An Interview with Afrin Khan (Assistant Professor of Law at Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, NMIMS, Mumbai)

1. Hello Madam, Please Introduce Yourself to Our Readers?

I have completed my B.L.S LL.B from S.V.K.M’s Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai and thereafter briefly worked at a law firm dealing in IP and Corporate Matters.  During this period, I realized my passion for human rights as I was involved in pro bono work dealing with child rights.  That is how I went ahead to pursue my Masters in Law with Human Rights as a specialization from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. Having found my calling in the field of human rights, I joined Majlis as a legal consultant where I represented victims of domestic violence in litigation matters and worked for their rehabilitation. This is where I developed an interest in pursuing a career in research and academics with human rights at the center of all this. I began my journey into academics as a Teaching Assistant at Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad and moved to NMIMS University’s Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, Mumbai. Having spent over five years in academics, I have now chosen to pursue a Ph.D. in Law from Christ University, Bangalore. My specific area of research intertwines between Human Rights and Criminal Law.

2. How Did You Gravitate Towards Law? Why Law and Not Engineering or Medical Studies?

I strongly believe that whatever you do must be accompanied with an aptitude and an attitude for it. Since school days, I have been intrigued with the ideas of norms and ideals that guide the society in its way of living. I questioned human behavior and detested when I read about violence and abuse dominating and thriving in the society all around us. The urge to redress the wrong and find ways to prevent it drove me to pursue law.

3. Tell us a bit about Your Study Time during College Life.

I was elated to join my graduation college since it was filled with a plethora of opportunities to pursue co-curricular and extra-curricular activities along with academic teaching. From college fests to moot courts and trial advocacy, I have participated in all. The exposure gave an opportunity to present my ideas on various issues concerning law and society.

4. Can You Tell Us About B.L.S. LL.B Course and Its Advantages?

To the best of my knowledge currently B.L.S LL.B course is offered only by the University of Mumbai and colleges affiliated under it. It is similar to pursing a B.A. LL.B course of five years with a slight variation in subjects and credits. After completion of the course, one develops knowledge not only limited to law oriented subjects but also inter-disciplinary areas such as Sociology, Political Science and International Relations. I would say that the inter-disciplinary approach of this course is a huge positive aspect as law cannot be studied in isolation anymore. For example, if you want to find out how to eliminate a wrong being committed in the society, merely, enactment of a framework in not the answer. Many a times, the solution requires an understanding of why people do the wrong. Is it the need to bring awareness, education or the involvement of community leaders? Here sociology mixed with law may help you find a pragmatic solution.

5. Do you think that Mooting, Debate, Publication, Online Courses and Internship are important in law student’s life?

Yes, all the above mentioned activities play an important role in the molding of a good law student. Here are a few tips:

i) Identity why you are participating in an activity? For example, I participated in moots because I wanted to learn how to structure my arguments and after a few moots it was time to learn the same thing from internships. I also chose to intern because I wanted to take my theory to practice and find out what I really want to do after five years of law and not for the sake of a certificate. My focus was on learning.

ii) I would discourage the practice of taking activities for the sake of a certificate. While having proof of attending an event is important and a few certificates are required, please identify what is relevant to your area of interest and skills and put effort in attending those courses, seminars and moots. The primary aim should be to acquire new knowledge and strengthening known concepts.

iii) As a teacher, I have noticed that students involved in activities end up sidelining classes. I may sound biased here but may I tell you that your concepts will also be strengthened in the classroom and will stay with you for life.

iv) On the point of publication, I would definitely recommend doing so but please avoid predatory journals.

6. Why Did You Decide to Take Up Teaching as Your Career Option?

The opportunity to disseminate knowledge and engage in fruitful discussions/ brainstorming sessions including having the ample time to research deeply into topics led me to  teaching. I have had the privilege of teaching Human Rights and Criminal Law based subjects for the past three years at NMIMS. Each time I teach, I receive an exposure in various research gaps in a topic which require attention. My job is to bring these issues to light in the eyes of the students and create change makers. For all these reasons, I have taken up teaching and will continue to do so.

7. At present, along with Teaching at NMIMS, Mumbai, You Are A Doctoral Candidate at Christ University, Bangalore. What Made You Pursue a Ph.D.?

When you identify a research gap in a field of law there is an urge to fix it with an innovative solution. It is a way to pursue your passion of acquiring deep knowledge into that area and to also give back to the society a viable solution.

8. The Best Experience and Success Habit You Would Like to Share with Law Students to Encourage Them.

I have one tip for those who are pursing law: At the cost of sounding cliché, please have the courage to follow your passion. Some years back when I realized I wanted to pursue a career in law with human rights at the heart of it, I was discouraged by many. For some time, I directed my profile to what people advised me to pursue but I was not satisfied. I decided to block such advice and interacted with those in the field of human rights to explore my options in this field. Today, I not only teach human rights at the law school but also I am pursuing an empirical research in the area of child rights. The key take away is – Talk to experts in the field you want to pursue and get an idea from them what it is like to work in that field and have the courage to choose the path you enjoy even though it may be less travelled.

9. Lastly, What Would Be Your Message to People Who Want to Take Up A Career in Teaching?

Build your work profile by adding good research publications, conferences and seminars. UGC NET /SLET/SET is a mandate to enter the profession along with an enrolment in Ph.D. If you are doing Masters and plan to enter academics, prepare your work profile as per what is mentioned above. Most importantly, seek guidance from your Professors where would be the best place to begin your teaching career and whether you can get a Teaching Assistant position at your current university. This would build a strong foundation at the onset of your teaching career. All the best in all your future pursuits!!

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