Dr Rajnish Kumar Singh is an Associate Professor at Banaras Hindu University’s Faculty of Law. He received his bachelor’s degree in law from Campus Law Centre (CLC), Delhi and his LLM and PhD from the Faculty of Law at Delhi University.
He holds a PhD in Intellectual Property Rights and is an active member of our university’s IPR cell. So far in his career, he has authored multiple books and research articles on copyright law, international trade, international commercial arbitration, and so on. He has also presented his writings in over 30 seminars across India. He was also the Faculty Coordinator of the Placement Committee of the Faculty of Law at BHU for 8 consecutive years. He holds multiple publications and research paper presentations, nationwide in different IPR domains specially, copyright domain.
1. To begin, in the interest of our readers, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your professional experience, and your early years in this profession?
I completed my BSc from Hindu College and LLB, LLM and PhD from Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. I am from Bihar and did my schooling from Jharkhand. I started my teaching career as an ad hoc Lecturer at Law Centre II, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. Thereafter, I moved to National Law University, Jodhpur and worked there for some time before joining Banaras Hindu University in 2006. My early years were very interesting because my students at Delhi University were mostly working people and were more than my age as it was an evening centre and at Jodhpur, I got 17-18-year-old students. It was really interesting to address students from such extreme age groups.
2. What are your views on development of copyright laws along with all the challenges that lie ahead.
I think that the law of copyright has mainly evolved against the external pressure of technology. As long as there was no threat of copying, there was no copyright law. With changing technology, the law has evolved, be it protection of neighbouring rights, or recognition of new rights and new subject-matter. Surprisingly, TRIPS Agreement did not touch the issue of copyright in the context of digital technology, which was finally addressed by the WIPO internet treaties. These treaties incorporate the digital agenda and provide for the mechanism of digital rights management. We have included the provisions in our law by the 2012 Amendment. Despite the above, there are large number of issues related to digital technology which remain unanswered in the law. Use of AI and blockchain have changed the way we administer copyright. These disruptive technologies and related copyright issues need indulgence of the researchers and policymakers. I think we also need amendment in the context of music industry. You must have heard about the recent injunction issued by the Delhi High Court against Shadow libraries. No one is in a position to finally suggest solution for these problems. We can definitely conclude that the law has to evolve further in these contexts.
3. In a university like BHU, there are different faculties and diverse disciplines are being studied by the students. Since you are a member of the University’s IPR Committee, please share about how important is IPR for these students of various disciplines and how the legal profession should respond to them.
BHU is a huge university not only in terms of size but also in terms of the number of courses offered and number of subjects taught. There is a huge potential for interdisciplinary research in BHU. You must be aware that in 2016, the Government brought the IPR Policy. One of the objectives of the policy is to spread IP awareness and create an effective innovation ecosystem in our country. The results are also visible as there has been significant increase in IP filing and IP grant in India. In the context of university like BHU, it is important to appreciate that one or the other form of IP is useful for all the departments of the University. For example, patent law is useful for Science, Medical Science, Pharmacy, Engineering; trade marks law is useful for Management, Commerce and Economics; Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act is useful for Agriculture Science students; for performing arts, visual arts and other disciplines of humanities and social sciences, copyright and design law are useful. The IPR & Technology Transfer Cell of BHU has the mandate of spreading IP awareness, facilitate IP filing and grant and provide support for transfer of technology. The Atal Incubation Centre, Institution’s Innovation Council of Ministry of Education and Design Innovation Centre (‘DIC’) at the University are also working for promotion of innovation. We understand that an IP culture has to develop on the campus. We are modifying our IP Policy so as to promote research. I am also of the view that, as the IPR Policy, 2016 requires, we need to take the basic knowledge of IPR to the grassroot innovator, and thus, the role of legal profession becomes significant. Further, the community IP such as Geographical Indications (‘GI’), traditional cultural expression and traditional knowledge, which are largely owned by indigenous community, need to be protected against misappropriation, for which the legal profession has to take lead. As of now the initiatives are not satisfactory.
4. With a massive increase in the number of applicants for law entrance exams in India, the practice of law has become extremely competitive, and competition for jobs has intensified in recent years. What advice would you give to law enthusiasts who are struggling to keep up with such competition?
The number of applicants for law admission is increasing, and at the same time, the number of law colleges is also increasing. Before anything, one has to be careful about choosing the right college for spending his or her next 3 or 5 years. It is good that students are opting for law by choice. I may say that it is the right time for doing a law degree. You may have observed that in recent past, the litigation before Competition Commission, commercial courts and NCLT, etc. is becoming a specialised area of practice. Many firms are exclusively working in the area of dispute resolution. I am trying to tell you that new possibilities and opportunities are emerging, and the trend will grow in future. There is nothing bad in saying that the practice of law has become extremely competitive. In a country like India, one has to clearly understand that only the best in the trade shall have the success. In these circumstances, students have to understand their strength and choose a career accordingly. As a system, we are not very sure about continuing with two kinds of law degree courses. Further, with growing number of private law colleges having little focus on quality education and research, we are bound to produce a huge number of unskilled and unqualified law graduates, which will put pressure on the system.
