Welcome back to the blog where we invite our next guest for our weekly interview series. We have with us today Ms. Samiksha Gupta one of the founders of Leagle Samiksha, a website and platform dedicated to providing mentorship and to providing guidance and skills to young students. Passionate about child rights, human rights and humanitarian law, Ms. Samiksha brings forth a host of pertinent points and relevant factors to the discussion about various fields and topics. Throughout the interview we discuss various intricacies from the point of view of child rights and international law, as well as aspects of law school life, tips and guidance for students to say the least! An engaging and elaborate interview, do read on to learn more!
(You can find Part Two here)
(You can find Part Three here)
(Kaushik) Hello and welcome to the interview Samiksha, glad to have you with us for the next edition, of ‘In-Conversation’. Could you tell us a bit about yourself, and about what you do?
(Samiksha) Hello Kaushik, thank you for having me for your series. So, I completed my under-graduation from Symbiosis Law School, Pune shortly afterwards I began my own website, by the name of ‘Leagle Samiksha’. (You can find the website here.) The website is an attempt from my side to be vocal about child rights. It also helps me be in regular touch with law students and help them navigate their law school life in general. Apart from this, I help law colleges to establish their human rights cells, and establish their community legal aid centres. That’s all there is about my professional background!
(Kaushik) Thank you. With a backdrop of the various news, and events including those passing in the legal fraternity, it becomes pertinent to start by asking your views on some of these issues. Recently, we saw the completion of the CLAT-2020 examination and many other law entrance examinations for participating in a law degree. In light of the situation presented by COVID the operation and conduct of the committee in conducting the CLAT was deeply scrutinised. What are your views on the conduct of the law entrance examinations in India? Were they a fair play for all the thousands of students appearing for them, and how do you see the current pandemic situation affecting the examination?
(Samiksha) The pandemic is an unprecedented time. The government, college administrations, and even the parents of the students have not seen anything like this in their lifetime ever before. Therefore, everyone is very unprepared to deal with something which has brought the life’s and the economy to a standstill. As a result, the entrance exams were also very chaotic and as it is among all the students appearing for the entrance exams there are disparities in the form of accessibility to resources, access to quality coaching and access to resources, etc. This has further been deepened in the atmosphere and amidst the whole background of the pandemic because a lot of students have had problems with access to the internet, or being able to access transportation facilities. Some of the students who are staying in containment zones have not been able to travel to examination locations. So, it is definitely unfair to these students. I believe that the entire arrangement of conducting the law entrance examinations has been extremely chaotic and has caused a lot of mayhem.
(Kaushik) Many aspirants were unable to prepare well for their exams and there were also many other issues relating to the COVID 19 pandemic which the students had to steer around. What suggestions would you give students who maybe would not have performed to their expectations and are not getting into the colleges that they want to? What conflicts and integrative factors do you think a student should make behind deciding the right university for them, and the decisions between joining a private or state funded university?
(Samiksha) Not getting into your college of choice is not the end of the world. You would be realising that it is okay at the end of the day when you are a few years down in the profession and your law school remains just an institute that could have given you a legally valid degree. What you make out of your law school experience is entirely up to you. So, that’s completely fine, and if getting into that particular college which you really wanted meant so much to you then you can always take the exam again. So that is my suggestion to the students who have not performed as well as they had expected to perform this time.
On the second question, there are two different aspects to it. One is the availability of financial resources, where I personally feel that it is not a great decision financially to take a heavy bank loan before even starting a career. That is not a sound financial decision to make for me. So, if financial resources are a limitation then please see which college fits into your budget. Now, secondly, it also depends on what you have in mind about your career. What do you want to do after your five years in law school? If you want to go for the judiciary it doesn’t really matter which college you are appearing for your examination from. If you are planning to go into corporate firms, then some of the top NLU’s and some of the top private universities definitely offer more exposure in terms of internships and opportunities in contrast to what is offered by the lower ranking NLU’s or private universities. If for example you want to go ahead with an education abroad, like a LL.M. from outside of India then I have seen that the evaluators have a slight bias towards state funded universities, and they tend to prefer students from these universities. These are some of the things that one should take into mind, however that being said and I am repeating myself here, that the college can only serve as a launchpad for you. How high of a jump you want to take or are able to take is completely dependent on your calibre.
