Somesh Dutta, a final year student of U.P.E.S. Dehradun became the youngest Indian to secure and complete an internship at the International Court of Justice.
Hello Somesh! Tell us something about yourself?
I am Somesh Dutta, a final year student of B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) from University of Petroleum & Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun.
I like travelling and meeting new people from different cultural and professional backgrounds.
Describe your childhood in brief? Your sources of inspiration i.e. your driving forces?
Unlike regular childhood, mine has been sort of adventurous. My passion for cricket made me concentrate just on the game, while neglecting studies in its entirety.
Unfortunately, because of an injury, I had to quit cricket and proceed towards the only and best possible alternative, which was studying law.
Though, being a science student during my higher secondary education, I was always inclined towards socio-economic, socio-legal and socio-political issues.
The prevailing unfavourable circumstances in the Indian society, with regard to rule of law and justice delivery system were my primary motivation behind pursuing legal studies.
How was the law school journey like? Your biggest achievements in law school?
In the initial years of my law school, I realized the appropriateness of the designation ‘advocate’. An advocate, according to me, is a person sufficiently skilled to represent an aggrieved person in a court of law.
The responsibility attached to this authority and skill made me focus on improving my legal acumen. I also realized that practical working in the legal profession is an extension of theoretical knowledge acquired during law school days.
Time spent in the law school has prepared me to effectively address various situations of professional and personal life. I would consider my progress in the ability to analyse a situation from a legal perspective, as my biggest achievement during my college life.
What according to you should be the focus of the law students at law school? How should they shape up their potential career graph?
This is a very subjective question and an answer to this cannot be made generically applicable. But, inter-alia, there are certain inevitable practices that must be followed by a law student.
Firstly, one must develop the habit of considerable amount of reading on a daily basis.
Then, a collaborative approach must be adopted through discussions and exchange of ideas with peers on recent legal developments. This would enable students to form their own opinion on a particular issue.
Moreover, the entire case-law (judgments) must be read on regular basis. This will help improve the analytical skills along with understanding the applicability of legal provisions in real life scenario.
Also, students must focus on adding at least one new thing daily to their treasury of legal awareness. Internships in the final stages of your law school must be carefully chosen. This will have a direct impact on your decision making while shaping your career.
How important is the CGPA (the weightage of academics in most aspects of life)?
I would not ignore or deny the importance of CGPA in most aspects of professional life. Without good academic credentials, it would be challenging to make feel your presence in the early stages of your professional life.
However, I am of the opinion, that a good CGPA is a yardstick to measure one’s sincerity and dedication towards their work.
On the whole, a student must be in a position to justify the compromise in CGPA through active participation in relevant extra-curricular and co-curricular activities (including publishing research work, participation in moots etc.).
Tell us something about the illustrious internship at the International Court of Justice? You are the first Indian undergraduate student to procure this laurel. Please throw some light on the application procedure and the subsequent logistics.
My initial reaction was a feeling of satisfaction. I was happy to learn that my enthusiasm and hard work has been recognised in the form of a well drafted acceptance letter.
The International Court of Justice, popularly termed as the ‘World Court’, is universally known because of its role in upholding the rule of law in the international community and contribution towards the settlement of disputes between/amongst states.
After my initial reaction (which lasted may be for a couple of minutes), I was overwhelmed with the responsibility bestowed on me.
I realized that I must be professional by conduct, as I am not only representing my academic institution but also demonstrating the standard of legal education in the country.
The application procedure is very straight forward. The ICJ website provides for the online application form. After the submission of online application, one has to wait for at least 3-4 months, may be even longer, depending on the circumstances.
If you don’t receive any response from the Court within 8 months of your application, it is considered rejected. E-mails and phone calls are usually not appreciated because of the large volume of applications they receive.
During my internship, I also observed that internship applications are given careful consideration.
In furtherance of the policy of United Nations (ICJ being one of the principal organs of UN), no financial or logistics support is offered to the interns. After the selection, all the arrangements with regard to stay and travel are to be made by the interns themselves.
What were the memorable moments during your internship?
Entering the ‘Peace Palace’ for the first time was really exciting. The architectural beauty of the building was mesmerizing.
I was lucky, in the sense that I got an opportunity to attend the judgment reading in the case of Croatia v. Serbia and the oath ceremony of newly appointed judges of the Court in the ‘Great Hall of Justice’.
During my internship, I also interacted with some of the sitting judges, who were kind enough to spend their valuable time with me, which was a real encouragement.
There is a lot to learn from an internship, but my priority became to inculcate the professional attitude in my working.
What, according to you, is the current status of Indian legal education? Is the thrust misplaced?
The Indian education system, in general, is producing labourers rather than leaders.
The lack of vision is apparent, even in the premier institutions. In legal education, promoting originality in thinking is the need of the hour which can only be achieved through exchange of thoughts rather than a lecture based (one-sided) approach.
The students are usually encouraged to follow a prescribed norm and anything not in line with the same, is usually not entertained. More and more focus has to be given in research and development activities.
Why is international exposure important for a law student? Can this exposure be in terms of internships or conferences or MUNs or summer schools or moots?
There is a profound saying in ‘Sanskrit’ which can roughly be translated into:
Knowledge can be found through four Sources: (1) books/teachers, (2) self-realization, (3) experience (4) Peers/colleagues.
While the first three are independent sources, the fourth one demands collaboration.
Participation in an international event provides you with an opportunity to interact with students and professionals from different legal systems. It is also an opportunity to analyse a particular issue from a different perspective through exchange of ideas.
Various activities, for example MUN’s, summer schools etc. have their own importance. Participation depends on the individual preference, keeping in consideration the future goal.
Your 3 biggest pieces of advice for all the people out there?
1. If you wish to get extraordinary results; prepare yourself to put extraordinary efforts and also get ready to face extraordinary disappointments.
2. “Dream is not the thing you see in sleep but is that thing that doesn’t let you sleep.” ― A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
3. Have a good command on your area of specialization/interest. At the end, nothing, but your knowledge of law would be a true reflection of your personality.
4. And lastly, to strike a balance between professional and personal life, you may follow the mantra of “work hard and party harder”.