Rohit De

History, PhD candidate

Graduate Associates

 Dickinson Hall, Room 129


Rohit De is a lawyer and a doctoral candidate in the Department of History. Trained as a historian of South Asia, his interests are primarily in legal history and anthropological approaches to understanding law and the state.

His dissertation project, "A Republic of Writs: Litigious Citizens, the Nehruvian State and the Rule of Law in India”, examines litigation by citizens against the newly independent republic to engage with questions of citizenship, postcolonial transformations and the spread of legal consciousness. This builds on his previous research on colonial India using courtrooms as site for mediation between state and the subject. Rohit has written on the role played by lawyers, legal networks and litigation in shaping debates over family, modernization, Islamic law and civil liberties.

Rohit graduated with a B.A, LL.B (Hons) degree from the National Law School of India University and completed his LL.M at the Yale Law School in 2006. Before starting at Princeton, Rohit spent a year as the Fox International Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University where he worked on a paper comparing the approaches of courts in “secular” democracies” towards minority religions.

Rohit is also interested in comparative constitutional law, particularly how Anglo-American constitutional principles have been reworked by the courts in developing nations. While in law school, Rohit clerked at the Supreme Court of India with Justice K.G Balakrishna, the present Chief Justice of India and worked with the Constitutional Reform project at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in Colombo. More recently, he was employed to brief a delegation from the Constituent Assembly of Nepal on federalism.

Rohit  also received a summer fellowship from the consortium of institutes for advanced study (SIAS) to spend two weeks in Berlin (2009),  Ann Arbor, Michigan (2010) and Paris (2011)  studying comparative federalism and constitutionalism with a group of junior scholars convened by Daniel Halberstam (University of Michigan) and Christoph Möllers (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin).


Peer Reviewed Journals

1. "The Two Husbands of Vera Tiscenko: Apostasy, Conversion and Divorce in Late Colonial India” Law and History Review 28 (4)  (2010) 1011-1041

2. “Mumtaz Bibi’s Broken Heart: The Many Lives of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939” Indian Economic and Social History Review, 46:1 2009

3. “Sweeping the Web Clean: Obscenity Laws and the Internet” Vol XXVI Cochin University Law Review [2002] 400.

Book Chapters

“The Federal Court and Civil Liberties in Late Colonial India” in The Legal Complex in Postcolonial Struggles for Political Freedom, ed. Terrence Halliday, Lucien Karpik, Malcolm Feeley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)


1. "Mirror Images", The Indian Express, 29th August, 2009