Interview taken by Lovesh Mamnani, EBC-SCC OnLine Student Ambassador, Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi.
Ms Prerna Deep is an alumna of Miranda House and Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi. Subsequently, she completed her masters (LLM) in criminology from University of Edinburgh. She is the recipient of the British Council GREAT Scholarship. She has also served as a judicial law clerk-cum-researcher at the Supreme Court of India. Recently, she has been appointed an academic fellow at National Law University, Delhi.
In this interview, she shares her experience from being part of eminent institutions to working at the Supreme Court of the country, and how she managed to bag the prestigious GREAT Scholarship.
1 Please shed some light on your legal journey so far. Did you choose law as a career option by choice or chance?
In an unexpected yet harmonious twist of fate, my legal journey unfolded as a captivating narrative. It all started with my decision to study BA Honours in English at Miranda House, University of Delhi, where my peers and lecturers were fantastic and encouraged me to pursue my goals. I learned to be self-sufficient and recognised what I wanted to accomplish in life. My academic literary curriculum comprised, to mention a few, “The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare, “The Trial” by Franz Kafka, and “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky,’ all of which developed a deep desire in me to study law. By the end of my last year, I was convinced that a career in law was my true passion and that I wanted to be a legal professional.
Beginning with a foundation in English honours, I honed skills of literary analysis, critical thinking, and eloquent expression. This backdrop seamlessly transitioned into the realm of law, where my ability to deconstruct intricate legal concepts mirrored the art of dissecting prose. Undeterred, I embarked on a path to further specialise in criminal law, earning a master’s degree that solidified my expertise in the intricate tapestry of legal justice. This unanticipated synergy between my literary origins and legal pursuits equipped me with a unique perspective and positioned me as a formidable force in courtroom advocacy and a scholar contributing profound insights to the dynamic world of criminal law.
2 During my research, I saw that you have been a part of prominent institutions ranging from Miranda House, Campus Law Centre, and Edinburgh University. Please tell our readers about your experience in these institutions and how they have contributed to your growth.
Being a part of a prestigious educational trajectory spanning Miranda House, Campus Law Centre, and The University of Edinburgh constitutes an enriching and transformative journey, fostering multifaceted growth and personal development. In all these institutions, I benefited from high-quality education, access to resources, opportunities for personal growth, and exposure to a vibrant academic and cultural environment, collectively contributing to a well-rounded and transformative learning journey.
Beginning at Miranda House, University of Delhi an esteemed institution renowned for its emphasis on holistic education, I was nurtured in an environment that fosters intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and a passion for knowledge. Here, exposure to diverse subjects and engagement with a vibrant academic community cultivate a well-rounded perspective that laid a robust foundation for my future endeavours. Further, through its comprehensive educational approach, commitment to gender empowerment, and nurturing environment, Miranda House empowered me to develop intelligence, independence, and a strong sense of purpose, equipping me to thrive in diverse professional and personal pursuits.
Transitioning to the Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi I entered the realm of legal scholarship and practice, where rigorous academic pursuits intertwined with practical applications of the law. Immersed in renowned faculty and legal luminaries, I was exposed to cutting-edge legal principles and engaged in thought-provoking discourse that sharpened my analytical skills and honed my advocacy abilities. This stage of the journey equipped me with the tools to comprehend the intricacies of the legal framework and contribute meaningfully to the evolving legal landscape.
Culminating at Edinburgh University, a globally acclaimed institution, the educational voyage took on an international dimension, fostering a broader worldview and cultural exposure. I got the opportunity to engage with a diverse student body, access comprehensive resources, and study under eminent scholars, which augments academic excellence while promoting cross-cultural understanding. LLM coursework at Edinburgh is a dynamic blend of traditional and modern laws that provided me with new viewpoints to peruse as a legal critic and enhanced my judicial capacities. The interactive seminars that focus on comparative analysis of laws across the world piqued my curiosity to learn more about other legal jurisdictions. In my last semester, I took a course on “criminal justice system and penal process” and attended criminal trials and sentencing at Sheriff Court and High Court. It gave me a profound understanding of the functioning of the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom.
The combined experiences of these distinguished institutions empowered me with a unique blend of knowledge, skills and perspectives, preparing me to excel as a legal scholar and contributor to the global community.
3 As you have done your LLM in criminal law from Edinburgh University, what as per you are the prospects of criminal law in the era where most students are inclined toward corporate law?
