Sumeysh Srivastava graduated from Symbiosis Law School in 2013.
With an LLM in Human Rights he worked with the Centre for Social Justice as a Research Associate and dealt with the pro bono cases as head of Nyayika.
Currently he is the Outreach Lead at Nyaaya – the first non-profit online source of laws, based in Delhi.
1. Tell us about yourself and what made you choose law?
I grew up in Delhi, but surprisingly don’t like the city too much. Pune remains the place for me. I finished my BA.LLB from Symbiosis in 2013 and immediately followed up on an LLM in Human Rights from Symbiosis only.
I chose law, because in school I always liked social sciences. I felt law would be a natural continuation of that. My father is a lawyer by qualification, and his stories about the law and lawyers always fascinated me.
Also, I was really bad in maths in school and wanted to go in a profession where mathematics skills were a minimum requirement!
2. How was law school at Symbiosis? What activities were you involved in?
Symbiosis was a beautiful experience. I could write a whole book on it. When I compare it to the experience of law school as I have heard from my friends and colleagues in National Law Schools, the biggest difference for us at Symbiosis was the freedom to make mistakes and follow your interests.
If you were someone who was passionate about academic excellence, SLS gave you full freedom to pursue that. But we also had a lot of space and encouragement to look at other things.
If someone in their 3rd year realized that maybe law wasn’t for them and they maybe want to become a footballer or a theatre actor, Symbiosis gives you the freedom to pursue that.
During my 3rd year, I was involved in an NGO called Wake-Up Pune for almost a year. I really enjoyed the experience and could pursue it because of the freedom granted to me. I was also quite regularly involved in outdoor publicity for our college fest!
3. What inspired you to pursue an Indian L.L.M in Human Rights?
My reasons may not sound that impressive or academic oriented. First and foremost, the thought of leaving Pune, even after 5 years was a depressing one and the opportunity to spend one more year was something I was overjoyed about.
Secondly, Human Rights isn’t really a sector where you can say with certainty that you will be making a decent amount of money in your work.
The cost of an LLM abroad was prohibitive for me because I was unsure about being able to earn enough later on to justify it. Lastly, I want to make a difference to Indian society, to contribute in protecting human rights in India.
Felt it would be more useful to do a course over here.
4. You took the lesser travelled path after Law when you took up social work. What made you take that decision? Can you tell us about the challenges you faced after this decision?
My experience of working with Wake-up Pune was something I carried forward with me. After graduation, I worked with a leading law firm for two months. However, I was dissatisfied with the kind of work I was doing.
I wanted to do something which would have much more of a direct impact on the lives of people and specifically women. My main interest in human rights was in working on issues related to Violence against women.
Once I realized that I wasn’t enjoying my work in a law firm I started to seriously consider taking up human rights as a career option and which is why I subsequently decided to do an LLM in that.
For anyone else who faces a similar dilemma, while you would never be able to make as much money in the financial sector, the work satisfaction and enjoyment is top-notch!
5. Tell us what your work at Centre for Social Justice entailed? How has it been working for Nyaaya the first non-profit online source of laws?
For a city boy like me, whose knowledge of the law was based on what I had read in books, journals and reports, the experience in CSJ was amazing.
I worked as a legal researcher and supported the work going on in different field centres. The centres were located in rural areas and worked in providing legal aid to people from vulnerable communities.
My role was to provide them research and training support, as well to document their work and see if something more long-term could come out of. [Read about Nyayika here].
Overall, it helped me understand the realities of how the lived experiences of people can affect how the law is implemented at the grassroots.
Nyaaya has been a fun experience. The Idea itself is so beautiful, and the opportunity to engage with something in its inception has been wonderful.
My work has mostly involved making sure people are hearing about Nyaaya, trying to understand how Nyaaya can be made more useful, and making Nyaaya available for as many people as possible. It’s been something I have enjoyed doing immensely. [Read about Nyaaya here].
6. What do you have up your cards for the future?
Not very sure. I am very much interested in doing something which has an actual impact on the lives of people. Our actions must have practical social impact, not just academic value.
I have always been interested in academics, and bringing students closer to the socio-political realities of the environment in which the law functions is something which really attracts me.
For now, my focus is on increasing people’s engagement with the law in a positive manner.