1. For the few who may not know, where are you currently employed?
I work at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University, Delhi. I believe that most people on campus know about CCG, but for those who are not aware, it is a Research Centre that was established by NLU Delhi in 2013, and works around issues of information policy and law.
2. Why did you decide to apply to CCG? When did you develop an interest in this area?
It all started with me reading up extensively on this area of law when I did the Price Moot. This was coupled with, two fascinating courses on Technology Law and Media Law by Mr. Apar Gupta. Subsequent to that, I interned at the Software Freedom Law Centre after which I was more or less certain that this is the area I want to work in.
3. Was it a difficult choice to go for a Fellowship at CCG over more common choices such as corporate law or litigation?
It wasn’t all that hard. I was never interested in corporate law, owing to which I neither did any corporate internship, nor did I sit for my placements. I had to make a choice between joining the Luthra litigation team, looking for a chamber or trying something different and CCG seemed like a risk that I thought one should take once in a while.
As for litigation, admittedly I find it quite interesting. It gives you an opportunity to see and understand people, and connect with the real world. Once in while it also gives you that opportunity to make the change you thought you will be a part of when you joined the law school. It also gives you an insight in the real world and one actually sees how all that one reads in five years and all the fancy notions of justice one is taught are broken every day. So it definitely is quite intriguing and very exciting and I most definitely hope to try my hand at it at some point!
As far as corporate law is concerned, not to say people cannot genuinely like it, but most of the people I know or have spoken to do it for the money, and in today’s time there are other options worth exploring that also give you if not the same, comparable amount of money. Sitting behind a desk drafting or negotiating on behalf of a million or billion dollar company so that they get richer, to be frank, seems like a waste of the 5 years that a person spent in law school. I am sure a lot of people, even me perhaps (God forbid!), will look at that option in a few years for a safer and a more stable life, but I don’t think its worth it (unless it is an actual preference), till you at least try something that you genuinely want to do. However, I do acknowledge that in some situations it may be a necessity due to various factors, but if that is not the case I really think everyone should try doing what they like. It may or may not work but it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot, especially when you’re so young!
4. What was the application process? Do you know (and can you tell us) if there are vacancies for similar positions at the CCG currently?
The application process (and it is the same that CCG currently follows) was fairly straightforward. Calls were put out for various positions and we were asked to send our CV, a writing sample and contact details of two referees. This was followed by an interview with Prof. Rao, Prof. Mathew, Chinmayi and Anup.
There are no vacancies for Project Manager & the Fellow position, however CCG does have vacancies for Research Fellows. The broad clusters of open fellowship positions are Civil Liberties & Freedom of Expression, Privacy, Surveillance & Big Data, Internet Governance, International Law and Markets & Public Interest. More details can be found here.
5. How has your experience working at CCG been so far? What is the nature of work that you have been involved in so far?
To say the very least, it’s been a great experience. As far as the nature of work is concerned, I think it has been quite varied over the past two years. The first year and a half, with just the two of us, the work revolved a lot around building the Centre, getting grants, ensuring adequate visibility, getting to know the relevant stakeholders in the area and generally building a reputation along with all the research.
The work now involves writing research papers, policy opinions – which range from Global Internet Governance to asking Parliament to not ban pornography, tracking and assisting with litigation, attending multiple (some interesting, many not so) conferences and workshops, organizing events, engaging with different stakeholders, overseeing interns and RAs among other things.
6. What is the most exciting part of your job? We’ve already had Vikramaditya tell us that his favourite case was the Section 66A matter, so you may be criticized for being unoriginal, just saying.
I guess the most exciting part is you do not know what comes next, in the sense that I usually have no idea about what I’ll be working in 2 weeks time, and I find that extremely challenging and intriguing. The area is changing so fast that there is always something new for you to work on. Since the time I have joined, we have submitted a memorandum to the Rajya Sabha Committee on Pornography, provided inputs to the Law Commission on Media Law, helped them organize possibly their biggest open consultation till date, provided memorandum to TRAI and DoT on Net Neutrality, tracked litigations in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court.