The field of criminal law is experiencing a remarkable resurgence, providing a distinctive and dynamic avenue for legal professionals in a landscape where corporate law frequently dominates. While corporate law has gained popularity among law students, the prospects for criminal law remain significant and distinct. In an era of increasing awareness about social justice and individual rights, criminal law has emerged as a powerful tool to safeguard communities, ensure accountability, and champion the cause of the marginalised. In an increasingly interconnected world, cross-border crimes and international legal cooperation are on the rise, creating demand for experts in extradition, mutual legal assistance, and transnational criminal law. Its evolving challenges, coupled with advancements in technology and changing global dynamics, present an exciting and multifaceted arena for law practitioners, enabling them to actively pursue justice while navigating the intricacies of human behaviour and societal well-being. As technology evolves, new challenges emerge in the realms of cybercrime, digital evidence, and data privacy, offering opportunities for specialisation and innovation in criminal law practice.
As the spotlight shifts toward a more balanced legal ecosystem, the blooming scope of criminal law offers a unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact and uphold the core principles of justice in a rapidly evolving world. While corporate law may be trending, criminal law continues to hold its ground as an essential and impactful legal field, offering a distinct set of opportunities and challenges for those who are passionate about upholding the rule of law and promoting justice. And most importantly, for a person like me, working in criminal law provides a sense of purpose and personal satisfaction, knowing that one is contributing to upholding the principles of justice and protecting individual liberties.
4. We have also seen that you have a keen interest in writing. Given your association with reputed journals and written works, how did you develop your interest in writing?
Coming from a literature background, I was always interested in writing. I noticed that the most renowned legal jurists have been adept both in literature and law. Hence, even while attending undergraduate law school, I devoted considerable time to my literary pursuits and worked as an editor and content writer. My first encouragement of legal writing was when I was in my first semester of law school and was awarded the national essay writing competition on “Concept of Women and Law in India” by none other than the late Shri Ram Jethmalani. I believe reading, researching, and discussing are imperative for a scholar’s growth in the legal fraternity; therefore, I started practising the art of writing by heart. I have authored more than forty nationally and internationally published research papers, book chapters, articles and blogs.
My advice to fellow writers would be that curiosity and deliberate practice are the fuels that drive the journey towards developing a writing interest. Engage with a wide range of literature, genres, and styles to expand your horizons and discover what resonates with you. Embrace challenges, learn from failures, and seek inspiration from diverse sources, from personal experiences to current events. As your thoughts take shape on paper and you witness the power of your words to convey meaning and evoke emotions, your enthusiasm for writing will naturally flourish. Developing and sustaining a passion for writing in law involves a blend of continual learning, targeted exploration, and consistent practice. Stay curious by immersing yourself in diverse legal topics, engaging with current cases and scholarly works, and participating in legal discussions. Set achievable writing goals and carve out dedicated time for regular writing sessions. Seek constructive feedback from mentors and peers, adapting insights to refine your style and approach. Embrace the evolution of law and its societal implications, viewing writing as a dynamic platform to contribute to legal discourse and effect positive change.
5. You have been a campus ambassador of the prestigious international law firm Allen & Overy. Please tell our readers something about it.
Working as a campus ambassador for Allen & Overy, a prestigious international law firm, offers an enriching experience. As a aampus ambassador for Allen & Overy at the University of Edinburgh, I facilitated engagement between students and the international law firm. I promoted the firm’s brand through events and networking, enhancing my communication, leadership and organisational skills. This role provided valuable insights into the legal industry and fostered connections with professionals, contributing to my overall understanding of legal careers.
6. Being a former judicial law clerk at the Supreme Court of India, how is your experience working at the Supreme Court of the country? There is a perception that judicial clerkship is beneficial only if you want to pursue LLM from a foreign university. Do you agree with this, or there is more to being a judicial law clerk at the Supreme Court of India or High Courts?
I could not have asked for a better start to my legal career than a judicial clerkship. During my clerkship with the Justice of the Supreme Court of India, HMJ Aniruddha Bose imparted invaluable knowledge and insights that helped me develop a deeper understanding of the legal system. His unwavering commitment to justice, astute legal acumen, and profound experience left an indelible impression on me. Among my numerous roles during the clerkship, assisting Sir with judgments would always remain my most significant contribution and cherished memory. I am proud and glad to have worked on various landmark judgments. It has been an awe-inspiring experience to witness him dispense his judgments with such remarkable precision, poise and insight. I left the clerkship as a better person, researcher, and advocate.
While pursuing a judicial clerkship can certainly be beneficial for those interested in LLM from a foreign university, it offers a range of advantages that extend beyond this specific path. Serving as a judicial law clerk provides an opportunity to work closely with Judges, enhancing legal research, writing, and analytical skills, which are essential for a successful legal career, regardless of future plans. Clerks gain insights into the judicial decision-making process, honing their understanding of legal principles, precedent, and the application of law. Clerks often assist with intricate and high-profile cases, gaining exposure to diverse legal issues and enhancing their expertise. The skills acquired during a clerkship, such as legal research, writing, and critical analysis, are transferable to various legal roles, adding value to one’s professional toolkit. In essence, while a judicial clerkship can be advantageous for those aspiring to pursue LLM from a foreign university, its benefits extend far beyond this singular path. A clerkship offers a comprehensive legal education, professional growth, and a solid foundation for a successful legal career in diverse fields within and beyond academia.
