Interview with Dr. Yogesh Pratap Singh, Professor of Law, NLU Odisha

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Swastika Nandwani
Swastika Nandwani
I am a third-year student at NMIMS School of Law, Mumbai. My interest lies in Corporate Law and Alternate Dispute Resolution.

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Dr. Yogesh Pratap Singh is a professor of Law in National Law University Odisha (NLUO). He received his LL.M. (with specialization in Human Rights Laws) from National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore and LL.B. from the University of Allahabad. His doctoral thesis titled “Contribution of Dissenting Opinions of Indian Supreme Court Judges to the Indian Legal System: A Critical Evaluation” is recognized as a significant contribution to the understanding of voting patterns of judges in the Supreme Court of India. His book titled “On Judicial Dissent” has been accepted for publication by Thomson Reuters. He participated in the 39th Annual Session on International Human Rights Law organized by International Institute of Human Rights (IIHR) Strasbourg, France. Dr. Yogesh has also been part of Ciedhu programme in France conducted for University Teachers.

We recently interviewed Prof. Dr. Yogesh about his journey so far and here is the transcript of the interview.

Swastika: You completed your LLB in 2005. What motivated you to choose Law?

Dr. Yogesh Pratap Singh: I did not intend to join law initially. In Allahabad, there is a custom of taking admission in LL.B. after doing graduation and post-graduation. This helps students not only to retain their hostels but also to provide them with an additional degree with which they can start practice if nothing works out. But when I got admission in Allahabad University, I attended a few classes which were amazingly interesting. Some professors at Law faculty were just incredible. I then realized that this is the area where I can engage myself.

Swastika: You have been a professor of Law at the National Law University Orissa for over 2 years. Please share your journey from being a law student to being a law professor in one of the most esteemed universities in India.

Dr. Yogesh Pratap Singh: After doing my law graduation from the University of Allahabad, I joined LLM at NLSIU Bangalore, India’s topmost law school. After completing LLM, I joined Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) Dehradun for a short period and then moved to KIIT Law School, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar Odisha and as a member of founding team, we established a new law school.  In 2009, the Government of Odisha established National Law University Odisha, and then I joined it as a founding member. Since then, I am associated with NLUO. In the year 2016, I was appointed Deputy Registrar in the Supreme Court of India on deputation basis where I assisted Hon’ble Chief Justice of India and other Judges in the discharge of their judicial functions. University promoted me as Professor of Law w.e.f. 1st March 2018. Currently, I am also working as the Registrar of the University.

Swastika: You completed your Ph.D. in 2014. There is a belief in India that only those people pursue Ph.D. who want to build a future in the teaching or research sector. Do you feel that this ideology is correct or does Ph.D. have a wider scope?

Dr. Yogesh Pratap Singh: India as a country has failed to recognize the importance of quality research and the Indian government spends precious little on research. However, it is also true that much of what passes off as Ph.D. research by a very large number of researchers and teachers at our universities is sham. Those who want to make a future in teaching even those people do not engage themselves in quality research seriously. It is being done only to get a degree somehow. The government and the University Grants Commission need to devise a serious policy to upgrade our Ph.D. policy so that serious and wider connotations can be given to PHDs.

Swastika: You completed your LLM from the NLSIU, Bangalore. Do you feel that students who have studied in National Law Universities have an edge over students who have studied in other universities?

Dr. Yogesh Pratap Singh: I have done my LL.B. from a traditional public University and LLM from top NLU of the Country so, I have experience of both. In terms of quality of teachers, our good traditional Universities like AU, DU, AMU, etc. have still upper hand. But Law Schools have an advantage in terms of method of teaching and exposure of students to a wider world.  Culture of writing projects, research papers, presentations, seminar, conferences, and workshops, etc are things which provide students with more exposure and confidence. Yes, students of NLUs have an edge over students of traditional Universities.

Swastika: Most of the students these days are involved in the organisation and participation of various events such as moots, debates, etc. in order to build up a good CV. Do you think it is necessary for them to do so?

Dr. Yogesh Pratap Singh: Yes. Mooting is the essence of legal education and law school teaching. That is the reason we encourage students right from the first semester to participate in moot courts. Likewise, debating improves reasoning, research, and even public speaking skills. From planning your argument (even if you don’t agree with it) to choosing your words wisely, debating helps you to take on whatever life chooses to throw at you. University has to focus on the all-round personal development of students and therefore we encourage them to participate in addition to mooting and debating, in other co-curricular activities particularly in developing students’ communication skills, problem-solving capabilities, and appreciation for teamwork. I would encourage all the students reading this to take part in such events, for they are unique features of life in law schools.

Swastika: The law students who were about to get their degrees this year but are yet to receive it are pretty confused on how to deal with the current situation and how to make it big in the field of law as a lot of them are left without jobs and internships. What are your suggestions for them?

Dr. Yogesh Pratap Singh: Yes. This is undoubtedly an extraordinary time and everyone is facing some amount of difficulty in their life. Law students too are anxious about their future. We, however, are trying to help them by requesting firms/companies, research think-tanks, and senior lawyers to provide virtual internships. We are also exploring the option of virtual judicial clerkships in the High Court and the Supreme Court. Besides all these, we are advising students to take a master’s degree or further courses of study. In this unusual time of recession, staying on at university will be a good alternative rather than struggling to get a job. We shall overcome this adversity, and come out stronger. The legal profession will rebound from this, and when it does, there will be a great demand for young aspiring lawyers, and you will fill that void.

Swastika: A majority of students try to obtain internships in top tier firms as they feel that it adds a good value to their CV. However, it is also said that these top tier firms do not pay a lot of attention to what the students are gaining through the internship. What are your opinions on this?

Dr. Yogesh Pratap Singh: That assumption is not entirely correct. A lot of the attention that a student receives during an internship is dependent on his own proactivity. Since there are several interns during each internship period, a student has to stand out to receive recognition. If a student is willing to work hard and is reliable during the internship, then the associates do engage with him in a greater fashion. In fact, some law firms have prescribed assessment internship as a criterion for students to get jobs. In my opinion, good students generally get tremendous exposure with top firms.

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