In conversation with winners of “Best Prosecution Memorial” award at International Rounds of IBA ICC Moot Court Competition, 2021

The Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad team consisting of Nitisha J, Kevin Jayaraj, Priyanshi K, Jay Mehta and Samyutha have emerged as the Winners of the “Best Prosecution Memorial” at the IBC ICC Moot Court Competition 2021. The team was placed among the Top-5 in the India rounds and Top-9 in the International Rounds. The interview has been conducted by Kalpalathikaa M, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from SLS, Hyderabad.

 

  1. Please introduce yourself to our readers. What made you choose law as a career?

The Symbiosis Law School – Hyderabad ICC Moot Team 2021 consists of the following members:

Nitisha Jarugumilli: My great-grandfather was a criminal lawyer and my mom would always tell me stories about how criminals would always come home and ask for his help. When I skimmed through law, I knew that this is where my interest lies. Not to forget, there is always the “suits” phase in a law student’s life where you want to be Harvey Spectre and I have not looked back since.

Samyutha Samudrala: As a child I always wanted to become a lawyer as I was driven by the ideology of right and wrong. Eventually I developed interest in the field when I started researching on criminal law and human rights aspect. In law school, I have explored various practice areas and found myself ambitious in intellectual property rights (IPR) and corporate law.

Kevin Jayaraj: I was previously a student of economics and ended up taking law as a field of last resort, however, I was quick to find my groove and developed interest in the field of criminal litigation.

Jay Venkatesh Mehta: I was introduced to law in my 9th grade by my elder sister, who was studying law at the time. She handed me my first book in law and inspired me to pursue my career in this field. I have been hooked to the subject of law ever since.

Priyanshi Kataria: I was drawn to the subject of law because of its rich and varied disciplines. Law is a bridge that connects life and policy and this was something that convinced me to pursue a career in this field.

Shambhavi Kala: (Team mentor)

All the members are from the 2017-2022 batch and are currently in their final year of law school.

 

  1. Can you tell us about the IBA ICC Moot Court Competition?

The ICC Moot Court Competition is an international criminal law competition that is conducted by the University of Leiden in collaboration with the International Bar Association, the International Criminal Court and Grotius Centre of International Studies. This year the international rounds had 95 teams participating in the international rounds. To participate from India, a team first needs to participate in the national rounds which are conducted by NLU Delhi. This year, the top 5 teams from the Indian rounds qualified to the international rounds.

During the preliminary rounds, a team needs to plead all the three sides, namely, defence, prosecution and Government, twice. Post this, the organising committee chooses the top 27, 9 and 3 teams that will advance to the quarter finals, semi-finals and finals respectively. Usually, teams get the opportunity to travel to The Hague to participate in the international rounds, however, due to the current pandemic, the competition was held virtually.

 

  1. The subject-matter of the moot is criminal law. What drew you to this field and what are the difficulties that you faced?

As students of law, we share a deep interest in criminal matters that take place in India and globally. The moot problem of the 2021 competition was something very similar to the situation currently being faced in the world. It was thus a great opportunity to learn, research and garner expertise in the field of international criminal law. This moot also gave us an insight into the practical working and functioning of the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The competition involved complex and contemporary issues of procedural and substantive international law. This year’s moot problem was with regards to whether a head of State accused of a non-party State can be prosecuted for his acts that resulted in the spread of a deadly virus in the territory of a State party. However, as the Rome Statute is still at an evolving stage, it was quite difficult to find precedents that hold enough persuasive value before the ICC. The virtual mode of the competition also posed a few additional drawbacks, firstly, many teams faced acute internet issues which prevented them from making proper pleadings. Moreover, it was also a little difficult to gauge the atmosphere of the court and deliver effective pleadings.

  1. How was the performance of your team in India rounds and how stiff was the competition?

In this year’s competition, due to the pandemic, the oral rounds were cancelled and the top 5 teams were selected on the basis of their written submissions (memorial). Moreover, team stood second in the national rounds and won the “Best Defence Memorial” and “Best Prosecution Memorial” which put the team in a very strong position to face the international rounds.

