INTERVIEW: Tamil Nadu Civil Judge Exam Topper Balaji Sankara Moorthy [Rank 6 in 2018]

A. Congrats on your success! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Thank you very much! I am currently practising law at Chennai. I don’t have much to say about my schooling for I was just an average student or rather below average.

I graduated in law from Dr. Ambedkar Govt. Law College, Chennai. I wouldn’t say it was pre-planned but I landed up in an office which extensively deal with civil matters in both trial courts and the high court at Chennai.

And then on completion of a year I luckily got an opportunity to assist Mr. K. S. Dinakaran, Senior Advocate who is one of the highly lauded eminent criminal trial lawyers in the country with experience of 56 years in criminal law. I assisted him in several trials and appellate briefs for a year until I recently set up my own office.

I cleared the Civil Judge Examination conducted by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission for the years 2014-15 to 2017-18, which was conducted in 2018. I secured an overall 6th rank and highest mark in the interview.

B. What made you choose judiciary as a career option?

Almost every lawyer desires to become a judge not only because it is a big leap in his career but also due to the respect and esteem attached to judicial chair.

But in my case, I just wanted to try my hand in the State Judicial Service examination to know where I stand insofar as my legal skills were concerned after putting in two years of practice and that was why I decided to give the exam.

C. What’s the pattern of the Tamil Nadu Civil Judge exam?

The new pattern of the Tamil Nadu Judicial Services examination has been designed to test both theoretical and practical legal expertise of the candidate.

The examination will be held in three stages viz. (1) Preliminary Examination, (2) Main Examination and (3) Viva-Voce.

The prelims question paper comprises of almost all major Acts and few state legislations like Rent Control law, land laws, etc. There will also be few questions concerning current affairs and general knowledge at preliminary level.

The main examination consisted of four distinct papers viz. (1)Translation Paper, (2)Law Paper – I in which the questions will be asked from CPC, CRPC, Evidence Act, Constitution law and the Principle of Pleadings, (3) Law Paper – II which deals with framing of issues and writing judgements in civil cases and (4) Law Paper – III which deals with framing of charges and writing judgements in criminal cases.

At Viva-Voce, candidates’ legal and general knowledge, grasp of adjective laws and suitability for appointment to the post will be tested by the Board comprising of the High Court Judges and Members of the State Public Service Commission.

1. What was your overall strategy for the TN Judiciary prelims?

I didn’t prepare much exclusively for the prelims. I had always been taught by my mentors in the profession to read the bare Acts instead of reading textbooks or commentaries. I took this advice to heart and that indeed stood me in good stead.

While preparing for the prelims I was assisting my senior and therefore left with a very little time. As I told earlier the syllabus for the prelims was quite vast and I had no time to go through the textbooks due to the paucity of time. So I stuck to the bare Acts and it was quite easy to cover the majority of the portion in the syllabus.

Fortunately, while writing the prelims I found to my surprise that most of the questions were problem-based and they were, in fact, nothing but the verbatim of the illustrations given to the provisions in the various Acts which made my task very easy.

2. What was your overall strategy for Tamil Nadu Judicial Services Examination Mains?

As far as my preparation for the mains was concerned I would honestly say that I had put better efforts for the prelims.

By the time when the prelims results were out I had become independent and established my own office and I was in dilemma as to whether I should participate in the main examination.

But I thought to give a try since only about 680 candidates out of around 11,000 who aspire to be a civil judge in Tamil Nadu, had cleared the prelims.

Since I am at home in both languages (Tamil and English) translation paper was not a big deal but I found it quite difficult to translate legal documents from English to my vernacular language due to my lack of preparation as the legal jargons in the local language will be tough since they are seldom taught and used in law schools and courts.

The law paper containing major subjects was not that difficult as most of the questions were on current and debatable legal issues like legalisation of euthanasia, etc.

I was not taken aback by the seeing the paper despite my lack of preparation for the mains for the only reason that I was updating myself with what was happening in the legal world by constantly reading law journals and legal news articles on the internet.

Apart from that, I would say though I didn’t study for the purpose of the judicial service exam I had studied more than a person would have studied for any exam in order to build my law practice and that was not done in a month or year.

I would honestly confess that it was that learning which I did for many years helped me immensely to crack the mains.

3. How did you prepare for Tamil Nadu Judiciary’s Interview?

I had no idea as to how a real interview will be since I had never been to one in all my life.

