An Interview with Dr. Rashwet Shrinkhal (Assistant Professor of Law at Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi)

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Dr. Rashwet Shrinkhal is currently working as an Assistant Professor of Law at the Department of Contemporary and Tribal Customary Law, Central University of Jharkhand at Ranchi. He have pursued his LLB (Hons) from University of Lucknow, thereafter he has completed his LLM from Banaras Hindu University. He did his M. Phil and Ph. D. from the Centre for International Legal Studies, JNU, Delhi.

1. Hello Sir, Please Tell Us Something About Yourself to Our Readers.

A hearty “hello” to all readers of the Law Corner. I’m so grateful for your generosity in giving me this opportunity to express my views.

My name is Rashwet Shrinkhal. I would like to describe myself as a thinker, dreamer and supporter of quantum entanglement—someone struggling with the incessant flux of ignorance-knowledge. Ironically, I teach for living. I am firm believer in the power of passion and perseverance.

I originally hail from Ghazipur district, Uttar Pradesh and received my primary and secondary education in the city of Ballia and Varanasi. I have pursued my LL.B. (Hons), an integrated law course after 12th, from University of Lucknow. Thereafter, went to Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and completed my LL.M. with specialisation in Human Rights and Duties. One of the most defining moments of my life was when I decided to study at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. I consider myself lucky that I got admission at the Centre for International Legal Studies (CILS), School of International Studies, JNU.

In 2012, I joined as one of the founding faculty member at the Centre for Tribal and Customary Law, renamed as Department of Contemporary and Tribal Customary Law, Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi.  The Centre’s small team takes pride in initiating India’s first LL.M. programme dedicated to critically study the issues of tribal people from law and policy approach.

2. What Inspired You to Choose Law as Your Career? Why Law and Not Engineering or Medical Studies?

Law was not my first choice; entry into law field was both incidental and accidental. My daddy decided before I was born that I would be joining civil services and study in engineering college. Films like “3 idiots “ and “Taare Zameen Par” are quite relatable. Strangely as I reached early adolescence, I realised that I was mediocre student under high expectations. As part of my father’s vision, after class 10th, I was directed to opt for maths-biology combination, an extremely rare choice during that time. Fortunately, I underperformed so badly that it shook my confidence. It wouldn’t stay disturbed for very long but I was thoughtful to realise that competing with the best in the field of engineering was unfeasible. At that point of time, University of Lucknow was one of the rare institutions to offer 5-year integrated law programme. So on advise of one of my friend I filled out the application form and finally secured a seat. Daddy was anyhow convinced that the structure of law programme would be beneficial for civil services examination and ensure job security.

3. You Completed Your LL.B from Lucknow University and LL.M from Banaras Hindu University. Tell Us About Your Law School Journey.

Campus life at Lucknow University was exhilarating and challenging at the same time. I had the privilege to have formal and informal discussion with experienced faculty members. It was pleasant surprise to learn that Lucknow University had policy of distributing one textbook for free in each course to every student enrolled in 5-year integrated law programme. Intense academic grilling was missing but there was a sense of competitiveness among students.

The challenging part was the nature of student politics in Lucknow University. Student activism was centred on ‘power’ and students of ‘Faculty of Law’ were mitochondria. However, this helped in developing robust and indomitable spirit.

After completing LL.B., I wanted to pursue LL.M. from Delhi University so that I could simultaneously prepare for civil services but was unable to secure admission. Luckily, I got selected in BHU. Studying there was great learning experience for me. LL.M. candidates at BHU were known for cracking judicial examinations. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar hostel (allotted for LL.M. Ph.D. students) is popularly known as “Judge making factory”. There were certain residents who could sit for hours and study without distraction. This was quite inspiring in itself. Academic infrastructure at BHU was also impressive especially the library at law school. I cleared my UGC NET (Law) exam as an appearing candidate.

4. Did You Pursue Any Extracurricular Activities Such as Mooting, Debate, Seminar, Online courses, Publication and Sports? How Did This Contribute to Your Holistic Development? Do You Think Such Activities Are Important in Law Student’s Life?

Unfortunately during my entire LL.B. programme, Lucknow University had organised only one mooting competition, and that too, when I was in my final year. It was my bad that I missed the opportunity. There was one course devoted to it but it was for namesake. I did participate in debate and quiz competitions. Online courses and publications were completely out of the question, probably due to lack of awareness and absence of suitable culture. I was much interested in sports, particularly cricket and student politics. It helped in developing leadership skills, strategic thinking; planning and delivery; teamwork and positivity.

Extracurricular activities are as important as classroom learning. Purpose of college or university should not be restricted to learning of certain academic subjects. That purpose can be easily achieved by coaching centres or private tuition. Rather, what is required is that the focus should be on comprehensive personality development. Participation in extracurricular activities helps in that process.

