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 One here)
(You can find Part Three here)
(Kaushik) Leading an organization has in itself major challenges, and immense strains involved. What factors are something you always need to keep an eye on? Could you tell us a bit about how your organization progresses, and how the structure is? Also, any fun instances with your team while working on developing this idea?
(Samiksha) When you are running a content-based website, you need to be watchful of the content you are serving the people to consume. It has to be original it has to be checked for plagiarism, and there needs to be a check so that student taking shortcuts in order to get publications on their CV is not present. Students also know to make some tweaks to go around the plagiarism detecting software so we had to run certain submissions through three or four different software’s in order to catch hidden plagiarism, that is what we as a content developing website have to be very watchful of. Secondly, there is obviously time constraints, as students are working with us, working professionals are working with us, and it is a part time job for most of the persons associated with the website. So, we have to ensure that we have maximum productivity with minimum effort.
The second part of the question is about the structure of the organisation. So, it is a three-tiered structure. The core team consists of the Founder and the Co-Founders, which is me and three other people. At the second level we have our content managers, they have been contributing material for the website and lately have been involved with the editing work and checking the quality of the material that we publish. The third tier is of our interns. We take interns as per our capacity and as per the availability of time from my end due to the mentorship program. So, our interns do all the writing work. Those are the three tiers. After that whatever is left is filled by the guest publications/submissions that we receive.
Now on the third part, there were no such instances while developing the idea but once the website was up and running and we had a look at the page about our team we realised that in the entire core team we had a 1:3 ratio of lawyers to engineers running a legal website. I am the only lawyer amidst three other engineers in the core team to run a website whose heart and soul is law. I find it very funny as to how the engineers are pulling off all the work we are doing but apparently they have been very good at it!
(Kaushik) Leagle Samiksha has an internship programme for students pursuing law. Could you tell us a bit more about this programme, its application process and some insightful experiences you’ve had with your interns?
(Samiksha) The internship programme is a one-month long programme for the law students where we make them primarily do two kinds of activities. One is a research-based activity where we ask the interns to write two articles of about 1200 words each on a recent topic pertaining to child rights specifically or human rights broadly. The second activity encourages them to read the bare acts and to come up with questions for the forum discussions. It requires them to have nuanced insights in interpreting the statutes. We do not needlessly indulge law students in activities of being campus ambassadors or promoting our content on the social media.
The application process is fairly simple. The application form is available in the vacancies page of our website. (You can find that here.) So, students can apply two weeks prior to when they want to intern with us. We usually require a Statement of Purpose (SoP), albeit a short one and a 2-page long Curriculum Vitae (CV) for the selection process. I think it has been very humbling and very enriching for me to have this mentorship programme for the interns, the reason being it has taught me how to teach. We have also received some very valuable suggestions from our interns on how to improve the mentorship programme, what would serve their needs better. Some of the interns have even given us technical suggestions which the tech team has then taken up and implemented, so it has been a win-win situation for both us as well as the interns.
(Kaushik) Talking about internships, while studying in the university our peers and the faculty often encourage us to try as many internships as possible in the five years of the course. Furthermore, placements are also weighing into what internships a student has done over the period of his course. It is highly important then to plan and work on internships, with the correct organisation and on the correct path. Preparing for a career in a law firm and litigation have differing internship trajectories, whereas academics or research have their own requirements in internships. What are your thoughts on internships, their value, and the necessity in doing internships and choosing the correct internships based on your career plans?
(Samiksha) I believe internships are a very feasible option in order to find out what works the best for you. I am a firm believer of the fact that someone else’s experience should not define your opinion of any area of legal practice. So, I think it is a good strategy to have all your internships in five years divided into two phases. One of exploration and the other of streamlining. So, for the first three to four years I always encourage the students to do as many diverse internships as possible. Internships are usually four weeks or eight weeks long. If you like something you can of course go back to it, if you don’t like something you can bear with it for four weeks and then you can move on to the next best or the next most interesting thing, So, during the exploration phase every student should try all the different kinds of avenues that legal practice offers at least once, in order to really find out what they feel about that area of practice. Then in the final years or senior years of your law school you can always start streamlining your internships aligning with your career plans. So, if you want to chalk out a career in a corporate firm, you can always go back to that one internship that you really liked to gain a Pre-Placement Offer (PPO) or if you want to build a career in teaching or research then by the final year of your law college, you can become a teaching assistant or a research assistant to your professors either here or abroad, or you can join some think-tanks etc., for research work. So those would be the things to do in the streamlining phase in the later years of your law school once you have tried and tested everything and found out what really works out the best for you.
(Kaushik) You have a keen focus on various human rights and child rights issues, and aspects of International law. With a background of many publications in these fields too, what do you say first drew your attention towards these fields?
(Samiksha) I was born and brought up in Haryana, so I had a fair idea about how life can be unfair for a lot of people. So, when I was studying human rights law in my coursework, I could easily relate it with things I had seen all around me while growing up. That is where I found myself inclining towards working in human rights in my college. About child rights also, I have a younger sibling at home and when I saw that students from the best of schools in my city were unaware of the things that a child at their age must know, it got me thinking about the ignorance that prevails in child rights issues, and that got me started towards working in that direction as well. So that is how this began from my surroundings and my family.
