Prof. Upendra Baxi
Upendra Baxi (born 9 November 1938) is a legal scholar based in New Delhi, India.
At present, he is Emeritus Professor of Law at the Universities of Warwick and Delhi.
Upendra Baxi born in Rajkot, Saurashtra, graduated from Rajkot (Gujarat University), and read law at the University of Bombay. He went on to study at the Law School at University of California at Berkeley. In 1972, after having earned Doctorate in Juristic Sciences from the University of California, Baxi taught at the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law at Sydney Law School (1969-1973). In 1973, he joined the University of Delhi. He was one of the youngest professors to have joined the Faculty of Law. Subsequently, he was Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi (1975-1978). He continued teaching in the University of Delhi until 1994 (and Professor Emeritus since 2010). During this period, he also served as the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University (1990-1994), as well as the Vice-Chancellor, University of South Gujarat, Surat (1982-1985), the Honorary Director (Research) of the Indian Law Institute (1985-1988), and the President of the Indian Society of International Law (1992-1995). In 1996, Baxi joined at the Law School at the University of Warwick as a Professor of Law in Development until 2008, and has been emeritus professor since 2009.
His academic career led him to the universities of Durham, Duke University; University of Sydney, Washington College of Law, the American University; New York, Global Law Program New York University Law School and at the University of Toronto. He has been an honorary professor of the National Law School of India University (Bangalore); the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR, Hyderabad); the National Law University (Delhi), the Gujarat National Law University (Gandhinagar); and the Jindal Global Law School (Sonepat). He has taught various courses in Law and Science, Comparative Constitutionalism, Legal Theory, and Comparative Social Theory of Human Rights, and Law and the Anthropocene.
Baxi was Senior Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture” from April to November 2011 and from July to December 2012; and the Director’s Guest Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Nantes from May to June 2012. In 1999, he was invited to deliver the Hague Lectures in Private International Law by the Hague Academy of International Law.
Baxi has been a member of the editorial committee of many leading Indian and international law journals/reviews including: The Journal of the Indian Law Institute; The Journal of the Indian Society of International Law; Law & Society Review (USA); I-Con: the International Journal of Comparative Constitutional Law (USA); and The Common Law Review (UK.). He is currently on the editorial board of: The Human Rights Law Review (UK); SUR: International Journal of Human Rights (Brazil); Law in Context (Australia); Macquarie Law Review (Australia); Journal of International Law and International Relations (Canada); Human Rights & International Legal Discourse (Belgium); and The Journal of Human Rights and the Environment (UK).
His leading publications (besides more than 250 articles in learned journals and edited books) include: The Indian Supreme Court and Politics (1980); The Crisis of the Indian Legal System (1982); Courage, Craft and Contention: The Indian Supreme Court in Mid-Eighties (1985); Towards a Sociology of Indian Law (1986); Liberty and Corruption: The Antulay Case and Beyond (1990); Marx, Law, and Justice: Indian Perspectives (1993); Inhuman Wrongs and Human Rights (1994); Mambrino’s Helmet?: Human Rights for a Changing World (1994) Mass Torts, Multinational Enterprise Liability and Private International Law (2000); The Future of Human Rights (2008, 3rd edition; reprinted Perennial Book Series, 2013) and Human Rights in a Posthuman World: Critical Essays (2007). As Tagore Law Professor, the University of Calcutta, Baxi delivered Tagore Law Lectures entitled Aspects of Justice: A Tale of Three Cities (forthcoming, 2015).
He has edited, as well as co-edited, a number of volumes, including Justice K.K. Matthew on Democracy, Freedom and Equality (1979), Jeremy Bentham’s Theory of Legislation (1975); the Bhopal Case trilogy—Mass Disasters and Multinational Liability( 1986), Inconvenient Forum and Convenient Catastrophe (1986), and Valiant Victims and Lethal Litigation (1990)¾Law and Poverty: Critical Essays (1989); The Right to be Human (1988); Human Rights of the Subordinated Peoples (1994); Crisis and Change in Contemporary India (1995); Reconstructing the Republic (1999); and A People’s Report on Human Rights Education (2006.)
Baxi has also contributed to The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Human Rights (2009); The Oxford Handbook of Legal Studies (2003); The International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory (2003); The Blackwell Companion to Postcolonial Studies (2000); The Oxford Handbook of the History of International Law (2012); The Routledge Handbook on Human Rights (2013); and The Oxford Handbook of Indian Constitutional Law (2015).
Many of his papers have been translated into Danish, Japanese, and Portuguese; his work on Marx is translated in Korean and The Future of Human Rights is currently being translated into Arabic.
He has delivered a large number of inaugural/keynote/memorial addresses in India and overseas. Among these are the Nehru and Ambedkar centenary addresses, memorial addresses for J.P. Naik and Malcolm Adiseshiah, and recent keynote /plenary addresses at the international conferences of the Law Society Association at Baltimore; the Critical Legal Studies Conference at Hyderabad; the Julius Stone Birth Centenary event at the University of Sydney; and the Emory Law School celebration of the sixty years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (along with Shirin Ebadi and Jimmy Carter).