  1. Your team has won the “Best Prosecution Memorial” Award in the final rounds. How does it feel?

It was a surreal experience to have won an international award for our written submission. We are really proud to be the first team from our college that has come so far in this competition.

  1. Please mention a few key points that helped you make the memorial. According to your perspective, in what way did your prosecution memo stand out?

The prosecution side can get very tricky at times as failing to establish even one element in an issue can put the prosecution case at jeopardy. We found that analysing the defence perspective helped in making the prosecution case stronger as we identified all prospective contentions that the defence would bring in and countered them in our prosecution memorial. Further, it is important to structure the arguments by first establishing the law and then connecting it with the facts of the case. We reviewed our memorial every 5-10 days and changed our line of arguments to make the memorial stronger every time. While doing so, it is important to have a roadmap and a proper break-up of your contentions for an easy understanding. Finally, it is very important to find reliable and accurate authorities for all contentions put forth while drafting the written submissions.

  1. Can you describe the dynamics of your team in preparing for the moot?

We are a 5-member team and we divide the team to represent each side, namely, defence, prosecution and Government. Since the facts of the case were such that the defence and Government had similar contentions, three members of the team dealt with these two sides in tandem, while the other two members dealt with the prosecution. Further, based on individual strengths, the team members were in charge of either research or drafting and in some cases both. The team as a whole took active part in giving each side feedback and pointing possible loopholes in order to ensure a holistic approach. This made it easier for the team as a whole to work simultaneously on all sides of the moot problem.

We were also very lucky to have Ms Shambhavi Kala who had previously participated in the ICC moot as our mentor.

  1. Can you describe the do’s and don’ts of the oral rounds for our readers?

It is very important to gauge the courtroom before pleading. Different Judges have different perspectives on issues and it is important to be able to address such issues and concerns effectively while pleading. There were instances where some Judges were research oriented, while in other cases the Judges were factually or even procedurally oriented. Secondly, it is also important to be engaging with the Judges, as a speaker at an international platform, one has to be mindful of the fact that not all Judges and participants are well versed in English and thus may not be able to grasp submissions if made quickly or by using multiple jargons. It is thus recommended that speakers speak in a paced manner and use simple language to submit contentions before the court.

The speakers must also be mindful of the time and be courteous while communicating with the Judges and other panelists present. Lastly, the speaker must be able to make submissions which have a perfect blend of facts and law, this effectively ensures that all concerns of the Judges are addressed in course of the oral submission.

Quick list of do’s and don’ts

(i)        Do’s

(a) Watch previous year videos to learn mannerisms.

(b) Be mindful of time.

(c) In case of virtual proceedings, check your device and internet connection and keep additional tools available.

(d) Prepare one-minute arguments for each issue (this is helpful in scenarios where you do not have time to make complete submissions).

(e) Give a roadmap to your pleadings (this will give some clarity to the Judges beforehand).

(f) Be aware of the facts of the authorities that you use while pleading.

(g) Keep a backup speaker ready.

(h) Be very calm and courteous irrespective of persistent interjections by Judges in the form of questions.

(ii)   Don’ts

(a) Do not rush your proceedings due to a paucity of time.

(b) Do not read your pleadings, have a conversation with the Judges.

(c) Do not overstep your allotted time, this is taken adversely against the speaker.

  1. Not many people are familiar with the concept of “exhaustion of a search”. What are your views on it?

Research can never be exhaustive. There is always additional material and perspectives that are present and it is impossible to be able to cover everything. However, as a team, one must be proactive and be willing to learn and adapt according to the circumstances present. There were multiple instances during the course of the competition where we met teams with completely different submissions; our lesson was to learn and improve ourselves after each and every round. Additionally, even if there are certain unexpected questions they can be easily answered through logical reasoning if need be. These factors cumulatively helped our team reach the semi-finals of the international rounds.

 

Having said this, the team would like to point out that exhaustion of resources is limited to the resources that are available and accessible to participants. However, another way to ensure that majority of the ground is covered is by discussing the problem amongst teammates, professors, other students and even mentors. This will give future participants a broader understanding of the problem and enable them to cover sufficient ground in their research.

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