(Kaushik) Again moving on to the recent events transpiring in the country many human rights issues have come to the forefront, as well as aspects of criminal law in India. One of the most striking incidents being the ‘Hathras Rape’ case and all the questions surrounding the handling of the matter. With a growing number of cases pertaining to sexual assaults and crimes against women in India, what do you think are some of the key insights behind this problem? What do you think can be progressive measures to tackle these problems at large?
(Samiksha) I have mainly three points to make in this regard. Number one would be when we say a growing number of cases, we are referring to the cases which are being reported to the police and other authorities and not the number of actual cases of violence that are taking place against women. So, when you say that the number of reported cases is growing it is not necessarily a bad thing. It is rather progressive in the sense that more women are able to come out freely and able to complain about such acts of violence being perpetrated against them.
Now, secondly, you’ve asked me about key insights behind this problem. I think sexual assaults are a very complex problem and there are many layers to it but primarily there is a problem of power dynamics. Inequality of power between two genders, two religions, two castes, communities, so on and so forth. Another very important reason behind why sexual assaults are happening, is because of the rape culture that is being fed to the society on a platter through the regular media, films, sexist songs, remarks, which romanticise stalking and rape culture. Secondly, there is so much pornographic content easily available over the internet and the internet is so easily accessible in today’s date, that it also feeds the imagination of perpetrators on the wrongful side.
On progressive measures to tackle this problem at large and I would say that it is very important to start right at the beginning. If you start by teaching your child about concepts like bodily anatomy, about consent, and provide them a healthy sexual education at the right age, it would go a long way in tackling the problem. Secondly, I think that the culture of women shaming needs to be stopped. Even in the Hathras rape incident I am unable to comprehend about why all the media persons were sitting day in, day out outside the victim’s house; the dead victims house and nobody dared to go to the parents of the perpetrators, the parents of the accused persons and ask them about what their opinion on the incident was. Once you shift the responsibility from the victim to the perpetrator that would also solve many problems around sexual assaults in this country. A girl does not have the responsibility to not be raped, instead it is the man’s responsibility to not rape.
(Kaushik) Child labour is a critical factor in the labour markets and the world, in terms of the insufficiency of a proper education and lifestyle afforded to children who are forced into these fields. India also is one of the largest countries in the world, which has a huge number of children working as child laborers, and also engaging in other activities, like manual scavenging and rag picking to name a few. India has taken measures to curb the problems in association of child labour. These include implementing laws against children working in dangerous workplaces, like factories. There have also been developments in terms of the Right to Education Act, as well as the Mid-day meal schemes in school. However, there are still instances where we can see these problems occurring, where poverty-stricken children are forced to take these hard life decisions. How do you think all these are interrelated in the legal sphere? What steps do you think should be taken to address the problems which are so clearly identifiable even today?
(Samiksha) Indian education does not enable students to find suitable employment in the market. To address this problem, I would say we need a better education system, that is able to teach skills that the employers need to the students. Secondly, we also need a lot more jobs in the economy. Once, you are done with these two things, that is when you can think of making education a lucrative option for a child whose family is living in poverty. Thinking of somebody who has to struggle, and who constantly has the thought of where they would get the next meal in the day from, how can we expect a child living under such circumstances to even think about getting an education, unless he or she is very very sure that if they get an education they will be able to lead a better life. You should also be able to provide social security to families of this kind, so that they may be incentivised to send their children to schools to get an education.
(Kaushik) On the topic of child rights again, there has been so many incidents with young girls coming into the path of harm, with cases of violence, and sexual assaults regularly reported. There are major changes required in the measures that the government takes and in the proper solutions to be put in place to turn the tide in the growing number of cases. One of the measures taken was the POCSO, act which provided for separate trials and provisions for the protection of a young child in terms of the trial procedure. However, there are various problems highlighted in the implementation of this act as well, with inadequate court infrastructure and procedural departures some of the common problems highlighted. To that tune, what changes do you think the society itself needs to prevent these incidents from happening, and what are the policy and governance changes required to make structural and procedural corrections to handle these situations adjudication, swiftly and properly to protect the child? Furthermore, in relation to the measures like the POCSO, what changes do you think is required and what other developments are required in the legal structure?
(Samiksha) The points you raised about POCSO is in itself very comprehensive and you have pretty much mentioned most of the problematic points that are there. In terms of what the society can do, is that it can simply empower girls. One such avenue is to make self-defence a compulsory subject for all the girls. Equip them well enough so whenever they are faced with danger, they do not have to wait for a saviour and they are sufficiently probable to get themselves out of the dangerous situation.
Now about the legal structure developments that need to be done, to make POCSO more efficient, is I think not that necessary as the procedural corrections can wait, even the infrastructural installations can wait, and the first and foremost requirement is to change the attitude of the people who have to deal with these children. There is a need for sensitivity among the lawyers and the defence lawyers who are dealing with these cases under POCSO. You cannot expect a child to open up to a person who seems very distant from themselves. I think attitudinal changes are the first and foremost requirement in that area.
(You can read the First Part here)
(Continued in 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.
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