He will be investigating the resilience of democratic constitutions, with a focus on South Asia, in a project sponsored by the University of Melbourne.
The Australian Research Council generously funds the Future Fellowships Scheme to support ‘research in areas of critical national importance by giving outstanding researchers incentives to conduct their research in Australia’. Dr Khaitan will be on a period of leave from Wadham and Oxford for the duration of this fellowship.
Over four years, the project will aim to find out whether constitutional design could, and should, be used to make constitutional democracies more resilient. Democratic constitutionalism is facing serious challenges, not only in new fragile democracies, but also older established ones.
The project will investigate the role that the constitutional accommodation of salient ethnocultural and ideological groups, the autonomy of non-partisan constitutional watchdog institutions, and the adaptability of the constitution to changing circumstances, could play in securing its resilience against serious threats. Relying on conceptual and empirical methods, using case studies from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, to answer these questions, the project hopes to produce a better understanding of constitutional resilience, and the features that promote it to allow constitution makers and reformers to better protect democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Commenting on his appointment, Tarun said: “I am very excited this opportunity to work on one of the most pressing issues of our times (and not just for the Global South). While I will miss my excellent colleagues and students at Oxford, I am also looking forward to spending next few years in the vibrant public law community at Melbourne Law School, especially given their focus on comparative law.”