Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju were the prime architects of a creative, multi-year advocacy campaign that resulted in the Indian Supreme Court’s landmark decision on September 6, 2018, which overturned Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era law dating to 1860, which criminalized “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” An historic legal victory, it has been hailed as a giant step for LGBTQ rights in India.
Dr. Menaka Guruswamy is the B. R Ambedkar Research Scholar and a Lecturer in Law at the Columbia Law School, 2017-19. Dr. Guruswamy was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, a Gammon Fellow at Harvard Law School, and a gold medalist from the National Law School of India. She has law degrees from all three schools, with a Doctor of Philosophy in Law (D. Phil.) from Oxford University. She has been Visiting Faculty at Yale Law School, New York University School of Law, and a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin/Institute of Advanced Studies, Berlin.
Dr. Guruswamy practices law at the Supreme Court of India, and has worked at the Office of the Attorney General of India. She has practiced law in New York, as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell, and has advised the United Nations Development Fund, and United Nations Children’s Fund, on various aspects of International Human Rights Law. Among other cases, she successfully represented a group of retired civil servants in a constitutional case that brought reform of public administration and the bureaucracy in the country; has successfully defended federal legislation that mandates that all private schools admit disadvantaged children; and litigated successfully against Salwa Judum—state sponsored vigilante groups in Chhattisgarh; and is amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court in a case concerning 1,528 alleged extra-judicial killings by security personnel in the state of Manipur.
Arundhati Katju is an Indian lawyer with over thirteen years’ experience in Indian trial and appellate courts. Heading her own law offices since 2011, Arundhati has a robust white collar defense and commercial litigation practice. She regularly acts as a barrister for leading Indian law firms, having represented clients in India, Germany, Singapore and the US on corruption, and defense procurement cases. She has advised India’s leading public university, prosecuted pollution complaints on behalf of the State pollution regulator and has been appointed amicus curiae to assist the Delhi High Court on numerous occasions. Arundhati was a public defender with the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee, India’s top legal aid program, for over three years. In this role, she argued nearly 100 appellate cases before the Delhi High Court. Her pro bono work includes representing child sexual abuse survivors in cases against their abusers.
Arundhati holds a BA LLB (Hons.) degree from the National Law School of India University, and an LLM from Columbia Law School, where she was a Human Rights Fellow (2016-17), James Kent Scholar, and Public Interest Honoree. She has taught white collar crime law at the National Law University, Delhi, and worked with India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to draft the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Currently, she is pursuing a J.S.D. degree at the Columbia Law School. Her doctoral project, “From Criminal Tribe to Sexual Citizen: Creating Identities through Colonial Law, Constitutional Rights, and Global Human Rights Movements” focuses on the genealogy of sexual, criminal and constitutional identities in South Asia through the colonial, independence, and post-liberalization periods.