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Human Rights Lawyering Course on Principles And Practices

Human Rights Lawyering Course on Principles And Practices

Traditional teaching on human rights focuses on textual traditions such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Bill of Rights or the Constitution and jurisprudence related to the same. In another understanding, Prof. Upendra Baxi notes that human rights are authored by people in resistance and communities in struggle. This course aims to arrive at an understanding of human rights through the work experiences and narratives of human rights lawyers, situated within a larger socio-political context.

In India’s tradition of human rights lawyering, the courtroom is one of the many forums through which human rights concerns are voiced, rights contested, accountability attributed and norms created. Human rights lawyers play a vital role in translating the experiences and demands of grassroots communities into law, thereby giving abstract notions such as dignity, rights and equality invaluable content.  This course attempts to shed some light on this alternative process by which the Constitution is brought to life for the marginalized sections of society.


  • To provide a grounded sense of human rights lawyering based on personal narratives;
  •  To introduce students to multi-pronged strategies employed by human rights lawyers;
  • To provide insights on the creative use of law to further the struggle for justice; and
  • An analysis of the contributions of human rights lawyers to deepening Indian democracy.

Course Contents

The course will consist of three hour sessions for five consecutive days, 16-20 March 2015. Training methods would include lecture, panel discussion, group discussion and case studies with an ample use of audio-visual aids. The tentative schedule is as follows and sessions will take place between 4pm and 7pm


  • Introduction to the course (30 mins)
  • Mapping the human rights movement in India (1 hour)
  • Introduction to the concept of human rights lawyering: what makes one a human rights lawyer?  (1 hour 30 mins)


  • History of human rights lawyering in India – Gandhi and Ambedkar (1 hour)
  • Contemporary lawyering traditions – Balagopal, Kannabiran & Mukul Sinha (2 hours)


  • Human rights lawyering in conflict situations (3 hours)


  • Countering impunity for mass crimes – human rights lawyers in action (1 hour)
  • Addressing state repression – role of human rights lawyers (2 hours)

 SESSION 5                       

  • Contributions of human rights lawyering: challenges and lessons learned (2 hours)
  • Open session + Feedback / Evaluation (1 hour)

Resource persons

The resource persons for the course will consist of a combination of practising lawyers, lawyer-activists and law researchers.  The course coordinators are Arvind Narrain – an activist lawyer and founder member of Alternative Law Forum and Saumya Uma – researcher, trainer and activist on gender, law and human rights. Both are alumni of the National Law School of India, who graduated in 1997 and 1994 respectively.  Other resource persons are Darshana Mitra, Gowthaman Ranganathan and Santanu Chakraborty – lawyers associated with the Alternative Law Forum – a collective of lawyers committed to a political practice of the law. Renowned human rights lawyers in the country will also join the team of resource persons and address the students on specific topics of importance.

Other information


This course is open to all LL.B, LL.M and MPP students of the National Law School of India.  They  will get 1 credit for attending all sessions. The course is also open to others who are not students of the National Law School, who will get a certificate for attending all sessions. The Reading materials will be provided in advance for each session. The course is free of cost. Deadline to send a communication of interest is the 6th of March, 2015

Contact Ramya Jawahar at

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