Dr Subhajit Basu is a Professor of Law and Technology at University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Being passionate about this field, he works to breakdown the data-driven age for a broader understanding, with a special focus on the underrepresented Global South. His aim is to make the digital world more accessible and beneficial for all societies. Today, data shapes everything: from our online choices to the vast amount of information institutions gather, data affects how we see and shape our world. His research is primarily based on understanding these complexities, finding the hidden stories and power imbalances, and seeking opportunities for change. His wide sense of thinking relates to “big data” and its potential to transform. Holding a brilliant approach, he is committed to making sure consumers are more than just spectators — they should rather be well-informed digital participants. Behind each milestone that he has achieved, there exists his strong academic foundation: a PhD from Liverpool John Moores University, UK and an LLB from the University College of Law, University of Calcutta, India. Every step fuels his exploration into how law and technology can work together for a more informed, equitable digital future.1
1. Please share about your journey in law school and some events that served as a learning opportunity for you.
Law school was an exhilarating whirlwind of emotions, challenges, and life-changing experiences. I read law at the University College of Law, University of Calcutta. However, the transition was not smooth. Hailing from a Science background, I plunged into the realm of Social Sciences. Grappling with subjects like Sociology, Political Science, and Economics proved challenging. Their study methodologies were starkly different from my prior academic pursuits. I learned to think on my feet, and more importantly, to embrace being wrong as a step towards being right. It was not until year 3, when we had more law modules that I enjoyed it more. My favourite modules were constitutional law and jurisprudence. I have always felt, and still feel, that they should have been taught over two years. The world’s longest and one of the most complicated Constitutions cannot be taught in one year. My interests extended beyond the lecture theatres to the chamber of my senior. Interacting with practising lawyers during this time opened my eyes to the vast expanse of opportunities within the legal profession and underscored the importance of building and nurturing professional relationships. The landscape of legal education was undergoing a paradigm shift during my years. The emergence of National Law Universities marked the dawn of a new era in the Indian Legal Education. Throughout my years at law school, there were moments of self-doubt, exhaustion, and sheer overwhelm. But each challenge and setback was a stepping stone, shaping me into the lawyer I am today. Looking back, I would not trade this journey for anything. The friendships forged, the mentors who guided me, and the invaluable lessons learned have been the cornerstones of my academic career.
2. Being a professor, what are some common mistakes that you see students make while studying law or participating in competitions and how can they be corrected?
Over the years, as an academician guiding numerous law students, I have observed several challenges and pitfalls, especially in rapidly evolving disciplines like cyberlaw, e-commerce law, and intellectual property law. One of the most common challenges is the overreliance on memorisation. While these areas of law are rich in statutes and principles, mastering them cannot be achieved merely by rote learning. The constant shifts in these fields demand an understanding of the underlying logic and rationale. Instead of purely memorising, students must focus on grasping the core principles, understanding their evolution, and applying them to contemporary scenarios.
Another common pitfall is not staying adequately updated. Given the fast-paced nature of areas like cyberlaw, any lapse in staying current can be detrimental. Laws and regulations in these domains evolve swiftly in response to technological and societal advancements. Cultivating the habit of following pertinent news, subscribing to relevant journals, and attending specialised seminars can significantly benefit students. Moreover, the interwoven nature of law with technology, business, and societal dynamics makes an interdisciplinary approach invaluable. For instance, understanding technology can provide profound insights when studying cyberlaw, while grasping business implications is essential for e-commerce law. Confidence, or the lack thereof, is another challenge. The ever-evolving nature of subjects like cyberlaw can be intimidating. After grasping certain areas, some students might become overly confident, erroneously thinking they have mastered the subject. On the flip side, others might feel overwhelmed. A continuous learning mindset, complemented by seeking regular feedback, can help maintain a balanced perspective.