And while I recognise that this is unoriginal, in terms of the best work, I guess 66A will figure at the top! For me it will always be very special as it was the first case I was involved with (all thanks to Apar Sir and Karuna Ma’am). Another enriching experience has been researching on and tracking the case pertaining to banning of pornography, for the simple reason that you get a very visible insight in the morality of the judges (among other people) so clearly depending on the bench, which it was placed before and well it’s a fight to stop them from banning porn.
7. What is the worst part of the job? Don’t worry, the other answers will compensate for this one, so (hopefully) Chinmayi won’t mind.
Oh well, she already knows it. I guess figuring out the accounting for every grant application and keeping track of the accounts in general. But beyond that I guess it’s fun to work here. Off course like any other office or institution there are days when you are irritated and on some days you think you’ll not work here any more. But in these past two unlike a lot of people I know, I don’t think I have ever had to question my decision of being here over a more comfortable law firm job and I’d like to believe that means that I am doing fairly happy!
8. Was the fact that you would be working in the same institution where you studied a consideration in taking the job? How does NLU Delhi treat its employees? How have the two years after been different than the five years before? Okay, I understand that you would have to err on the side of caution for this one.
I wouldn’t say that being able to be at NLU Delhi was a factor. The major factors were I suppose the area of work and the people I’ll be working with. In fact if someone is planning to join CCG or for that matter any other Centre one should be prepared for the fact that quite a few things change overnight and suddenly you are on the other side of the line.
The biggest change (and a very unfortunate one at that) has been that I haven’t had guava juice on campus in past two years. But that apart on a more serious note, I think I guess suddenly a lot of things that you could do as a student you cannot, there are not all those liberties and you are expected to be a lot more punctual, mature and committed.
I may not be the best person to ask this question since a lot of times I am still treated as a student (which is really helpful when I have work with the administration), but NLU Delhi does treats its employees well. Though its nowhere close to the entitlements that the students can get but you are still supported in whatever way possible. It provides you with lots of independence and responsibility irrespective of your age or qualification.
9. This one’s more for younger students at the University – what are the evaluation criteria used by CCG to select its candidates? For example, while a call for application may require a writing sample, it does not mention the criteria on which the same is evaluated. Such information may help students tailor their submissions more to your requirements.
In terms of internal student selection or even for an internship, I do not think there is anything specific that we look for from a writing sample. It’s a very ‘you know it when you see it situation’. But broadly we look at the depth of research, how well you can put across your point in those 800-1000 words, and the kind of sources used. What is even more important are the internal referees you provide and what they have to say about you and your work ethics, since you have either worked with those people or have taken their classes and they know you.
10. If I may ask, what is your monthly salary? Does it sustain a livelihood for a non-Delhiite?
The monthly salary for a Fellow (graduate) and a Senior Fellow (Masters Degree or two years experience in information policy and law) is 50 thousand and 75 thousand respectively. We are constantly trying to find ways to make it even more comfortable in terms of remuneration, however we do not want money to be the primary reason that people join to CCG.
11. What plans for the future? Do you intend on pursuing an LL.M?
I currently have acceptances from Berkeley and Penn for LL.M, but am still contemplating whether to go this year or not. But yes an LL.M. possibly followed by a M.P.P. is very much the plan.
12. Finally, and on an unrelated note, what is your opinion on the, as our VC so lovingly puts it, the JNU-ization of our campus, specifically in comparison to campus during your college years?
Let me state at the outset that these are some mostly disconnected thoughts that I have had while thinking about and discussing this change with various people. That said, if I get thrown out it will totally be on you.
I think it’s a great thing that the place is growing and maturing in multiple ways. It’s quite heartening to see people taking so many different initiatives. There are so many opportunities that one has today which weren’t there in our time. Beyond studies your activities aren’t restricted to mooting or debating and there is actually so much more to do. I guess after the VC and Ruhi Ma’am, I am the oldest person on this campus (in terms of the time spent) and I am actually quite proud of what this place is becoming. A large credit for it goes to the students, certain teachers and also the administration. I have seen it happen to a number of people who go out of their comfort zones and start questioning things. I really hope that a lot of you, who have constantly pushed the boundaries and challenged things here, also do it when you move out into unfamiliar atmospheres, where the push back is considerably more.
