DISL1044 | Discrimination Law: Trends and Comparative

Course Information

  • 2021-22
  • DISL1044
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), LL.M.
  • III, IV, V
  • Nov 2021
  • Elective Course

Both in India and the world, issues of discrimination penetrate our daily lives but also frequently attract the ire of society. While we continue to struggle with these identities hoping for a more structural transformation, changes ushered in by the top courts sometimes rankle feathers in the community and are soon whittled away. Issues of discrimination law are pervasive yet difficult to address. Solutions that appear straightforward pose issues of evidence, morality and even societal balancing. Drawing upon the learnings of students from constitutional law and a little bit from criminal law and the law of evidence, this course is both a lens into the concepts of discrimination law as also an attempt to think a little more critically about it.

Approach to the course:

Unlike a traditional course on Constitutional law which may look at provisions, drafting/legal history and then the cases, this course seeks to focus more on issues and think about how to solve them. Therefore, the first part of this course, which is more foundational, has focussed on a landmark case or an explanatory reading. In Modules 4 through 6, the course seeks to push students to think more critically about issues of discrimination law.

For instance, in Module 2 we use the classic swimming pool case in the UK to understand how it has approached discrimination law. However, in Module 5, once we have traversed a few jurisdictions, we think a little more critically about whether the Supreme Court struck the right cords in Nitisha while unravelling indirect discrimination.

Modules 7 and 8 try to weave the concepts of discrimination law with its markers. This course has used ‘sex’ and ‘religion’ as markers for this exercise. For instance, we see how the recognition of indirect discrimination in India may potentially have an impact on the understanding of ‘religion’ within Articles 14 and 15(1) itself.

Module 9 deals with the concept of intersectionality, and relies upon the marker of ‘poverty’ for this discussion. Module 10 concludes with a discussion on some of the topical issues in comparative discrimination law.

Pedagogical Style: This course will look at learning through a seminar style discussion. In every class, one or two students may be asked to present on an essential case or secondary work prescribed for that day. Building on the presentation, each class will hone in on three or four central questions that will be fleshed out through discussions. Some classes may even look to answer some of the controversial fact situations facing India in the years to come.

Course Structure:

The course starts with a focus on objectives and concepts. Therefore, the first part of the course will look at the purpose of discrimination and its evolution in comparative jurisdictions. The second part of the course looks to critically study Indian law, drawing upon learnings from philosophy and other jurisdictions. The course will then move onto three specific areas of Indian discrimination law — affirmative action, sex discrimination and religious discrimination. The course concludes with a discussion of some of the landmark developments in recent times in comparative discrimination law.


Dhruva Gandhi

Visiting Faculty | Term II