Asmita Singh completed her LLM in International Dispute Resolution, at Humboldt University of Berlin and is currently a faculty at Jindal Law Global School. She possesses a strong academic background with a bachelor’s degree from Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), India, and, is currently licensed in India. Her educational background in both India and Europe, coupled with her professional exposure in both the cultures has allowed her to understand the parallels and disparities in both the socio-legal cultures. She was awarded a merit-based scholarship during her undergraduate studies. She was also awarded with “The Best Team Player” award in her master’s program. She believes in an interdisciplinary approach to the study of law. She has presented, and published her research work dealing with various aspects of law in international journals.
She has been interviewed by Shreya Agrawal, EBC-SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently a final year student at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU.
- You are a lecturer at one of the most reputed institutes in the country. With this ongoing pandemic how do you think the studies of law students have been affected? Has it affected students uniformly through all semesters? Or are students from new batches facing more trouble?
I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to teach at my alma mater. I am unable to decide which experience do I like more, being a student at JGLS or a faculty. But my learning experience at JGLS as a student was undeniable different from the students now because of the pandemic and online teaching pattern. Indisputably law students across all batches have been adversely affected, though their issues are varied. For students who joined in August 2019 and August 2020, the law school experience has started on an entirely unexpected note. Some of them have never met their batchmates, or have had the chance to debate in a classroom. To study law without access to a physical library, or not being able to interact with faculty or seniors post class could be very dry. For students in the later years, who had settled in a certain format of teaching and learning to shift to an online mode and the idea of studying procedural subjects, or skill training based subjects in an online setting is unsettling. The final year students who are trying to juggle between internships and online classes are apprehensive that their post law school career prospectus would be adversely affected. It is difficult to say who is facing more trouble, but sadly everyone is getting a share of their own.
- What better practices can universities adopt all over India to make the system of online education better and more effective?
Best practices have to be adopted both institutional and personal level. At an institutional level, investing in e-books, or providing online reading materials, organising online teaching training workshops for faculty, regular feedbacks could be some effective ways. But from my personal experience, I have seen that students are now getting disheartened and hence losing the zeal to study. Confronting and resolving this is the biggest challenge, I will say. To find a solution to this, faculty and students must make efforts on a personal level. It is a two-party responsibility to make the class environment conducive for learning. The faculty must be prepared, open, and willing to teach and the students must be open to learning and not just passing the class. Here faculty must adopt practices that suit the nature of their specific course, whether it requires the class to be in small groups, monitor progress of the assignment via shared link, individually get back to students who could not attend the class, think of assignments other than essay questions, etc. The students on the other hand must acknowledge that it is equally grinding for the faculty as well. If the students try to take advantage of the online system then it is a gone case and no amount of institutional or personal effort can be of any good.
- According to you how should students make the whole out of this pandemic academically? (Internships, research papers, etc. etc.) (Is it actually helpful to participate in online moot court competitions and quizzes — will it be actually helping students?)
To define a single track that all must follow would not be wise. Internships, research papers, online moot courts are no doubt helpful. Be it online or offline the purpose of such extra-curricular activities is to allow students to sharpen their soft skills and find their academic interests. However, because now everything happens sitting on the same desk, students must not give more importance to internships, research papers, online moot courts than their actual classes. Once we go back to the old normal, and students head out to work, they will essentially need the substantive understanding of what is taught in law schools. The expectation in terms of sound understanding of the law from students is not going to be any lower in lieu of the pandemic. Students could however use this time to get engage in research projects, webinars, moot courts and to discover their interests and how they would want to proceed post the pandemic.
- What advice would you like to give to the students graduating this year? They are extremely anxious about the job market and their option further for the coming year?
You are not alone in this. I can well imagine the anxiousness the student’s feel. Fresh graduates who have completed their law schools online or attended online convocations fear that they might not be welcomed by the market the same way as they would have been before Covid. To be honest, their fears are not unwarranted. But on the brighter side of it, we are almost at the end of the dark phase. Now that markets are opening again, students must strategise where they want to place themselves. One or two years do not define their career. If students fear that they might not get their dream job right away because of the pandemic, they must plan the year ahead in a way that adds to their competence for their choice of work. Patience and strategy are the only watchwords, I will say.
