Surbhi Mamta Karwa, almunus RMLNLU and gold medalist in UG and PG programme of RMLNLU and NLUD

  1. Can you tell us a little about yourself, your interests and reasons for pursuing law?

I come from a conservative family based in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. I don’t have any member in my family or even in extended family who has background in law. Frankly,my family wanted me to pursue C.A. and was very opposed to idea of a woman pursuing law.  But somehow I strongly felt that profession of law is very very empowering. My mother was very supportive and pushed for my career despite facing opposition. (I dedicated my LL. M. thesis to her)

I cannot specifically point out when I decided that I want to pursue law. But I remember saying in an interview in class-10th that I want to be a High Court judge.

  1. How has RMLNLU shaped you? What all did you do in college? Do you think mooting, research papers and debates hold a lot of importance in a law school? 

RMLNLU has shaped me in many ways both personally and professionally. It opened my eyes to issues of caste, gender, religion and all sorts of prejudices and biases we carry in ourselves. It opened my eyes to my privilege. Personally too, it helped me acknowledge and overcome my body image issues. It taught me friendship and gave me some beautiful friends.

I did not moot or debate much in college. I feel I should have done that more. I was mostly involved with Legal Aid Committee where I worked with a wonderful team. We established the Legal Aid Clinic, initiated ADR tournament etc. I also worked with some advocacy groups like Blood Connect, Awadh Pride committee etc. Working with these different groups was a deeply learning experience. I also wrote in between for Mainstream Weekly, The Wire etc.

Coming to your question, I think what holds importance in law school is finding the thing you like to do, the things your are passionate about and devoting time to them. Mooting, debating, writing or any other activity are various means to channelise that interest. You can moot, debate, write or do any other activity and it will all count in your resume, if it is originating from your genuine interest and desire to learn.

  1. Congratulations on scoring 3rd rank in AILET PG! Could you tell our readers about your strategy, schedule and motivation?

I do not really think that you need any detailed preparation for your PG provided that you have paid attention in your classes during your course. However having said that I would like to add that many law schools (NLUs or non-NLUs) are struggling with lack of quality education and hence in some cases, it may require detailed preparation. I guess the basic preparation is going back to your class notes or basic notes of various subjects and revising them. You can look into question papers of previous years. Earlier. AILET had a 50 mark subjective essay type answer. I personally like this pattern of question paper rather than a mere objective question paper. But NLUD has now removed the system of asking subjective question and CLAT has started it.  Subjective questions is mostly asked from latest legal news, judgements etc. So one advice I would give to everyone (even those who are not sitting for LL.M. entrance) is  to keep themselves updated about latest legal developments. Coming now to writing a subjective answer, few basics have to be kept in mind. Always give brief pointers/ heads of your answer in beginning. Do not write in non-stop fashion without changing paragraphs. Give heading with black pen, divide your answer in paragraphs. Give introduction and Conclusion, add latest challenges and developments on that issue.

  1. As an LL.M.student yourself, how would you compare LL.M. from an Indian University and LL.M. from abroad?

Personally  I think  one should try for LL.M. from abroad since you get a comparative perspective of your area of interest. You get global exposure. However doing it just for sake of doing it from abroad is not a good idea either.  Try to figure out what is area of interest, which college is leading in that field,  who are the major scholars in that field,  where are they teaching and then decide whether you want to do it from aboroad. However,  LL.M. from abroad is expensive, not everyone maybe able to bear that much expenses. And scholarships are difficult to get.  India is currently facing major challenges when it comes to LL.M. Except a few,  not many LL.M. courses are up to mark despite LL.M. being a PG level degree.  If you wish to pursue LL.M. from India then fill your priority very carefully. Choose the area of law you want to pursue and accordingly fill the preferences of college. Not all NLUs/ILI may be offering your preferred area of law. For example  Some offer IPR,  some don’t.  So checking the courses offered is really important.  There is no point compromising in your area of choice.  It is after all a specialisation course.

  1. You’ve always been a topper, in your UG as well as PG programme, could you  tell us the key to your consistency?

Off late I have started becoming uncomfortable  with construct of topper.  Being topper is also result of opportunities you got depending upon your privileges based on your socio economic advantages. But to answer your question,  again there is not one tip per se.  I like reading.  I just did it. Paid attention in class,  managed my time and attempted to read and research beyond what teachers taught in class.

  1. Would you like to tell us about your thesis that you have prepared as a part of your LL.M. programme?

I researched and wrote a feminist critique of Constituent Assembly Debates under supervision of Dr. Aparna Chandra. On the basis of Granville Austin’s landmark work on Indian Constituent Assembly (The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of A Nation), the assembly has been engaged with in a very Habbermasian way. However off late, scholars like Udit Bhatia, Arvind Elangovan, Aditya Nigam, Vikram Raghvan etc. have engaged with the Constituent Assembly beyond this Austinian model where more critical questions of democratic deficit, socio-economic rights of minorities in the assembly etc.have been asked.  I trace my work in this scholarship and ask the ‘women’s question’. I have tabulated reference to around 12 terms (sex,  gender,  girl,  woman,  sister, mother,  daughter.. And so on)  in each day of debate in the Constituent Assembly and undertook a feminist analysis. My thesis has dealt with questions of representation of women in assembly, protectionist gaze of assmebly towards various marginalized women and sexism in the assembly. My thesis questions whether women were seen as ‘constitutive part’ of ‘We The People’ or was she ‘othered’ in the Constitution making process. Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had recently said that Constitution itself is feminist document. What was feminist vision of the Constitution in its founding moment is the fundamental question, I researched.

  1. What do you plan to choose as the walk of life now?

I am interested in gender and law. While there is an argument to be made that ‘laws’ are not objective, they operate in pre-existing patriarchal structures yet I believe ‘law’ can be strategically used to bring desired social change. As Sohaila Abdulali says, ‘law sets the tone’. So I wish to work on these two disciplines with a hope that I can in some way contribute something to making our systems more gender just. What should be my career choices for the same, I am currently trying to figure that out. I think either academics or litigation would be my preferred choice.

  1. Any other thing that you would want to tell our readers.

Well.  Nothing as such.  Just enjoy your time in law school and try figuring out your interests.

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