Interview with the Winning SLS Pune Team of The NLU Antitrust Law Moot Competition 2014

Neeati Narayan interviewed the SLS Pune team comprising Gayatri Pradhan, Mahwash Fatima and Risha Sharma who won the National Anti-Trust Competition organised by NLU Jodhpur in association with Amarchand, Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff.

The moot was based on anti-trust laws and is a very popular moot court competition.

Their final rounds were against NLU Delhi and in total, 42 teams participated in the event. Read on for a detailed interview which will help you gear up for similar moots.

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

G: Thanks Neeati! I’ve been interested in competition law ever since my first moot (which was also based on the same) so this one was definitely one to die for.  After all, it was THE Anti-trust Moot.

Competition law is not something taught in law school and hence, delving into a relatively new field of law was particularly exciting since certain aspects of combination exemptions are still being formulated. And of course, the prestige of the moot and a possibility of an internship also helped!

M: I had read up on Competition Law during my internship and I found it really interesting. When I had to choose a moot, I knew this has to be it! This is the best and the most prestigious Anti Trust Moot Court Competition. I knew doing a moot in an area of law which interests you will make the work even more interesting and it won’t be a burden working for the same.

R: Well..it goes without saying that this is one of the prestigious moots. That, coupled with the fact that the all three of us shared a good rapport with one another was kind of the deciding factor for me.

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

G: The problem was beautifully drafted with enough loopholes on both sides. Like any other moot, the preparation started with reading up, lots of reading.

Since the law is so new, it made sense to read up each and every Indian case that has been decided till date and that gave us a lot of insight into how to go about the whole thing.

However, what made this stage slightly challenging was the fact that we needed to delve into the depths of economics before dealing into competition law.

Before applying cases of US and EU, a lot of research was also required into how far our laws our similar, whether the tests for establishing violations remain the same, etc.

It was actually a lot of fun since we came across some hilarious cases like cartelization in the frozen pie (to include meringue, apple pie etc. but not lemon tarts) industry.

The biggest challenge was proving aspects of combination violations that have come about as recently as in 2011. Forget precedents, there are no definitions for certain terms so, it came down to charting a whole new territory.

It was not as if we had to interpret law in our favour-in fact, it literally came down to making laws. So we spoke to a couple of seniors like Saswati Soumya, Shruttima Ehersa and Ameya Mithe as well as people from the industry to test whether our ‘unique’ arguments were making any sense at all. After all, it’s one thing to be new, another to be nonsensical.

Post memo submission, we had a day for practicing pleadings.

Following our college mantra of ‘plead till you bleed’, we were constantly practicing before seniors like Aatash Vasa, Ranjeet Jacob Mathew and Devesh Ratan who made us go around in circles but ultimately gave a lot of insight into what should not be said , since at one point, both of us were contradicting each other.

M: The moot problem was a very well drafted problem. The first thing we did after getting the problem was to read up and clear our basics of Competition Law.

The ambit of Competition Law is very wide and it involves in depth research on certain aspects of economics as well. The problem required us not only to research on Indian Laws but EU, US and UK laws as well. However, instead of making it complicated and difficult, for some strange reason, this made our research more interesting.

We got to know about the lacunae in our laws after reading the international legislations, Like Gayatri said, the Indian Anti Trust Law is very nascent and certain aspects like combinations, hardly have any precedents.

So it was fun coming up with arguments. Every day, the three of us used to sit in one empty classroom, and we would go on scribbling on the white board trying to figure out the possible logical arguments.

At the end of the session, we would run it through our strategists and seniors in college. We could not have moved a step ahead, had it not been for our strategists and seniors.

R: I agree with Gayatri. Apart from the usual to-do’s of mooting, we used to have a lot of brainstorming sessions trying to figure a way around the loopholes and make our arguments as flawless as possible.

We used to sit every day after classes and endlessly discuss the moot proposition, sometimes to the point of wanting to wrench our hair out! Our seniors were a great help, without whom we would have been left groping in the dark.

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

G: Mahwash, Risha and I were constantly coordinating and I think, that’s what helped at the end of the day- I knew my co-speakers’ arguments and she knew mine.

And the researcher knew both. It helped that all of us fought like cats and dogs on every line of logic so that each sub-issue had been okayed by at least 3 people.

Communication and innovativeness were what were our biggest fortes.  And the frequent ice-cream breaks certainly helped!