Four volumes of his Selected Works, and the Fourth Edition of his Future of Human Rights are in the final stages of publication with Oxford University Press and a book of oral history of his Bangalore conversations is now being published by Orient Blackswan ( 2021).
Professor Baxi has been noted for his pedagogic and research contributions at many institutions. His internationally acknowledged contributions lie in the areas of Third World and International Law theory and movement, sociological studies of human rights theory and practice, the relationship between technoscience formations and the law, transformative constitutionalism and adjudicatory policymaking, feminist legal theory, law and Anthropocene and critical studies of globalization of law. He has also contributed significantly to the renovation of law teaching and research in South Asia.
Baxi has initiated and promoted sociological research in Indian law through a variety of initiatives with the Indian Council of Social Science Research and the University Grants Commission (UGC). His contributions to pedagogic innovation are well recognized, especially the UGC Dharwad Workshop on the teaching of jurisprudence in India, the ICSSR workshops on law and social science theory and method, and various programmes of continuing legal education for the Bar and the Bench.
As a longstanding member of the Bar Council of India committee on legal education, Baxi bore the foundational burdens of envisaging the establishment of the National Law School University at Bangalore and was its director-designate for well over a decade. As Director (Research) of the Indian Law Institute, Baxi endeavoured to reshape the research agenda, notably by focussing upon equitable and efficient access to water as a resource and water-based resources, and environmental law and action. Baxi is joint editor with Oscar Vilhena (Brazil) and Frans Viljoen (South Africa) of a comparative study in the area of implementation of social and economic rights under conditions of globalization.
Baxi’s has been an early, and a strong, voice for judicial reforms and has assisted the Indian Law Commission’s Reports (under the leadership of Justice D.A. Desai) on management of arrears, judicial ‘manpower’ planning, and national programs and institutions of judicial training. He has also been a strong champion of the reform of the legal profession and has been the first to study empirically the wayward functioning of the disciplinary powers and processes of the Bar Council of India under the Advocate’s Act; and to address the costs of state/governmental lawyering as the Chair of a study-group of the National Expenditure Commission.
Baxi has made notable policy contributions in the context of what he calls ‘disorganized’ rather than ‘unorganized labour’ in his role as the Chair of a committee on law reform, the Government of India’s (first) National Commission for Unorganized Rural Labour, and as a member of the Second Gujarat Labour Law Review Committee.
He was the Chair of a Committee on Prisoners’ Rights and Duties, whose recommendations have been fully adopted by the Justice A.N. Mulla Committee on Indian Prison Reforms.
Baxi chaired a committee on Nyaya Panchayats, convened by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, and proposed a Nyaya Panchayat Bill after extensive consultations with the Union Ministries and state governments.
Contribution to Social Action for Justice
Professor Baxi has endeavoured to combine human and social rights activism with an active law teaching and research career.
Associated as an expert with the United Nations Committee [now Commission] on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders, he has been among the foremost academicians in India to highlight concerns for human rights in the administration of criminal justice. Baxi has worked with several national agencies concerned with police administration, research, and reform and has contributed to the concept of ‘atrocities’ in the Indian law. The Open Letter to the Chief Justice of India which Baxi initiated (with Lotika Sarkar, Vasudha Dhagamwar, and Ragunath Kelkar) critiquing the Supreme Court decision in the Mathura Case has contributed considerably to a new responsive legal and constitutional culture, concerning violence against women. Notably, he has innovated social action litigation (miscalled as ‘public interest litigation’) before the Supreme Court of India.
Baxi has steadfastly pursued, in his action, research, and writing the tasks of promoting the right to development and access to justice for the impoverished. His study of Lok Adalat at Rangpur (Gujarat) has had considerable impact on the democratization of access to justice in the state legal systems.
Professor Baxi’s writings have been cited by Indian High Courts and the Indian Supreme Court as well as by appellate justices in South Asia. In one instance, the International Court of Justice cited his work as persuasive authority concerning state succession to treaties.
Professor Baxi has been awarded Honorary Doctorates in Law by the National Law School University of India, Bangalore, and the University of La Trobe, Melbourne and awarded the honorary degree in law by the University of Antwerp (2018). The Indian Lawyers’ Association and the Indian Society of International Law recently honoured him with a lifetime achievement award; the first award was alongside with Justice Krishna Iyer.
Two festschrifts (books of essays in his honour) have been recently published, and several books have been dedicated to him.
Professor William Twining has recently dealt extensively with Baxi’s thoughts and texts (along with those of Francis Deng, Yash Ghai, and Abdullahi-An-Naim) in a book entitled Human Rights: Southern Voices (Cambridge, 2009).
For his contribution to legal and political affairs, he was awarded the third highest civic Honour – a Padmashri—by the President of India in 2011.
Professor Baxi was the recipient of an award for his contributions to constitutional law by the Chief Justice of India and his companion Justices, the Supreme Court of India (November 26, 2016).
Link to the interview conducted by Dr Adil Khan and Professor Sundhya Pahuja, New Delhi, 2015.