(Kaushik) In engineering a popular culture, is students being sent to institute rich cities (like Kota), or other institutes focused on preparing children to appear for competitive exams like JEE and MHCET. Whereas, there is now a growing competition when it comes to institutes of law and the entrances for gaining admission into these universities. How do you think the children are affected by these practices? Do you think it is worthwhile for the students to pursue these options, in studying in these coaching institutes and taking a drop year?
(Samiksha) About coaching institutes, I would say that for law entrance exams it is important that you have guidance. Now this guidance can come from any form. It can be through your parents, it can be through your elder siblings, it can be through your seniors, it can be from your friends, or in any other way. Speaking about myself, my father helped me grasp a few tricks of quantitative aptitude and logical reasoning and even a tad bit of legal reasoning as well. So, you do require some kind of guidance but it does not necessarily have to come from a coaching institute. Even if it comes from a coaching institute it is not bad. Speaking about a drop year; I think we need to normalise the concept of taking a drop year. As is, the task of taking the twelfth standard board exams is a daunting process for an Indian student because of the enormous pressure created by society, Indian parents, by teachers in the school and so on. It is okay if the students are not able to multitask and prepare for two different things side by side in the span of one year itself. I like to see drop year as a year invested into my career growth than a year wasted by sitting idle at home. So, we need to normalise the concept of dropping a year as well. If someone’s pace allows them to focus on just one thing and be good at that, then it is completely okay to focus on just that one thing and do well in that and take up the next thing in the following year.
(Kaushik) There is often a lot of pressure from peers and family members, when a drop year is taken for preparation, or even during the later stages of school, to force the child to study and clear these competitive exams. Somewhat, in practice, these affect as either inhibiting or stemming factors in children, wherein they can either work fruitfully or cause mental harm to the child. Many reports of suicides are seen across media channels, and other news outlets. These numbers seem to be growing. What are your thoughts on these issues, and where do you think solutions to these problems lie?
(Samiksha) I think that it is a very very valid, prevalent and pertinent problem amongst the students taking a drop year. To the students I have to say that they find a lot more time at their disposal during a drop year so it is only a natural thing for the mind to think and overthink in various directions. From personal experience, I can say that Yoga and Meditation came in very handy in order to combat problems of overthinking and negativity. I would also suggest that they do not see these exams as the utmost end goal of their life, they are just an exam at the end of the day. Have other hobbies, indulge in some sort of a creative outlet, or some sort of an activity that lets you get rid of your stress and that rejuvenates you when you are preparing, because you cannot sit and study for 24*7 hours and for 365 days. Keep a healthy routine, take care of your body and treat this as a normal exam. Do not take it into your head too much.
For the parents I have to say that they need to stop comparing their children unhealthily with their friends, their neighbours and with their classmates. They need to understand that education, career, etc, is only one aspect of their life and not the entire life of a child. Each child is unique, each child has their own individuality. If the parents will not accept, then how will the child or the society be able to accept the uniqueness of each child. Children and parents both need to remember that every result is achieved at the best level, only when the work is done in a stress-free environment. Treat it like another exam, have other hobbies, do not give up on everything else that fetches you joy and peace in life because of only one exam.
(Kaushik) You pursued your integrated law degree from Symbiosis Law School, Pune, one of the most sought-after private institutions for its law degree. What was your experience appearing for CLAT and the other entrance examinations? What made you choose Symbiosis Law School, Pune as your partner in your law school journey?
