutional implications of such references.
    ISBN: 0023-933X
  • T Khaitan, 'Dignity as an Expressive Norm: Neither Vacuous nor a Panacea' (2012) 32 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 1
    DOI: 10.1093/ojls/gqr024
    Proponents of dignity see it as a useful tool which solves the most important (if not all) of the practical and theoretical problems in human rights law. Arguing against this sympathetic position on the other side of the debate are the sceptics, who have raised troubling questions about dignity’s alleged indeterminacy, as well as about the illiberal role that it has allegedly played in certain contexts. In this paper, I argue that designing a defensible and useful conception of dignity which is distinguishable from other values such as equality and autonomy may be possible, but not without addressing some genuine infirmities that the critics have pointed out. If there is indeed such a conception of dignity, it is likely to be "expressive" in character. I therefore argue that the legal ideal of dignity is best understood as an expressive norm: whether an act disrespects someone’s dignity depends on the meaning that such act expresses, rather than its consequences or any other attribute of that act.
    ISBN: 0143-6503


Research programmes

Research Interests

Public Law, Human Rights Law, Philosophy of Law, Discrimination Law

Options taught

Administrative Law, Jurisprudence, Constitutional Law (Senior Status), Human Rights Law

Research projects