“Anubhav, wake up! It’s 7.45 already. We’ve to run before the library opens. Remember? Law of torts!”.
This is the second-worst way to wake up someone who’s peacefully breathing at least in sleep. But Vaibhav doesn’t give a damn. I’ve been his roommate since the day we stepped into this law school. He is that front-bench student whom you find often on a corner table of the library indulged in books. Oh, right! I told you the second-worst way to wake up someone. The first is when your roommate keeps the alarm on even on a Sunday morning and ruins your precious Sunday morning sleep.
Anyway, back to our story. I woke up, brushed my teeth, changed my clothes (no time to shower now), and went to the mess to eat that boring khichdi. Thereafter we ran and reached the library 5 minutes before the opening time.
“Are you happy now, Vaibhu?” I asked.
“Yes. Let’s get the books as soon as they open the doors and go to the class,” said Vaibhav. I can sense the relief on his face. The doors opened and we walk straight to the rows where the law of torts books are kept.
“Novice moot, huh?” a familiar voice reached us all of a sudden. It’s our senior from 3rd year.
“Yes, bhayya. The demand for the law of torts books is very high. Yesterday, when we came to the library after the induction session, we saw people who were already taking the books. But we couldn’t take them as it was almost the library’s closing time. So we rushed in today,” said Vaibhav with a little anxious tone.
“I know, I know. So, have you guys read the problem?” asked our senior.
There are many problems with this one problem, I must say. It’s our first time making a moot memorial and we know very little about all of this. In our induction session, we were told many rules and regulations of the competition and the memorial’s importance. We jotted down. The competition was in one month.
“Yes, bhayya. We read the problem yesterday,” I said.
“Yesterday? Haha. You guys must read the problem as many times as you can. And don’t forget to highlight the relevant facts,” said our senior.
Vaibhav gave me his signature look. That anxious nerdy look with his eyes opened wide tells everything that goes through his mind at the moment. I nodded.
“Bhayya, could you please help us with the memorial? We will come to your room whenever it’s comfortable for you. Please help us,” asked Vaibhav.
“In the library, 5.00 pm,” said our senior and walked away with a grin on his face.
After the classes, we finished our lunch and went straight to the room. My mom, as usual, called me. “Have you had lunch, Anubhav?” the same routine question.
“Yes, maa. Have you had?” I asked.
“Yes, yes. I talked to our regular tailor about your white shirt and trousers. And about that coat…,”
“Maa, yaar, please. I’ll go with my friends and buy the shirt and trousers here. Please don’t get them stitched by him,” I interrupted.
“No. Don’t buy the ready-made clothes and complain after they get torn. Clothes will have durability when we get them stitched by our regular tailor. And your coat…”
“Maa, it’s not a coat. It’s called a blazer. Please let me buy that, at least. Don’t get it stitched by that tailor,” I requested. You see, the problem is not with the tailor, but my mom. She always gets my clothes oversized so that they’ll be durable when I grow up. She does this even now when I’m 18.
“Coat or blazer, whatever. You never listen to me, anyway. Talk to your dad before you buy it and decide the brand or whatever,” I can feel the resentment in her voice. But I know that I could convince her.
At 5 PM, we handed over the hard copy of our moot problem to our senior. He read it twice and started highlighting some of the lines. “Get me the CPC book from the third row,” he asked. I got the book. He read the sections and started explaining to us.
“You guys have to challenge the jurisdiction if you are arguing on behalf of the respondent. So, go through Section 9,” he said. Vaibhav and I exchanged glances.
“Let me explain. So, in this problem the respondent…,” he pointed out every minute detail in the given problem and then made us think how we’d defend them on the one hand, and counter them on the other hand.
“When you take up an issue, you start convincing yourself automatically that you are arguing on behalf of the petitioner and start searching for the relevant legal provisions and case laws that support your issue. But once you put all of that in the petitioner’s memorial and sit for defending the respondent, you might go blank at some point.
So, when you read a legal provision that supports your petitioner, keep in mind that it’s only a half-done work. Jot it down, open another tab or book and start searching for another legal provision or a case law that might help your respondent to counter it. This way, you wouldn’t go blank while making two opposing arguments,” explained our senior.
All of this information took time to get settled in our brains. I don’t know about Vaibhav, but I felt like my brain would explode by the time I enter the moot courtroom. I’m not exaggerating. The competition was just 20 days away. Vaibhav and I worked on the memorial for the first seven days. Our senior reviewed it and suggested some changes. For the later 8 days, we focused purely on oral arguments.
Remembering the formal phrases like “Much obliged”, “May it please the court” “Counsel seeks permission” etc. felt like mugging up the dialogues from a courtroom drama script. But the arguments and our preparation were nothing similar to what I watched in the movies. Our senior said, “These formal phrases are like cherries on the cake. They add value to your mannerism and argument, of course. Remember, when you have to differ with the bench, do not use the word ‘no’. Instead, use the phrase “I beg to differ”. Be formal and decent, but don’t overdo it.”
Well, I was confident until yesterday. I don’t know what’s wrong with my stupid mind, it’s frequently reminding me of the moot court hall and the podium. But I was trying my best to get diverted. Vaibhav and I reached the waiting hall. With around 24 teams and their chit-chats, the waiting hall looked baffled. We made ourselves comfortable in one corner of the room. There’s one team sitting beside us discussing those cherries on the cake (formal phrases).
“If I don’t know the answer to the question they ask, what shall I say?” asked one teammate.
“Say- pardon my ignorance,” said his fellow teammate.
Vaibhav and I exchanged glances and smiled. While practising the oral arguments, Vaibhav failed to answer a question posed by our senior. He advised us to say something like- “I’m unable to fully answer the question at this moment. I’d be happy to submit a supplemental brief..” instead of saying negative statements. Vaibhav gave me a look that said “We’re gonna win.” Yet, somewhere in my mind, I still was nervous.
It’s our turn now. It’s our first time entering the moot court hall. We bowed to the bench as instructed to us during the induction session and settled in our allotted seats. We were told to represent the respondent in the given problem. Speaker 1 of our opposition team started his arguments. For our team, I was the 1st speaker. Thousands of thoughts started hitting my mind, including irrelevant folk songs. True, I don’t even know the reason. Maybe I’m too nervous.
“Anubhav! Why is our memorial blue? We’re representing the respondent, right?” It felt like my heart touched the ground and bounced back.
“What?” I checked the copy that we have with us. We’ve screwed up. I accidentally stapled the red cover page to the petitioner memorial and blue to the respondent memorial. However, we submitted both of them to the Mooting committee without cross-checking. We’re going to lose marks for this. Now it’s my turn to speak.
I stood near the podium. “May it please the court, I represent the respondent…” I started.
“Oh, do you, counsel? But this cover page is in blue. Please explain this,” interrupted the bench.
My hands started trembling. I took a pause and said, “pardon my blunder, your lordship.” There, there it is, the negative word already!
“Please proceed with your argument,” said the bench. I started with 1st issue. My mind was half-filled with anxiety and tension. I was interrupted to answer a question posed by the bench. I started recollecting all those formal phrases. I looked at Vaibhav. He’s seriously writing something on a paper to pass it to me through the court officers. Meanwhile, I tried to answer.
“Could you explain, counsel?” asked the bench. Now my mind started going blank.
“Sorry… Pardon my sorr… Pardon… my ignorance, your lordship!”
Why have I said this? I should’ve covered it up with some other point. I should have said it positively. What’s wrong with me? I should have at least waited till I receive the note from Vaibhav.
Read Part 2 here.
Note: This is a fictional story written by the author.