November 15th 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of Cornelia Sorabji’s birth, the first Indian woman admitted to Oxford and the first woman to practise Law in India. The Faculty of Law and Somerville College are proud to celebrate her achievements through the creation of scholarships for outstanding Indian graduate students in Law, made possible through the generosity of alumni and friends of Somerville.
The Cornelia Sorabji Law Programme is based at the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, which provides a thriving postgraduate and postdoctoral programme for talented Indian graduate students who seek to lead change on their return to India. Chandigarh-born Divya Sharma has been selected as the first recipient of the Scholarship. Through the generosity of Mr Hemant Sahai of New Delhi, the College has also launched the HSA Advocates Award to another Indian BCL student, Miss Navya Jannu, under the Cornelia Sorabji Law programme.
After passing the Jurisprudence exams in 1892, Cornelia Sorabji returned to India to work on behalf of women living in purdah and later became a distinguished member of Lincoln’s Inn. Sorabji was only able to take up her place at Oxford thanks to the help of a subscription raised by progressive Indian and British men and women including Madeleine Shaw Lefevre, the first Principal of Somerville.
Today, many gifted Indian student lawyers find they cannot afford to study at Oxford. The Scholarship will provide the opportunity for a trainee Indian lawyer to study at Oxford’s Faculty of Law and live at Somerville College. It will be awarded to a candidate with an exceptional academic record who wishes to return to India and serve their country.
Last April, Dr Prochaska was honoured to be invited to speak at the Supreme Court of India to several hundreds of India’s top barristers, including the President, Vice President and Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association, on the life and career of Cornelia Sorabji.
Dr Prochaska’s talk was preceded by talks in honour of Cornelia Sorabji by three of India’s most eminent lawyers: Ram Jethmalani, Senior Advocate to the Supreme Court of India, Member of Parliament for Rajasthan and high profile criminal lawyer; Fali Nariman, distinguished Indian Constitutional jurist, Senior Advocate to the Supreme Court of India since 1971 and President of the Bar Association of India since 1991; and Soli Sorabjee, Indian jurist who was honoured with Padma Vibhushan for his defence of the freedom of expression and the protection of human rights.
The Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development at Somerville College advances India’s sustainable development by bringing different academic disciplines and sectors together. It develops future leaders by supporting exceptional Indian scholars to study at Oxford; carrying out multidisciplinary research on sustainable nutrition, the environment and health; and translating academic progress to action on the ground.
The College is actively seeking further funding support for future recipients of the scholarship.For further details, or if you are interested in supporting the scholarship, please contact Development Director, Sara Kalim.
To read some of the press coverage of the scholarship, please click on the following links: