How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
I did my primary and intermediate education in government Hindi medium school at Varanasi. Further, given the nature of this platform, I shall just say I am the boy next door. I relate myself with those who come from a humble family background, small town, and are very down to earth and simple human beings. I am one of those who are selfless, compassionate, work behind the walls, and full of empathy for everyone. So, all in all, I am one of the millions of Indian who are unseen and unheard, yet they are making a substantial difference in their little way.
Please tell us a bit about your family background.
My mother worked with Indian Railways, now she is retired. My father passed away in 2005, however, it is him who taught me the real lessons of life. My elder brother lives in Varanasi and works with UP government. I have two wonderful nieces. And the backbone of my family is my sister-in-law, who is, in reality, more than sister-in-fact too, like my own sibling.
How and when did your interest develop in law? What did you think about law at that time?
Given the non-legal family background of my family, law was never a natural choice; it was by accident that I pursued law as a career. I did not know about composite law degree when I was in +2, therefore, I was vying for an Engineering seat in a government college. I had filled Devi Ahilya University’s form as a backup for impending failures. However, DAVV happened, and I joined School of Law in 1999. And soon after my tryst with legal education began, I realized this is my calling. It was only in 1999 that I came to know about composite legal degrees being offered by other institutions, hitherto by NLSIU, Bangalore, and recently opened NLIU, Bhopal and NALSAR, Hyderabad. I decided to try these universities, and appear in NLSIU and NALSAR exam in 2000. I made it to NALSAR, Hyderabad, however, at that time NALSAR had two types of admission category one was a regular fee (called as free seat) and other was self-financed, I was selected for self-financed. Inhibitions in joining it sprang from my humble background, financially, and a number of years that I would have lost if I would have taken admission in 2000. Because of all these considerations I stayed back at SOL, DAVV, and continued my journey into the unknown territory of the legal profession.
Would you like to give us an overview of your life at Devi Ahilya School of Law?
At the outset, I must say that I am and I shall forever be indebted to SOL, DAVV for whatever I am today, and wherever I am today. However, I should be candid and honest about my time at SOL, DAVV. We were the second batch, therefore, one can imagine the infrastructure, physical as well as human. We had no permanent faculty and most of them LLM students. It had a makeshift library dedicated to law students with very little books. Academic block for law faculty was in shambles in the Takshila Campus, Indore. One can easily gaze the standard of faculties by the mere fact that once I was interested in moot court pertaining to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and approached my faculty with moot problem, I was told that moot problem relates to Human Rights Law (HRL) as IHL, in his opinion, is just another name for IHRL. Yet, two of the teachers stood out, on the academic and social front, Prof. Nisha Dube and Prof. K.K.Nigam who helped us in the subject and other aspects of life away from home.
Always highlight your failures to others as it inspires, is the motto of my life, so let me discuss some of my failures.
In my first moot competition which was 2nd Henry Dunant of IHL, I was so poor in my performance that when my judge asked me to read the prayer, I hardly knew what he meant by it. I did not know how to make a memorial too. However, today I am teaching IHL and other International Law subjects and I have coached/adjudged moot teams (Jess Up) in University of Hamburg, Germany. All my exams at WBNUJS, Kolkata were in moot court format. I have had the privilege of drafting the moot problem for Bar Council for their first International Law moot problem. Therefore, those of you who had failed initially or are afraid thereof, I have an advice; it is not as intimidating as it sounds or appears. Every law student can do it, so can you.
How did you land at The Graduate Institute of Geneva? How did it help you in your career?
I was granted prestigious Swiss Foreign Ministry scholarship award for pursuing higher studies in Laws applicable in emergency situations, such as IHRL, IHL, ICL, etc. Honestly, I did not about Graduate Institute (in French we use to call it HEI). Since my paper was selected by International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, the Hague, and on that basis, I was awarded a three months internship at the Hague, it was here that I got interested in this field of law. So, I applied to University of Geneva, Switzerland, and I am grateful for their acceptance and very generous scholarship. I must confess my learning of application of law is possible because of HEI. I am grateful to Professor Marco Sasoli, Prof. Robert Kolb, Prof. La Rosa, and Prof. Louise Dooswald-Beck for imparting me knowledge.