- You have pursued your masters from a university in Berlin, Germany. With this pandemic, plans of a lot of students have been postponed and their scholarship applications have been affected? If they do choose to take a gap year then how should they go about their academic year? What are the best options after graduating from a foreign university? Does it open a few gateways for people who want to return back to India as well?
For students who have deferred their admission to the next academic year, must take this gap year as an opportunity to prepare for their masters abroad. Having worked in the same field as you do your masters can genuinely be valuable. Irrespective of the work they do this year, be it academic, or corporate or policy related, or litigation, the experience they will have as working individuals will enhance their learning abilities when they will go for the masters. After having worked in that field for about a year, their perspective in the master’s program would certainly be broadened.
Whether or not pursuing your masters abroad would open gateways in India is dependent on a lot of factors, for example, where does one want to work, what is the ultimate goal, etc. For instance, if someone who wants to work in core litigation not in a metropolitan city, it might not be the best idea. But if someone aims to work in policy framing or academic it will definitely be helpful. Nonetheless, if a student’s interest is specific for example competition law, or, arbitration, or comparative constitution law, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) practice etc., they must supplement their interest with sufficient knowledge on the matter.
- You have chosen a career as an academician in one of the most reputed institutes. How would you guide the students who want to make the same career trajectory?
The way Jindal Global Law School looks at academia is distinct in a way. From what I have gathered, the ideology of the law school is not only to get competent instructors but also incorporate best practices from around the globe. An academician’s job is not limited to reading, writing and teaching, but is also in taking sheer interest in their student’s development. Students who aspire to join JGLS as faculty must not only be interested in teaching but also in researching and mentoring students in their extra-curricular activities. So, I would suggest students to develop their knowledge in their field of interest (one way could be masters), grow interest in reading and writing, advance their communication skills, and think of ways in which they can add to the institution before starting their career as academicians.
- You have a forte in international commercial arbitration, and international investment arbitration. In light of the recently pronounced judgment in National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) Alimenta SA, how has India fared in this area of law. The judgment has brought this discussion into forefront, could you please tell your views on it.
The NAFED v. Alimenta judgment is the latest position of the Indian judiciary in context of interpreting “public policy” as a ground to prevent enforcement of an award. This decision of the Supreme Court was especially surprising as it had come shortly after the Vijay Karia v. Prysmian Cavi E Sistemi Srl judgment and the fact that it does not take into account the observation of the Vijay Karia judgment.
The court in NAFED v. Alimenta has taken a view which broadens the ambit of “public policy” and evidently entered into the merits of the case, which is against the very idea of arbitration. No law or jurisprudence empowers the judiciary to enter into the merits of the case at the enforcement stage. The NAFED case is a peculiar one and in my opinion will not become the norm. Taking into account the jurisprudence on the issue of enforcement of foreign award in India, it is safe to say that considering the Renusagar Power Co. Ltd. v. General Electric Co. judgment, Vijay Karia judgment, Govt. of India v. Vedanta Ltd., and the notable developments in the 2015 amendment in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, it is unlikely that the court would permit or encourage an interpretation of “public policy” similar to NAFED case in future. In my opinion NAFED would only be considered as an exceptional case and is highly unlikely to become the norm.
- How important is doing proper legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills?
There is absolutely nothing that can compensate for research. Research is not just important for getting nuanced arguments, but also for polishing one’s writing skills. It is obvious that if you research and read, you come across different theories and one is able to present sound arguments from both sides and present a comprehensive circumspect viewpoint of their own. The lesser realised yet consequential effect of research is that, it exposes students to different writing styles and influences the tone of their own work.
Most law schools allow access and train freshers to use prominent case law based search engines and also renowned journals. If you dig deeper, research in law can be specific to the subject, and hence the tools could also keep changing. At the beginning of every course, students must ask their faculty for research guidance explicitly for that subject. This research guidance from the faculty could include journals, acclaimed blog, jurisprudence, and academic reading material on the subject. I strongly recommend law students to prepare their research tools list in consultation with the faculty member concerned for each subject as they start studying it. Such planned research will save the student’s time and boost their argumentative and writing skills.
- Any advice you would like to give to the readers of SCC blog?
There is nothing that will help you more than reading. Regardless of what you choose to pursue after law, the more you read the better you will be at it.