In fact, I googled about the ideal dress for attending an interview and as to how one should present himself before the interviewer. I also practised in my mind as to how I should introduce myself if I was asked to.

Though all those things seemed to be very promising, little did they help me when I entered the interview board room as I was not able to recall them perhaps due to the anxiety.

For my Tamil Nadu Judiciary interview I expected questions from the latest developments in law and therefore on the morning of the interview day I read the gist of the recent landmark judgements rendered by the Supreme Court.

4. Can you share your book list for all subjects/parts (for Tamil Nadu’s Civil Judge Exam, Prelims and Mains)?

I read only with the bare Acts. It was only the Evidence Act that was most intriguing. So I had recourse to “Law of Evidence” an excellent book written by Mr. Vepa Sarathi, a Senior Advocate who must have known the subject to his nerves and bones.

And a regular reading of judgements reported in law journals will definitely help immensely for not only the reader will become aware of the laws and how they are interpreted but the reader will also become familiar with the legal language which greatly differs from the language used in day to day life.

4.B. Which books did you refer for local laws? 

TNJS has local laws in its syllabus but it was only confined to the prelims. In fact, there were very few questions concerning state legislations like Rent Control Act, Land Ceiling Act, etc.

5. What were your ‘secret sauce’ recipes, if any? 🙂

I would say constant reading is my modus operandi. Not only law and things relating to it but every other subject.

I an avid reader and I would see to it that I read at least twenty-five to thirty books in a year. In fact, I made it my habit to read something at least for fifteen minutes every night before I embark upon my slumber.

This has been my routine for the past 6 years and this makes me very confident. Apart from this, general discussions with lawyers who are adept in their field of practice did, in fact, stood me in good stead.

6. For how long did you prepare for TN Judiciary and how many hours did you put in? 

In TNJS exam the candidate will not be given much time for preparation as the prelims will be held within two months from the date of recruitment announcement.

Since I did not specifically prepare much for the exam I am not able to recall the hours that I spent on studying for the exam. But my six years of consistent reading of law and things relating to it made me fully armed for the judicial service exam.

7. What were some challenges you faced/mistakes you made during the TNJS preparations, and how did you overcome them?

To be frank and honest, I didn’t face any challenge in preparing for the exam. But certainly I made mistakes and I realised it only after completing the exams.

I had felt that I should have studied the important legal terminologies in the local language for I felt really difficult to translate certain terms from English to Tamil.

Another mistake I committed in preparing for the TN Judicial Services Examination was not practicing the model papers.

I was not able to complete any of the four papers in the mains as I was very slow in writing and I did not take any step to improve the pace of my writing as I did not even think that that would be a problem.

8. What were the most important ‘right things/strategies’ you implemented for being a TN Civil Judge?

As I told earlier, I kept on reading and even kept myself abreast of recent developments in law.

9. Did you take coaching from anywhere? 

No. I did not go for any coaching classes for my TNJS preparations. To my knowledge, there are coaching institutes for judicial service exam preparation in Tamil Nadu.

However, the local Bar Associations will hold a number of lectures for the benefit of the candidates which will be delivered by the practising advocates.

10. How was your interview for the TN Judicial Services Examination 2018 and what sort of questions were asked?

The interview was the toughest phase in the entire recruitment process. The Board interviewed every candidate for about thirty to forty minutes. I was not asked to introduce myself as I had expected.

The interview board comprising of High Court Judges and TNPSC Members. They asked me what kind of cases I have seen and dealt with and they put forth questions about those cases.

In the TNJS interview, I was also tested in civil and criminal procedural laws. Then the Board wanted me to tell them what are the qualities that a judge should exhibit and how a common man will expect a judge to behave.

To my surprise, there were few questions about current affairs, history, and geography as well.

I fared well in the interview except for the question relating to geography. After the publication of the results, I learned that the Board had bestowed upon me the highest marks in the interview.

11. Anything else you’d like to tell our readers.

Never be satisfied with what you learn. Have an appetite for learning not only the law but possibly about everything under the sun.

A lawyer should not only be a master of law but also a jack of all other trades. Make sure that you know everything about something and something about everything. So never quit this process.

Once you stop or become tired of it then perhaps its time to switch trade and if one says he or she doesn’t have time for these things then alas he or she doesn’t have time to be a good lawyer much less a great lawyer.

This post was first published on: 25 Nov 2018

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