Have you also studied at the National University of Singapore? What made you join it? Did you really think that you needed to study more?
Yes, I did my LL.M in International Business Law from NUS, Singapore, 2007-08. The job scenario in the laws that I studied at Univ. of Geneva, Switzerland was not that great especially in India, as I wanted to come back to India. I was not that confident to start a practice as there was no guarantee of a fixed salary in litigation and at 27 I did not want to be a burden to my mother. My father had passed away in 2005 right after my graduation so financial consideration was supreme when I decided to pursue a Masters in IBL for the purpose of employability in law firms. As anticipated I secured a job in law firms in India and Singapore both, hence, my decision to study further for a purely financial purpose stood vindicated. I have worked in both the countries.
Why should a law student go for a master’s degree?
The scenario of legal education in 1999 and in 2017 has changed head over heel. I did my Master’s for two simple reasons first to learn the law of which I was deprived during my student days at SOL, DAVV (I consider myself responsible for it than anyone else). And the second reason was bettering my low self-esteem. Every student wishes to study in a premier institute of education for self-confidence, and if s/he comes from an average institution this desire is transformed into a quest for status. These were the underlying reasons for my studies abroad
Today, we have a very sound legal education system in India, you have best infrastructures and world-class faculties. Therefore, ground realities have changed substantially if not completely.
Let me answer the latter first. There can be many reasons for master’s degree from a foreign university for a law student across India. First, not all of them come from NLUs, therefore, they have this desire of going to a better place in order to improve their self-confidence. They might not have a quality education, which they wish to rectify by pursuing higher studies, it also augurs their chances of a better career. Another reason is a search for better employability with law firms or other places of legal professions.
Is there any distinction between Masters from India and abroad?
In my opinion not much, today we have some wonderful Indian institutes which are imparting quality education, have finest faculties, and state-of-the-art infrastructure such as digital and manual legal libraries. So the gap between Indian and foreign degree have bridged to a large extent. Yet, psychologically it is considered more prestigious to have a masters from abroad, which can be changed as of now.
Now, should a student go for Master’s study? I, for one, reckon that it depends on what is your career goal? For those who wish to work in law firms or litigation, it is not advisable, as it does not add any value to the nature of transaction-i.e. catering to the need of client in existing legal scheme, you are practicing. However, if they wish to bridge the gap in legal system or improve it as they think there is a gap which they have learned while practicing their profession they must pursue Masters and join academics. Masters right after your undergraduate degree is non-recommended by me. A handful experience of a law firm or litigation would equip you better for your Master’s as you would know what is it that you wish to learn. Otherwise, you would be pursuing an LLM without knowing what is it that you wish to learn.
In the end, I would encourage those who have research and analytical approach towards law must pursue Master’s and end up with a world-class Ph.D. thesis, useful to the society. In that sense, Master is a must or a sine qua non irrespective of it that whether it is from India or abroad, both are equal if you have been a sincere student. However, if you are satisfied with your law firm, or litigation, Master’s does not add any value.
You have taught at WBNUJS and the University of Hamburg, Germany as an Asst. Professor and studied at two foreign universities. Please enlighten us by providing a detailed comparison of your experiences at the four Universities. In terms of class timings, campus in-timings, attendance, to teaching methodologies and quality of education?
Globalisation has set a uniform standard for every institution across the globe to be fulfilled by it. Thus, teaching methodology and quality of education would depend on those who have to apply such standard of behavior that ensures best educational practices inside educational institutions. For example, I have taught two semesters at University of Hamburg, Germany, and I was asked by the administration to be strict with attendance. I did not find it any different from Indian institution and was amazed to see the punctuality and regularity of students. The students were very courteous and if they like your teaching it ends with a very hearting table thumping, this way teacher is acknowledged. I found students of Hamburg University top notch. The distinction between premier international institution and any Indian university is a discipline that it adheres to the quality it has set for itself.
