Chakrabarti was born in London, England to an Indian Bengali family and was raised in Birmingham, also having spent time in India as a teenager as a student at the Calcutta International School in Kolkata. She has a degree in English and French from Exeter College, Oxford, where she graduated in 1987, and she also spent a year in France while a student.
In 1997, she became the BBC Community Affairs correspondent, covering the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and also working on Home Affairs.
In 1999 Chakrabarti secured her role as political correspondent for the BBC, working across a range of programmes in television and radio, reporting on politics for BBC1, BBC2, the BBC News Channel, Radio 4 and Five Live. In January 2011 she was the education correspondent for BBC News. In May 2014 she was appointed as relief presenter on the BBC News Channel and UK Affairs Contributing Editor. She also provides maternity cover for Kate Silverton on BBC News at One and BBC Weekend News.
Chakrabarti is married and lives in North London. She has three children.
Her interests include patronage of the Naz Project, an HIV/AIDS charity focusing on minority groups affected by the disease, and of the National Mentoring Consortium, linking ethnic minority undergraduates with employers in the public and private sectors.