3. What are some major differences in the curriculum of law degrees in Indian universities as compared to foreign ones?
The curricula of law degrees naturally differ worldwide, mirroring each nation’s unique legal traditions, systems, and societal requirements. I fully anticipate these disparities and believe that it is essential for Indian students to first gain a solid understanding of Indian laws before branching out to international legal frameworks. However, my main concern lies in the teaching methodology. During my time in law school and many years after, the emphasis in India’s legal education was unduly on memorisation. Even today, several prestigious national law schools persist in this traditional approach, compelling students to laboriously memorise statutes. This method sidelines the development of critical thinkers — students who can challenge established norms, delve into the reasons behind legal provisions, or grasp the nuances of the underlying policies. One glaring shortcoming is the sporadic curriculum reviews. Especially in a field as fluid as law, the curriculum must evolve in tandem with global advancements and shifts. In India, however, there is a marked lag in refreshing the curriculum to address the current needs and developments in the international legal arena. This lag makes the learning experience outdated, leaving students ill-prepared for the ever-evolving global legal framework. Furthermore, India’s legal education seems somewhat static as the global educational landscape undergoes a revolution with inventive teaching techniques. The reluctance to integrate contemporary, engaging pedagogies, which can transform learning into an interactive and practical experience, is deeply concerning. Another area of concern is the absence or insufficient emphasis on research-driven teaching. On the rare occasions, it is present, there is an evident reluctance among educators to think outside the proverbial box. Having reviewed numerous PhD theses from India, I have often wished that these budding scholars had been nudged to think more broadly and creatively. This situation begs the question: Why do many Indian-origin academics, recognised for their significant contributions, affiliate with renowned international institutions in the Global North rather than uplift the academic standards back home?
A transformative shift is overdue in India’s legal education. There is an urgent need to nurture rational, progressive, and open-minded thought. We must revamp our teaching strategies, elevate research standards, and amplify the multidisciplinary approach that a few institutions have started to embrace. Adopting regular curriculum reviews and contemporary teaching methods is not a mere indulgence; it is imperative if India aspires to be recognised as a global hub of legal academia.
4. You have a number of publications in reputed journals. Please tell our readers the best way to synthesize the research one has collected to present a good end product.
Presenting research findings in a structured and cohesive manner is crucial to ensure that the work is well-received and contributes significantly to the academic community. The journey invariably begins with a sharply defined research question. Before delving into data or the exploratory phase, it is essential to establish a clear focal point that guides the research process. Publishing an article in a top-tier international journal demands time, rigorous research, numerous drafts, and feedback from colleagues. For instance, one of my most recent publications, “Silenced Voices: Unravelling India’s Dissent Crisis Through Historical and Contemporary Analysis of Free Speech and Suppression” (co-authored with Shameek Sen, published in Information and Communications Technology Law in 2023)2, evolved over three years. Its journey began with the first draft in 2020, but even before formalising the paper, I had presented lectures on the topic at various conferences to validate my arguments. After the publication of my co-authored book on NHS Data sharing in 2016, I felt that some of the issues needed to be addressed further and this led to my co-authored article Restoring Trust into the NHS: Promoting Data Protection as an “Architecture of Custody” for the Sharing of Data in Direct Care3, so writing is a continuous process.
Some of my publications have direct ties to funded research. A case in point is “Legal Issues in Automated Vehicles: Critically Considering the Potential Role of Consent and Interactive Digital Interfaces” (co-authored with Pattinson, J.A., and Chen, H., published in Humanit. Soc. Sci. Commun. in 20204. This work was informed by a broader interdisciplinary research project. Whenever I embark on a research venture, I ensure a holistic grasp of the prevailing discourse, pinpointing gaps in the extant research and positioning my study within the overarching academic milieu.
The writing process is inherently iterative. One must draft, revisit, revise, refine, and clarify. Furthermore, it is prudent to solicit external feedback before finalising any paper. Input from peers, mentors, or field experts can offer invaluable insights and refinement avenues. Concluding research involves succinctly summarising the study’s relevance, unique contributions, and potential directions for future inquiries. Finally, the importance of meticulous citation cannot be overstated. The findings undoubtedly matter in research, but the exploration journey and its detailed documentation are equally significant.
5. Apart from undertaking long-term tasks like research papers, is it beneficial for students to engage in short-term tasks like writing blogs?
Absolutely. Engaging in short-term tasks such as writing blogs offers many benefits for students, particularly those in the academic and research domains. I love to write blogs on topical and cutting-edge issues. For instance, I penned an editorial on reforming India’s colonial-era laws.5 Additionally, I wrote a short impact article addressing the issue of how cybercrime insurance is exacerbating the ransomware problem.6
Blogging helps students distil complex ideas into more accessible formats. Unlike research papers catering to a niche audience, blogs reach a broader readership. This allows students to share insights with their academic peers and the general public, enhancing their reach and impact. Writing blogs also helps hone communication skills, challenging students to present arguments concisely and persuasively. This practice often leads to a clearer understanding of their own ideas, which is invaluable for defending research findings or engaging in debates. Another significant benefit is the immediacy of feedback that blogging offers. Comments and interactions from readers provide students with various perspectives, cultivating an open-minded approach to criticism and praise.