The problem in India is “chalta hai” or lackadaisical attitude, which compromises with discipline. The distinction between Indians in India, most of them not all, and abroad is nothing but of discipline, they take their job seriously, and they end up performing the best.
What did you like the most at WBNUJS and what according to you needs improvement?
WBNUJS is one of the finest institutions across the globe when it comes to legal education. Students therein are crème de la crème; I can vouch for it with my international experience in teaching. I liked everything about WBNUJS. There is always an improvement for the room, however, enumerating it here would be an uphill task. But I was and am in love with my students in WBNUJS, they have given me immense love and affection.
What are your views on the High Fees at NLUs in India?
I fail to understand why is it that NLU’s are given the status of university and yet not funded adequately by State. In order to improve court system and clear back log of cases you need quality professors, judges and advocates- be it for courts, tribunals or commissions. If, however, quality people will not be joining the courts directly and would be intimidated by the financial repercussions, the administration of justice would collapse for want of quality exposition of legal principles, evolution of sound and just adjudication, ethical and professional practice. Some students have to borrow educational loans which are an impediment in their joining litigation as they have to pay off their loans which force them to take up jobs. In my opinion NLU’s should be seen as part of judiciary and its budget must come from consolidated fund earmarked for Judiciary, and it should be under direct administration of Supreme Court of India, all NLUs. This would ensure quality education and access thereto.
I was told by a lawyer that “NLUs are market oriented. They are basically catering lawyers for law firms and MNCs. They do not train students to think critically”. How do you look at it?
I reckon this statement is loaded, reckless, and unwarranted because it does not take into consideration various factors that make students join firms or MNCs. An empirical study is warranted to determine the financial or social status (non legal back ground) of the students in order to determine the causes of them overwhelmingly joining Law firms or MNCs. It should further be linked with study of how many of such students are staying put in such law firms? The reason why students join NLUs is job security-a very high percentage of them, has direct correlation with NLUs and Law firm. I have had the pleasure of teaching at West Bengal Judicial Academy, Kolkata. We had some lawyers joining judiciary but they were unaware of drafting a memo and all. Though they were all bright and sharp, but in their educational institution they were not taught the same, neither in their profession.
If NLUs are not producing students with critical and analytical ability, then who is producing them? The very reason for experimenting with the NLU system was failure of traditional universities. Today both NLU and traditional universities are performing well, if we assess it on the parameter of moot courts. Whereas in all parameters of a legal education success, NLU students are faring better then their counter parts in other institutions. However, other institutions are catching up and their students are also doing well. All NLUs combined together accept not more than 1500-2000 students (roughly), to say that India has no legal mind beyond them is irrational, and to say that all these 2000 students are devoid of critical or analytical mindset is equally insane and further from reality.
University imparts students with basic education and approach to it. Critical thinking, analytical ability and argumentative capacity is a natural process, which can’t be taught, it is only to be evolved. Yet, NLUs have contributed immensely by producing students who are excellent mooters and have won laurels all across the India and globe equally, they have becomes judges, lawyers, professor, bureaucrats etc, to say they have only joined Law firms or MNCs is oversimplification of India’s tryst with NLUs system. They are a success story for themselves and also for other university as they have to compete with NLUs and their students keep healthy rivalry with NLUs. The impetus the moot system has gained in India is result of NLUs and not embraced and promoted by all universities.
You are also doing a Ph.D. at the University of Hamburg. Please tell us about it.
It is my great pleasure to pursue doctoral studies. I am indebted to the university of Hamburg for giving me the opportunity to teach and research at the same time, I am also grateful to University for a very generous grant. I must pay my due respect to my two supervisors who have helped me immensely in this research project and without whom this journey would not have been possible.
What would be your message to law students across India?
My only message to them is work hard, take your classes seriously, respect your faculty-irrespective of their contribution to your knowledge, always remain humble, enjoy your student days, and be the finest professional with highest human virtues. Help others, be compassionate, self-less and ethical. Wish your readers all the best.
This interview is taken by @AlokAnand & edited by Prakriti. To suggest an interview, feedbacks, comments you can write at firstname.lastname@example.org
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