Interview: Winners of South Asia Rounds, Price Media Moot Court Competition [NLU Jodhpur]

The NLU Jodhpur comprising Sanjana Srikumar,Rohan Tigadi [Speakers] and Sagar Gupta [Researcher] under the able leadership of team coach Vinay Panikkar won the South Asia rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition 2015 held at NLU, Delhi between November 20-23, 2014. Read on for an extensive take on this prestigious media law moot court competition and how the team went about preparing for the win!

1. Hey guys, congratulations on your victory! Basic questions first, what made you choose the moot in the first place? 

Rohan: I have an interest in constitutional law. This moot enabled me to explore the contours of the Moot further. Sanjana seeks to pursue a career in human rights law and hence she was interested in taking up the moot.

Sanjana:  I think the human rights aspect really excited me. I also liked how the moot balances another right against free speech- such as privacy in last year’s problem, forcing you to recognize that free speech must have its limits.

Most of all, Oxford’s association with the moot and reassurances about the quality of judging by previous years’ participants convinced me to take this moot.

Sagar: The Price Media Law Moot Court Programme is one of the most prestigious moot court competitions. The framework of media law is upcoming with a lot of interesting and unsettled points of law.

Therefore,  thought it would be exciting to research and think about the various problems in the area of free speech. Also, the idea of a fictitious court relying on authorities across jurisdictions provided an intriguing background to the moot.

2. How was the process of preparation? How did you go about the entire stage? 

Rohan: We were allocated the moot way back in February. Vinayak Panikkar, our coach took a number of tests on international law, freedom of expression and various other topics to hone our skills before the problem was out.

We also spoke to Harshad Pathak, (Oxford Media Moot Winner 2012-13) who guided us during our written submissions. Apart from that, we consistently work hard from the moment the problem was out.

Sanjana: As Rohan already said, we started reading up quite some time back. I think we managed to pace ourselves well, so we weren’t exhausted by the time the problem came out.

I think one effective strategy that our coach, Vinayak introduced was to make sure we didn’t discuss the problem till we individually made draft issue structures. This ensured a wide range of perspectives. Similarly, till we submitted the first draft, discussion was minimal with respect to an issue that we had split sides for.

After that, we checked if we could answer the other side’s concerns. From this point onwards, with a structure in place, we would frequently brainstorm, and send each other good materials we found. This way,  we made sure that the need for frequent communication did not narrow down the initial structure.

Sagar: We were allotted the moot in February 2014. From then till July, we acquainted ourselves with basic concepts of international law and media law.

After the release of the problem, we brainstormed on it for about 10 days to figure out our issue structure. Post-finalization, we submitted three drafts for revision and updation. Through the last leg, special attention was paid to the formatting and footnoting.

3. How was it like working with the team? What do you think are your team’s fortes? What were the roadblocks? 

Rohan: This is one of the best teams that I have worked with. One of the fortes of this team is the wealth of experience that the members of the team have in terms of mooting by doing well in moots such as Stetson, Vis, NLS Arbitration etc.

So, oral pleadings and drafting was never a problem. We only needed to acquaint ourselves with the subject matter of the moot. The only roadblock was the lack of resources on media law. We made up for it by making frequent trips to ISIL.

Sanjana: I think I enjoyed that the team worked together. A lot of people enjoy working separately and taking complete responsibility for their issues.

However, I enjoy teams that communicate often. We would constantly keep brainstorming, and spend a lot of time discussing each others’ arguments.  We also thoroughly checked each others’ drafts before sending them to our coach.

The biggest roadblock was the problem itself. The issues were overlapping to a great extent and we didn’t want the memos to sound repetitive,  though it’s been acceptable in the moot in the past.

We debated the structure for a long time before coming up with one that allowed us to present a wide range of arguments within the word limit.

Sagar: It was a brilliant experience working with the team. Our team’s forte was clearly depth in research and analysis. I think we were able to delve into questions of law and fact and the discussions that ensued were insightful.

On a personal level, a roadblock was maintaining deadlines. With such a rigorous academic schedule, it became quite a challenge to keep up the pace and quality. All in all, we managed quite well!

4. How many teams were you up against in the competition? Which team would you consider to be your toughest competition? 

Rohan: I am not aware of the exact number of teams that participate in the moot as there is a memorial shortlisting round. However, only top 16 teams get to argue. We went up against Lahore University of Management, GLC Mumbai, NUJS, NLU-O, Symbiosis, NLU-D and NALSAR. I thought that the team from NLU-D was the best team that we went up against!

Sanjana: I agree with Rohan. Especially because NLU Delhi had an amazing memorial, so we knew we wouldn’t enjoy the immunity of memo points unlike the preliminary rounds. It was also our last roadblock to qualification. So, we were quite nervous.

Sagar: We were up against four teams in the preliminary round and one each in the quarter-finals,  semi-finals and finals. I thought, that NLU Delhi, our semi-finals competitor was our toughest competition.

5. How was the final round up against NALSAR, Hyderabad? 

Sanjana: I loved that it was a no- pressure round so we could really just enjoy ourselves. A lot of people on the Judges Panel were people I really looked upto. So, I just saw it as an opportunity to interact with them.

I must also mention that the entire moot was very well- organized and the quality of judging was impeccable.

Sagar: I think the idea of arguing before a 5-judge bench is a daunting one. They were tough competition. The questions from the judges were very pointed and were challenging. As a researcher, I was particularly nervous.

6. What message would you like to pass on to the mooters and the non-mooters?

Rohan: Whatever you do, enjoy! We were able to win Price because we enjoyed it!

Sanjana: NLU Jodhpur is obsessed with mooting. Ideally, I should recognize that mooting is overrated. However, I honestly don’t agree. I think it really justifies the obsession.

For me, it’s been the best way to learn an area of law as it forces you to examine both facets of a debate. I think in college,   it’s important to find the space – even if it’s not mooting- that challenges you.

Sagar: To the mooters, please work diligently on your moots. Hard work always pays. To the non-mooters, don’t go through law school without mooting. Try it at least once before stopping.

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L to R: Rohan, Sanjana, Sagar and Vinay

A special Interview with their coach, Vinayak Panikkar:

1. How did you go about coaching the team?

a. Brainstorming on the problem and coming up with a reasonable structure to the issues and argument.

b. Periodic review of progress and checking of drafting, style of writing, arguments etc.

c. Guiding in and fine tuning oral advocacy, and taking speaking practice sessions.

2. Tell us about your achievements.

a. Runner up at the World Rounds of the 18th Stetson International Environment Moot Court completion, along with Runner up memorial citation, Best speaker in the Final round award and 3rd Best speaker overall award. ( 2014)

b. Winner of the India North Rounds of the 18th Stetson IEMCC in 2013

c. Semi Finalist at the Price Media Law Moot Court Completion (South Asia Round) in 2012.

3. Your advice to other mooters.

Always focus on drafting the best memorial possible. A good memo always helps in winning rounds.

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