(Samiksha) I appeared for four entrance exams in 2015, that was the same year that I appeared for my board exams as well. For CLAT I ranked somewhere around 1600. I failed miserably for the AILET for entrance to NLU Delhi, and I don’t even remember the rank. For LSAT I made it through a few private colleges like Jindal and Nirma and for Symbiosis Law Entrance Test (SLET) I made it through the cut-off number for both SLS-Pune and SLS-Noida, and appeared for both the interviews. I got through the list for both the colleges. The reason that I finalised SLS-Pune was that I knew that through CLAT I was to get some of the lower ranking NLUs and the NLU tag didn’t matter much to me because I had a very clear thing in my mind, that the law college would be only as much a help to me, as I wanted to derive out of my experience there. One very important pull factor for SLS-Pune at that time, was the charisma of Late Mr. Ram Jethmalani. He used to be the Professor Emeritus for SLS-Pune and I was very excited to listen to him and hear him speak to us. Other than that, on a personal front I had heard a lot about the city of Pune and I wanted to have an experience of an independent life far from home so that I could develop my life skills as well, which is why I ended up finalising SLS-Pune.
(Kaushik) An integrated law degree is a five-year commitment and definitely a lot of avenues are there to pursue and deciding the right choices, and figuring out the intricacies of the field itself is a challenge. After joining your university, what has your experience been like in the five years that you were there?
(Samiksha) I would say that my under-graduation journey has been a lot of experimentation. Before joining the law school, I wanted to sit for the judicial services examination, but I remember before the beginning of my third semester, when I actually did a judicial internship, I realised that the work was very different from what I had expected it to be. So, I figured, I was maybe not cut out for the judiciary, that was when I became a bit more open to experimenting. I studied Public International Law during my third year and I really liked the subject. Some of my internships with the government offices right from my own district to central government ministries solidified my interest in human rights law as well. Just to have a flavour of the other facets of law, like the corporate side of law and the litigation side of law I interned with some advocates and I also interned with one corporate office. I wanted to take a very natural course in finding what really clicks with me and what I am really genuinely good at. By the end of somewhere around my eighth or ninth semester I was very clear in my mind that International humanitarian law and International human rights law is what interests me. I also really like to study, therefore, going ahead with a master’s degree and finding a career in teaching and research seemed like a natural and obvious option. So, that is how through a lot of experimentation and going around and changing various courses I was finally able to figure out what it is that really works the best for me.
(Kaushik) After graduation, you founded your platform ‘Leagle Samiksha’, what was the idea and reason behind you starting this initiative? Also, could you tell us more about the platform, its aims and the areas at which it works?
(Samiksha) The short answer to this is that we have a lot of Indian blogs that talk about specific Indian laws. Not many Indian blogs however talk about the topic of child rights. I believe that Child rights is a very important topic as children are one of the most vulnerable sections of our society for the simple reason that it is very hard for them to find a voice or a platform to put forth their grievances or their problems. So, the reason behind starting this initiative was to be vocal in this area. The aim was to spread sensitivity around child rights, both amongst parents and the legal fraternity and the area at which we work has now diversified a little more into even aspects of human rights like civil rights, and gender equality, etc. The other feature of the website which is the forum, was to encourage law students and our interns to particularly engage in conversations regarding the bare acts. I believe as a law student it is very important to get into the habit of reading the bare act which is the real law from a very early age, hence the forum. So those are the two things, child rights and the habit of reading the bare act that Leagle Samiksha works for.
(Kaushik) Being a young organisation, you have still progressed to great heights in the past months. What are some of the main attributes would you highlight being behind your platform’s growth?
(Samiksha) Thank you for saying that, I think the main reason has been the unique internship experience that we provide to the students. As a law student during my internships, I always yearned for an experience where I could also get guidance and learn from my seniors and mentors instead of just doing mechanical clerical jobs for them. Which is why which I was designing a mentorship programme for our interns, which has been very popular with the students who have stayed with us I planned to incorporate these elements. I think the word of mouth has spread because of the internship programme mainly and that has been the single most important factor behind the growth of our platform along with the fact that we tried to keep the quality of the content that we publish up to the mark and we try to publish articles which provide original analysis of our interns.
(You can find Part Two here)
(You can find Part Three here)
You can find details about Ms. Samiksha Gupta and her website Leagle Samiksha here:
You can visit Leagle Samiksha here.
You can find Ms. Samiksha on LinkedIn here.
Interviewed by: Kaushik Das
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