6. What is the importance of having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile?
Having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile has become increasingly essential in our digital age, playing a multifaceted role in one’s professional journey. Firstly, the platform acts as a cornerstone for professional visibility and networking. When your profile is current, it helps you appear prominently in relevant searches, fostering connections with potential collaborators, employers, and industry peers. Endorsements and recommendations from your network further cement your credibility, acting as real-time references.
Personal branding has become a linchpin for many professionals. LinkedIn, in this regard, serves as a potent tool, allowing individuals to craft and convey their professional narratives. This up-to-date narrative ensures consistency, relevance, and resonance with your current professional status. The platform’s global reach ensures that you are not just presenting this narrative to local peers but are connecting worldwide, exponentially broadening your professional horizons.
However, it is essential to acknowledge the double-edged nature of LinkedIn. On one hand, it is a vibrant space full of opportunity. On the other, the constant showcase of achievements can sometimes feel overwhelming, making some users feel the pressure to constantly “keep up”. This perpetual cycle of advertisement and comparison can deviate from the platform’s core purpose: beneficial networking for mutual benefit. While essential in our current landscape, the emphasis on personal branding risks commodifying individuals. The lines blur between being a “human being” with multifaceted experiences and being perceived merely as a “product” optimised for the job market. Remember, everyone is on a unique journey with ups and downs, and while LinkedIn is a tool to augment professional growth, preserving authenticity and holistic well-being should always remain paramount.
7. What is your opinion on the increased rate of cybercrime nowadays? Please provide your suggestions as to how this rate can be lowered.
The meteoric rise of cybercrime in recent years is deeply concerning, especially with the evolution of sophisticated tactics like ransomware, deepfake, and disinformation campaigns. Each of these cyber threats carries profound implications not only for individuals but also for organisations, Governments, and societies at large.
Consider ransomware; it is not just a sinister piece of code. It is a digital hijacker, taking our data hostage and jeopardising critical infrastructure operations. Then we move to deepfakes, a beguiling blend of technology and deceit, crafting astoundingly real yet entirely fabricated audio and video content, shaking the very pillar of truth we rely upon. And let us not forget disinformation, a wildfire that spreads falsified narratives with the potential to sway elections, manipulate financial markets, and deepen societal divides.
Now, how do we navigate through this digital minefield? Firstly, a robust legal framework is paramount. Our laws must be agile, adapting to the ever-evolving technoscape, ensuring that they envelop all possible loopholes and provide a solid platform for prosecuting offenders. However, laws are just the skeleton. They require the muscle of stringent enforcement mechanisms to be truly effective. This entails a spirit of international collaboration, sharing vital intelligence, and forging a unified front against cyber adversaries, particularly given the internet’s borderless nature.
The role of technology giants is undeniably pivotal in this equation. With their expansive platforms and influence, these entities should be guardians of the digital realm. This involves wielding advanced AI to counteract harmful content and championing transparency and collaboration that reinforces trust among users and regulatory bodies. Moreover, education serves as a compass in this scenario. Enlightened public, aware of how to distinguish between genuine and manipulated content and cognizant of cybersecurity best practices, forms a resilient barrier against these cyber threats. The shadows cast by ransomware, deepfakes, and disinformation cannot be dispelled by legal frameworks alone. It demands a cohesive, global effort, intertwining robust legislation, technological advancements, and a commitment to nurturing an informed, cyber-aware populace (do not forward every message you receive on WhatsApp; Stop! Think!).
8. Do you believe in the concept of “Responsible AI”, considering it has now become a “free weapon” in the hands of all?
The concept of “Responsible AI” is not only something I believe in, but it is also an imperative in our rapidly advancing technological landscape. AI is akin to a double-edged sword — its vast capabilities and potential to revolutionise industries and improve human life are immense. However, like any powerful tool, in the wrong hands, it can be wielded with malicious intent or result in unintended consequences. For instance, the Council of Europe’s Convention on AI, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, the UN’s AI for good initiative, which touches on the sustainable development goals, and the EU’s AI Regulation (2021) — ratified by the EU Parliament in June 2023 — have all echoed the principles of responsible AI. In a testament to the momentum behind this movement, as of April 2020, a staggering 173 ethical AI guidelines have been put forth by a conglomerate of tech behemoths, social media giants, and other influential tech platforms. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that these discussions and frameworks have predominantly been the purview of Governments, institutions, and tech giants within the Global North. This dominance risks sidelining the Global South from the AI discourse. A disproportionate representation means that while a handful of Global North countries may monopolise the benefits of AI, the Global South might disproportionately bear the brunt of its negative impacts. This dynamic disturbingly mirrors neo-colonial exploitation, echoing longstanding debates on the colonial presence in contemporary governance and political economy. Such an imbalance is detrimental to Global South countries and the world. The concentration of AI’s advantages with a few, and its risks borne by many, is neither sustainable nor equitable. Now more than ever, it is essential to advocate for an inclusive and equitable approach that respects and integrates the perspectives of Global South nations. By doing so, we can work towards a global AI ecosystem that ensures a balanced distribution of the benefits and risks of this transformative technology. AI signals a dire need for accountability, ethics, and controlled utilisation.