5. What is the most difficult aspect of your job as an academician, and how do you deal with it?
Students have different career plans and a large number of them may not have any plan for themselves. Thus, the role of law schools is not just to impart legal education, but at the same time, we have to identify the abilities of students and guide them accordingly. Student body is a very heterogeneous group with different backgrounds, different interests, different career plans and different abilities. This heterogeneity makes the job of an academician very challenging. I think that the entire student body may be divided into smaller groups and one teacher may be made mentor for one group. Nowadays we encounter the issues related to physical and mental well-being of the students; the mentor-mentee relationship needs to be built to tackle these problems.
6. What is the relevance of conducting proper legal research, and how should law students prepare for it? When do you believe legal research is exhausted? Would you mind sharing your research methods with our readers?
Research is important for growth of the subject as well as the growth of the researcher. Higher educational institutions have the dual responsibility of teaching and research. Our system as of now is not very sure about the journals which may be considered as quality journals. We have developed the tendency of publishing quantity rather than publishing quality. Law students must understand that their research publications indicate their research abilities and many employers may look for this quality in you. In the first two years, students must work to understand the methodology and may decide to collaborate with either some senior students or with any faculty member to publish. Independent writing may start a bit later. With large online subscriptions of law schools, now students have access to international journals and they may send manuscript to these journals. I also like the idea of sending your submissions for blogs. Some of the blogs have become a rich source of information and analysis. International publishers prefer contributions which may have market value. I think one may identify the journal and present his research in the format which suits the journal. I would also like to add that possibility of research in any field or discipline is never exhausted. It is not that the traditional areas have exhausted. There used to be a time when some law colleges were used to be known as expert centres in some subjects, for example law school of BHU at one point of time contributed significantly to the areas of family law and international law. The same is missing these days.
7. Before coming to BHU, you were teaching students of NLU, Jodhpur, and you, yourself have completed your studies from Delhi University. As renowned firms and advocates prefer students of NLU over students passing from traditional universities, what are your views on this?
I do not think that employers must start with some pre-conceived ideas about NLUs or traditional universities. There will always be a section of students who are employable. In fact, nowadays, I see a change in the approach of some of the firms in the sense that there is this understanding that NLU students are very demanding and tend to overestimate their potentials. I am not saying that this is true, but I wish to submit that there are some traditional law schools doing good in the field of legal studies and research. It is also beneficial for the employers if they get employable candidates from such law schools. I would like to take this opportunity to argue that it will be wise on the part of firms and advocates to look towards traditional law schools and invest their time and resources for the students at such law schools also. It is particularly important considering that some traditional law schools are now offering 5-year course.
8. How do you judge academic progress and understanding of students with varying knowledge and perspectives of their jurisdictions as a law professor at a university?
I still remember a foreign student of MCL course in my class when I used to teach in University of Delhi, who absolutely rejected the idea of secularism as was taught. It happened because of the legal system she belonged to. I want to say that role of a professor is not just to reproduce the concepts in the class. One has to customise and plan his lectures according to the knowledge and perspectives of students. We must appreciate difference of perspectives. This can in fact be used to generate healthy discussions in the class. We all know the problems of existing education system. We have been trained to assess the merit of a student on the basis of grades and not on the basis of skills. I think if as a teacher, I can make the subject interesting, whatever method of teaching is adopted, and in the process enhance the employability of the student, my job is done. I think the best way to judge the progress of the student is to test their ability to solve real time problems.
9. Publication of research papers is an essential aspect of a law student’s career, although in the early stages, students frequently engage in other co-curricular activities. How important is it for a law student to understand the importance of publications, given that you have written and delivered papers in a number of reputable journals/seminars/conferences/workshops, etc.?
As I mentioned that research is important for the growth of the researcher, law students must understand that their research publications indicate their research abilities and many employers may look for this quality in you. In the first two years, students must work to understand the methodology and may decide to collaborate with either some senior students or with any faculty member to publish. Independent writing may start a bit later. With large online subscriptions of law schools, now students have access to international journals and they may send manuscript to these journals. I would like to add that big publishers like EBC, etc. will have to promote the culture of writing in law students. For a student, it is still a challenge to find a good publisher as most of the journals in India will prefer articles of teachers. Let us accept that wisdom is not subject to age. I come across many articles of students which are good source of information and analysis for even Professors. Let me also submit that for legal profession, the most important quality is ability to do efficient online and offline research. Therefore, it is strongly advised that student must start research and writing from the first year itself with the help of their seniors of teachers so that by the time they pass the degree they have some good publications in their name.
10. Could you perhaps recommend any books that you read in your time off from work?
I prefer to read books that make you think about your existence, your past and possible future, for example, I may recommend Yuval Noah Harari. I would also like to advise students to read biographies.
11. Do you have any advice for the readers of the SCC blog? Or do you have anything else you would want to share with our readers?
As I mentioned before, I like the idea of sending submissions for blogs because I know some of the blogs have become excellent source of knowledge. I will recommend students to reflect on the contemporary legal issues, make discussion groups and deliberate on the recent topics. You must understand that we are living in a very competitive age and only the best shall have success. Your choice of law school, the subject you opt, the publications you do, the internships you do, the people with whom you spend your 3 or 5 years as a student of law will decide your success in your career.