The only roadblocks were the aforementioned combination regulations, for which we spent nearly 3 weeks and more, on formulating.

It was like shopping in a flea market- we went through dozens of arguments before finally settling on the first one. And the frequent laptop crashes right till the prelims, certainly added to our mini heart attacks.

M: I think I owe it all to the team. In every Moot, the team matters a lot. It either makes or breaks the Moot. For us fortunately, we had an amazing team co-ordination. All three of us worked hard equally and would point it out if someone was going wrong. It was good communication and rapport that did the magic.

R: I think it was also the fact that we were comfortable with each other’s working style and didn’t hold ourselves back when it came to criticism as well. We were aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and complemented each other accordingly. That is very important when working in a team and it worked out quite well for all of us.

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

There were 42 teams competing for the title. Apart from the finals, the quarter finals against NLSIU Bangalore, in which we were the appellants, was a tough competition.

Both speakers were good orators and had an exceedingly convincing manner. Eventually, it was like going up against our own memorial, coupled with an intense grilling session by the judges. What added to the fun, was that judges were using the idea of repealed provisions to counter our arguments.

Collectively we think that the semi-final against NALSAR was definitely the most enjoyable round. They were another good team we went up against.

The rebuttal and sur-rebuttal sessions were hilarious- every person in the court room- be it the judges, court masters, audience and teams themselves- were laughing at one point. It certainly managed to take the edge off the competition.

How was the final round up against NLU DELHI?

G: A very memorable one, to say the least, given that we were pleading in front of Dr Geeta Gouri (CCI member), Mr. John Handoll and Mr. Yaman Verma  and were the respondents against a team with some very strong legal arguments.

They had brought a couple of new things to the table with regard to the DG’s power of investigation and it was especially challenging to deal with those. Since we were going neck-to-neck in almost all our arguments, the rebuttals came down to quoting cases one after the other or different paragraphs from the same one.

One of the definite highlights of the finals (apart from the results) was when Dr. Geeta Gouri said that she would be taking our memorials back to New Delhi. At that point we decided that if we lost, this would be enough of a win.

M: on the day of the finals, when we entered the Auditorium and saw the Bench, all three of looked at each other and smiled. We knew pleading in front of these judges who were experts in Competition Law, was going to be difficult and interesting at the same time.

The final round was the toughest since the arguments of the opponent team (NLU-D) were almost the same as our and it was difficult pleading against the same.

Moreover, the judges were so well versed with all the case laws we were citing that we had to think twice before uttering any sentence.

It was a neck to neck competition and even the judges admitted that it was very difficult judging the round. For us, like Gayatri said, the winning moment was when Ms. Geeta Gouri took our Memorials with her. That, I think will be the most cherished moment in the entire competition.

R: Personally, I feel that the finals of any competition are always memorable, but what made this one all the more special was the fact that Ms. Geeta Gouri took our memorials back with her to the CCI office in Delhi.

All that hard work that we had put into this competition was being appreciated in the best way possible, which was frankly, incredible. 

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

G: We’ve all lost more times than we care to remember, so I think the only thing really that you can say is to mooters is plead till you bleed, try till you succeed. Don’t be hesitant to try unconventional approaches-sure its risky but may earn you more brownie points.

As for all non-mooters out there, you don’t know what you are missing.

The sheer thrill of making every argument as perfect as possible, of finding answers when there are none, of surviving and thriving under intense questioning by judges, of battling it out against tough competitors is something that really can’t be explained. You need to try it out at least once.

In the words of Nike, Just Do It!

M: In my three years at law school, the one thing that I have enjoyed the most is Mooting. The whole process of researching, reading, cracking your brains over new and innovative arguments, debate and discussions with team mates, pleading and getting grilled by the seniors, is just too enthralling.

My message to all the mooters will be that, never give up. Just go on pushing yourself and set a high target for yourself. The basic funda should be that after the Moot is over, there should not be an iota of guilt that you didn’t give your hundred per cent or that there was still room for more hard work.

As for the non-mooters, well I wish I could explain what you are missing. You HAVE TO try it to know what it is. Once you have attempted it, you will never regret it.

R: For the mooters, all I can say is that there is no strait jacket formula to getting things right. You just need to figure it out as you go. As for the non-mooters, guys- NEVER miss out on an opportunity to moot, because it’s the best thing we law students do. It defines us in ways more than one.

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