National Law University delhi


The National Law University, Delhi was established in 2008 under the National Law University Act, 2007 with the objective of imparting comprehensive and interdisciplinary legal education. The University has signed several Memoranda of Understanding with national and international universities with a view to encourage collaborative academic activity. The University is committed to disseminating legal knowledge and developing the pedagogical acumen necessary to engage with contemporary legal issues of public importance.


Project 39A


Project 39A is inspired by Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution, a provision that furthers the intertwined values of equal justice and equal opportunity by removing economic and social barriers. These are constitutional values of immense importance given the manner in which multiple disparities intersect to exclude vast sections of our society from effectively accessing justice. Using empirical research to re-examine practices and policies in the criminal justice system, Project 39A aims to trigger new conversations on legal aid, torture, DNA forensics, mental health in prisons, and the death penalty.

We are committed to ensuring that our engagement with the criminal justice system is based on rigorous empirical work. There is much to be gained from diligent documentation and analysis of the workings of the criminal justice system before heading down a prescriptive path. It is an oft-repeated truth that much of law-making in India lacks any real empirical basis and this is equally true for law and policy making in the criminal justice system. The dismal state and sometimes the absence of record-keeping in the police, prisons and courts along with multiple barriers to accessing records/ data complicates criminal justice research in India. Nonetheless, it is important that as a university we utilise the resources, expertise and access to networks available to us to overcome these barriers and take these difficult conversations forward.

As important as rigorous research is our commitment to effective communication of our work. Issues involving the criminal justice system need to be effectively communicated to audiences far beyond lawyers, judges and the bureaucracy. It is critical that we clearly convey that everyone has a stake in the health of the criminal justice system and that its fault lines must concern us all.

Researching the criminal justice system often forces us to confront harsh individual and systemic realities and issues of legal representation and intervention also lie at the core of Project 39A’s mandate. Being acutely aware that credible research rides on its independence, robust ethical frameworks guide the separation of our research and representation efforts.

As a law school, we do believe that it is part of our core mandate to contribute to the realisation of the values of equal and fair access to justice. Our work has benefited greatly from the many individuals, organisations and agencies, who have supported and encouraged our work. The work we do has also benefited in equal measure from specialised knowledge in forensic psychiatry, social work, medical and forensic sciences, anthropology, literature and economics. We intend to continue along this path of meaningful and intense interdisciplinary engagement to ensure that the law reflects learnings from multiple perspectives.  

Currently there are 18 programme staff, across litigation, research and public affairs, and 4 administrative staff working at Project 39A. In addition to lawyers and in keeping with our belief in an interdisciplinary approach to the law, the programme staff includes people specialising in social work, forensic science, clinical psychology, anthropology and economics. The Project also works with student volunteers from NLUD, a tradition which began with the Death Penalty Research Project.  


Prof. (Dr.) Ranbir Singh
Vice Chancellor

The lawyers of tomorrow trained in the legal institutions of today are obliged to be active stakeholders in ensuring the effective functioning of the legal system if the manifest goal of ‘equal access to justice’ is to become a living reality.

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Message from the Vice Chancellor, NLU Delhi

The lawyers of tomorrow trained in the legal institutions of today are obliged to be active stakeholders in ensuring the effective functioning of the legal system if the manifest goal of ‘equal access to justice' is to become a living reality. NLU, Delhi, being one of the premier legal institutions of the country, aims not only at providing quality legal education, but also at establishing ‘Centres of Excellence’ in pursuance of this goal. NLU, Delhi has eight research centres, each focusing on issues of importance in varied areas of law. The Centre on the Death Penalty, being one such centre, ensures that the work of NLU, Delhi goes beyond the realm of classroom teaching and directly to the heart of the access to justice discourse. India’s criminal justice system is under tremendous stress and the death penalty must be necessarily examined in that context. The Death Penalty India Report, the cornerstone on which the Centre was founded faced significant challenges concerning verification of information, access to prisoners and records, tracking down families of prisoners, and scrutinizing commonly held beliefs and sentiments about the death penalty through rigorous research. In spite of all of these hurdles and many more, the team led by Dr. Anup Surendranath, succeeded and produced a report which has changed the face of death penalty jurisprudence in India. By engaging in cutting edge research on issues surrounding the death penalty, the Centre ensures that the debate on the death penalty is all-encompassing. The Centre’s research efforts in unpacking the socio-legal implications of capital punishment, examining sentencing practices, and investigating the lived experience of incarceration provide a holistic set of resources that enrich death penalty jurisprudence. The Centre’s litigation efforts ensure fair and just functioning of the legal system by providing effective legal representation to indigent prisoners on death row. I wish the Centre the very best in its endeavors.

Prof. (Dr.) Ranbir Singh