7. We saw that you bagged the British Council Great Scholarship for your LLM. Would you like to tell our readers about the application process and its benefits, if anyone among our readers wants to apply?
GREAT scholarships are scholarships to study at UK universities across various subjects for students from 18 countries. Each scholarship is worth a minimum of £10,000 towards tuition fees for a one-year postgraduate course. Each scholarship is jointly funded by the UK Government’s GREAT Britain Campaign and the British Council with participating UK higher education institutions.
The British Council GREAT Scholarship application process provides a streamlined approach for international students seeking financial assistance to pursue higher education in the United Kingdom. The scholarship is purely merit-based and aims to support outstanding individuals in various fields of study, fostering global academic collaboration and cultural exchange. Applying for a British Council GREAT Scholarship offers aspiring students a chance to receive financial support, access world-class education, and contribute to international academic and cultural exchange. It is an opportunity for those committed to academic excellence and global engagement.
I was a law student in my third and final years when I submitted my application to the University of Edinburgh. In February, I was extended a conditional offer, which I ultimately decided to accept. My scholarship covered the total tuition fees for my LLM in criminal law and criminal justice at the University of Edinburgh. Here is a brief overview of my scholarship process.
Stage 1: In March, I received an email from the University announcing that they would recommend one candidate to the British Council for the GREAT Scholarship (only the University nominates their best candidate; you cannot apply directly for it). If I intended to be considered for it, I needed to submit an application, which I did. After one month, I received communication from the University informing me that they had chosen my application and would propose me for the British Council Scholarship.
Stage 2: The British Council e-mailed me to invite me to apply for the scholarship. Now I was competing against all of the brightest and most well-nominated individuals from universities across the United Kingdom. I completed and submitted my application.
Stage 3: A month later, I received news that my written application had been accepted and that I would now be required to attend an interview, which is the final stage. The interview included a panel discussion as well as one-on-one interaction. The British Council then sent me my scholarship result and scholarship letter around 15 days’ later. It was definitely one of the most notable events of my life.
8. Given your knowledge of criminal law, what reforms do you think are necessary in the Indian criminal laws or criminal justice system?
In the context of Indian criminal law, comprehensive victim law reforms are needed to address critical shortcomings and ensure a more just and empathetic system. In my opinion, current provisions often fall short of providing victims with adequate protection, support, and participation rights.
To bolster the Indian criminal justice system’s approach to victimology, a multifaceted reform approach is essential. First, legislative changes should be enacted to provide victims with a more prominent role in the legal process, allowing them to actively participate, be informed of developments, and offer impact statements during sentencing. Moreover, introducing specialised victim support units within law enforcement agencies can offer emotional, psychological and legal assistance, ensuring victims are treated sensitively and their needs are met. Secondly, implementing expedited trial procedures for cases involving victims, similar to fast track courts, would address delays and ensure timely justice. Additionally, enacting comprehensive victim-witness protection laws and improving their implementation would incentivise victim cooperation and prevent intimidation, thus strengthening the overall criminal justice framework in India with a victim-centred approach.
As a person who works and specialises in the field of criminal law, both as an advocate and a researcher, the study of victimology is a subject that is very important to me. In view of this, I recently made the decision to accept the position of academic fellow in criminal law at the National Law University in Delhi so that I can make a greater contribution to the field of victimology.
9 What advice would you like to give who also wishes to improve his writing for publications and pursue LLM from a foreign university?
Law students can enhance their writing for esteemed publications by studying exemplary legal articles to understand effective styles and argumentation techniques, selecting focused and relevant topics that reflect their expertise, conducting thorough research to provide depth and credibility, crafting a strong thesis to guide their writing, maintaining a clear and concise language throughout, structuring their articles logically with engaging introductions and compelling analyses, adhering to proper citation methods, seeking feedback from peers and mentors for improvements, and persistently submitting their work while staying updated on legal developments to refine their skills and insights. Sharpening writing skills involves consistent practice. I would recommend engaging with professors, attending workshops, and submitting papers to journals. Simultaneously, plan for an LLM by researching programmes aligned with your specialisation. Ensure you meet academic requirements and enhance your language proficiency if needed. Balance writing endeavours with LLM preparations, emphasising time management. Cultivate cultural adaptability, as it is vital for foreign studies. Dedication, networking and resilience will propel your journey towards successful writing and an LLM abroad.