Amita Dhanda is a Professor with the Nalsar University of Law in India, a position she has held since 1999. It was her father, but also her quest for social justice, that inspired Amita’s passion for the law. The field balanced her interest in reason and logic but also her desire to challenge the status quo and drive positive change.
Amita quickly progressed from her undergraduate studies to complete a Masters and PhD in law. On completion of her studies, she commenced her professional career as a researcher with the Indian Law Institute in New Delhi and went onto work with Justice Bhagwati in 1986 –the Chief Justice of India at the time.
After enjoying some time in the courtroom, Amita decided her passion was in academia – here she could explore deep questions about the law, believing the rules you make can define whom you are privileging and including in society.
Amita’s PhD was the first in India to look into the rights of people with mental illness from the perspective of law. This important research starting a conversation that hadn’t been had before and Amita was quickly recognised as a leader and activist in the field.
Amita went onto work on landmark projects including investigating the conditions of people with mental illness in the jails of West Bengal, chairing the committee to suggest amendments to the Disability Act of 1995 and negotiating employee entitlements as the President of the Employee Welfare Association.
Through her work with the UN, Amita was involved in the committee that drafted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in December 2006. Though not an easy piece of work, Amita is proud of her involvement; which also highlighted to her the importance of staying the course and
continually championing the agenda.
Amita has been a Professor with the Nalsar University of Law since 1999, becoming the most senior member of staff after the Vice-Chancellor, a unique position for a woman in India. Amita has overcome the challenges of holding a senior leadership position, but believes, ‘you can be strong and vulnerable at the same time, need support and not be helpless and disagree without being disagreeable,’ – believing
leadership is a fine balance.
Being a single discipline University, Amita relishes being able to revamp curriculums and teaching styles, experiment with evaluation and develop new courses to ensure the programs are relevant and engaging for students. She is proud of the innovation she has brought to her teaching and encourages her students to continually question and further investigate the law.
Mentoring has been a constant part of Amita’s career, as a leader in her field she is a wise sounding board and guides her mentees to discover their best self. She loves to create learning relationships and believes the younger generation has a great deal to teach her – including a wise 9 year old who is trying to convince her to learn chess to become a better teacher!