I would also caution that everyone and specially the students and other people who have helped bring this change on the campus have the responsibility to make sure that viewpoints different from theirs do not get lost. My personal observation is that a large number of people do not engage with a lot of these initiatives and we all will have to introspect and find ways to involve them in these discussions. Surely a lot of it is because there is a push back to anything that is not let’s say in the comfort zone. However, there are also others who may want to be involved in discussions but for some reason do not find it comfortable to. It is everyone’s duty to make sure that NLU Delhi is a place where different ideas co-exist, irrespective of how uncomfortable or alien they seem. Everyone who cares about these issues is am sure doing something about it in their own way and we should not judge them just because they are not vocal enough or we do not think it is the ideal way.
In terms of the administration you will always have disagreements and actually you should, I till this day fight with the VC about different things, but a lot of us at least also acknowledge their contribution. A lot of the new faculty that is here and has made a very positive impact, which a lot of you acknowledge is primarily because of the administration and because of the freedom and support that they have received from the Vice Chancellor. A DPRP or an INSAAF to a major extent happened because the administration was willing to support it. We may be the only public University which funds student activities like mooting, PLPDG, AAP.
13. I wonder if your batchmates would share the same thoughts on viewing it from an outsider as opposed to an insider to the change. But on a tangential note, this change on campus is also a visible shift of focus from mooting and debating on campus to other activities. What are your views on the same?
While it is great that there are various other avenues available to a student today, but a student should not hesitate to take part in IMS or debating or anything else they want, just because she is somehow conveyed that its more worthwhile to spend that time for ‘public good’ activities (DPRP, CCG, CLPG or many of the new avenues) if I may call it for a lack of better work. We also need to realize is that every new place has it’s own gradual process of growing and has certain priorities when it starts. I have heard multiple times from people that in terms of activity or awareness about issues there was not a lot the college had to offer and the batches passed out have not done enough. What people do not understand are the battles and challenges that those people went through. No one on this campus including any member of the faculty can truly realise what it means to be very first batch of an institution. As we have said in the past, unlike many of you, we were mostly a bunch of CLAT rejects and from that to now when people leave top law schools to be here, there is a lot of work that has gone in.
When the University started it was important at that point to build the credibility for the University and as unfortunate as it is, moots and debates are the fastest in that regard. A lot of the subsequent students joined this University because of that. Potential students do not remember that the first Legal Services Committee of the University got a prisoner released from Tihar or the wonderful work done by Aaghaz. What they do remember that college won DM Harish or won Jessup National Rounds 3 years in a row. Even today, most of the people who are here or will come here unfortunately will not come because there’s an INSAAF or are all these other research avenues, but they will because college has done quite well at moots and debates and the placements. It may be a bit insensitive but it become a bit difficult to do a lot of these things when you do not have regular water or Internet for a year or a hostel for a year and half. One of the reasons it is comparatively easier to take part in all these initiatives is because the first few batches made sure that the subsequent ones do not have to considerably worry about recruitments or things like basic infrastructure and comfort. As an interesting fact, which a lot of you may not know, the majority of the first two batches of University boycotted a moot being organized by the University on its campus, or that in both 2009 and 2010, members of the faculty, including some very senior ones, were replaced because the students wanted that. There are numerous such instances.
14. What advice would you give to the current students?
Enjoy these five years; trust me when I say they will not come back. It is absolutely okay if you do not do an internship, do not know what you want to do at the end of your third year or have no job at the end of fourth. Spend time with friends, travel, read, watch stuff, spend a night at the metro station or on one of the terraces, drink (I do not think I am allowed to say the last two things), explore the place, make mistakes, at times do and talk about pointless fun things (actually do this mostly), unwind and enjoy.
Since the time I had my hostel room in the office that I work from, I have been a hopeless lover (too mushy!) of this place. I have had the most amazing five years of my life here. The place grooms you and gives you an identity. It gives you enough opportunities to figure out who you are and to do whatever you want. It’s fairly young and can be moulded in whatever way the people here want it to. Let’s make sure we make it a place, which is inclusive of all people, ideologies and narratives, something that everyone can be proud of associating itself with, and most importantly, is fun to be in.