9. You have been the co-investigator in various international projects. Please share your experience with the readers and what did you learn through the same?
Being a co-investigator in numerous international projects has been an immensely enriching experience. These projects have spanned multiple disciplines and involved collaboration with diverse partners from around the globe. First and foremost, interdisciplinary projects have taught me the value of looking at a problem from multiple angles. Every discipline brings a unique lens; when these perspectives intersect, the depth and breadth of understanding that ensues are unparalleled. It is like piecing together a complex jigsaw puzzle; every piece represents a different discipline’s insights. When they all fit together seamlessly, you are presented with a comprehensive picture that would not have been possible with a single-disciplinary approach.
Collaborating with multiple partners, each bringing their expertise and cultural nuances, has also enhanced my effective communication, patience, and adaptability skills. Effective collaboration is not just about sharing knowledge; it is about understanding, respecting, and synergising different viewpoints to reach a common goal. It is about navigating potential conflicts, understanding cultural sensitivities, and leveraging each partner’s strengths for the project’s betterment. Another crucial lesson I have garnered from these projects is the importance of meticulous planning and flexibility. A clear roadmap is imperative when coordinating with multiple partners across different time zones and working cultures. However, while planning is crucial, so is the ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges and changes. Being rigid can impede progress, so a balanced approach of structured planning combined with adaptive problem-solving has been the key.
Lastly, these experiences have underscored the significance of mutual respect and trust. A successful collaboration is built on the foundation of mutual trust among partners. Trusting your collaborators to deliver and respecting their expertise forms the bedrock of a smooth and productive project lifecycle.
10. What message would you like to convey for law students and legal professionals regarding honing their research skills and the career choices they make?
Embarking upon a career in law is synonymous with embarking on a boundless journey through research. Understand this — your ability to substantiate your scholarly writing, litigation, or policymaking positions hinges upon your research prowess. Indulge your curiosity to its utmost when you are presented with a statute or a judgment. Ask “why” it exists and “how” it is implemented or adjudicated. Legal research does not stand still; it perpetually evolves, with new laws, pivotal precedents, and transformative policy amendments consistently emerging from the anvil of societal change. Adaptability and willingness to adopt new methodologies and technological advancements are recommended and indispensable to stay relevant.
Navigating the legal career landscape is full of opportunities and diverse pathways. It is imperative to carve out a niche, a domain where your passion finds its true calling. Early engagements in internships, moot courts, and pro bono activities serve as experiential learning and a lens through which you might glimpse your future speciality.
Believe in yourself and the impact you can create. Be resilient, be persistent, and remember that your work, research, and advocacy can pave the way for justice, reform, and positive societal change.
2. Subhajit Basu and Shameek Sen, “Silenced Voices: Unravelling India’s Dissent Crisis Through Historical and Contemporary Analysis of Free Speech and Suppression”, Information and Communications Technology Law <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13600834.2023.2249780?src=> (link not accessible)
3. Subhajit Basu and Audrey Guinchard, “Restoring Trust into the NHS: Promoting Data Protection as an ‘Architecture of Custody’ for the Sharing of Data in Indirect Care”, International Journal of Law and Information Technology, Vol. 28, Issue 3, Autumn 2020, pp. 243-272 (2020) <https://doi.org/10.1093/ijlit/eaaa014>. (link not found please check)
4. Dr Subhajit Basu, Pattison, J.A., and Chen, H., “Legal Issues in Automated Vehicles: Critically Considering the Potential Role of Consent and Interactive Digital Interfaces”, Humanit. Soc. Sci. Commun. (2020) <https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-020-00644-2>. (link not accessible)
5. Dr Subhajit Basu, “From Imperial Shackles to Sovereign Justice: The Decolonisation Journey of Indian Criminal Laws” (11-8-2023) <https://riskgroupllc.com/from-imperial-shackles-to-sovereign-justice-the-decolonisation-journey-of-indian-criminal-laws/>.
6. Dr Subhajit Basu, “Cybercrime Insurance is making the Ransomware Problem Worse”, The Conversation (11-11-2022)