5. Tell Us a bit About Your M.Phil. and Ph.D Experience at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

I thank my lucky stars for being associated with JNU. The academic atmosphere, unlike recent deliberate shaming, at JNU was unparalleled. From scholarly leaflet culture during mess-time, handmade wall poster, post-dinner talks, everything was very unique.

I did my M.Phil. Ph.D. from the Centre for International Legal Studies. The Centre had the legacy of producing world-class international law scholars from India. I had the opportunity to closely work with Bharat Desai Sir, V.G. Hegde Sir and Chimni guruji. The only regret I have is that I was not academic-centric during that period.

6. What Do You Like Best About Teaching? What Is the Best Thing About Being A Professor and What’s the Worst?

There are many best things about teaching. It gives me freedom, and justification to learn, think and dream about anything; mandate to express opinions on varied range of topics; and interact with young people and enrich my knowledge base.

The best thing about being a professor is that you have the opportunity to ignite young minds so that they can understand their responsibility to create just social order based on equality, empathy and harmony with nature.

It is thankless job and usually there is no apparent and immediate recognition of your hard work. One may also develop a sceptical attitude for everything, which can very exhausting in the long run.

7. Any Tips for Budding Legal Writers? How Can Law Students Develop Good Writing Skills?

It is important that motivation to publish must spring from the desire to say something in the area of interest.  Apart from that, three things must be kept in mind: Firstly, Quality, Once published is always published. Therefore, it is important to maintain minimum standard; secondly, Platform, It is equally important that where you are publishing. Avoid predatory journals/publishers and thirdly, Ethics, it is necessary that one should maintain ethical standards, which includes plagiarism check, proper acknowledgment of referred works.

There are few naturally gifted writers and ‘others’ have to perfect the skills through hard work. Some important suggestions would be: Firstly, try to idolize and emulate someone great.  For example, I am very much influenced by the scholarship of Prof. B.S. Chimni. His narrative style and method of building argument is simply outstanding. Secondly, try to identify some contemporaries who are doing really well. For example, I keep track of published works by few contemporary young scholars: Prabhakar Singh (GJLS), an exceptional intellectual and probably the best in my generation; Ashish Srivastava  (LU); Rabindra Pathak (NUSRL); Chanchal Singh  (HPNLU); Debasis Poddar (St’ Xaviers); Balraj Kaur (IITKGP); Tania Sebastian (VIT); Veer Mayank (CUS) and Sujith Kanoon (DU). Healthy competition will help you keep focused. Thirdly, follow following steps: Read, think and then write.

8. When Would You Say A Legal Academician Is Ready to Start Writing Books? Any Time Management Tips for Budding Legal Academicians? When Would You Say That an Academician Is Successful?

First part of your question is very difficult to answer as it varies from person to person.

Time management is strongly connected with your determination and environment. It is very difficult these days but try to avoid phone and unnecessary Internet surfing. If possible maintain a daily journal on your activities and check your actions.

There is no standard measurement scale for recording success in this field. A sense of  ‘recognition’ from others is an important factor in any academician life. Intellectual contribution to posterity and present generation is a good yardstick.

9. How Should Law Students Go About Selecting Topics for Research Publications?

This is again very difficult to answer, as there are no fixed rules for it. However, few suggestions would be helpful: a) topics that are of contemporary relevance have high probability of getting published; b) Narrow down your topic from a broad area of interest; c) after review of literature, there must be scope of something unique to write on the given topic.

10. Do You Feel That the Legal Profession Has Significantly Changed from When You Decided to Study Law? What Are Some of The Changes That Have Positively Impacted the Profession and Legal Academia in Your Opinion?

When I decided to pursue law course, the public perception about law graduates was very close to trough level. Thereafter, it moved vertically upwards and probably we might see a growing trend. Rise of professionalism in legal education is one the biggest positive change. Thanks to first few National Law School/University  (NLU’s) and now Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) as they have turned the tide in favour of legal education in India. We can witness similar changes in attitude of traditional law school/university (TLS) (weird but popular phrase).

The rise of ‘new experts’ in domains such as: a) Economics and Trade law; b) Banking and Financial Law; c) Cyber Law; d) environmental law etc., is a welcome change. Two decades back, the “culture of publication” was really missing in the domain of law. There is a sea change in that context. Another positive thing is that there are substantial numbers of scholars having first hand exposure to premier law institutes at global level, which further helps to improve overall atmosphere of legal education in India.

11. Do You Feel That There Are Differences Between Students Of ‘Elite’ Law Schools and Students from Other Law Colleges and Traditional Universities?

Yes there are some striking differences between them. Students enrolled in ‘Elite’ law schools have significant added advantage due the fact that they are coming, most of them, from a family background having disproportionate share of wealth and power. As a result, they are more informed and focused. They are better skilled because of greater access to material resources.

Unfortunately, “Elite” law schools are designed to function in a manner that perpetuates structural inequalities.

12. You Have Worked Both in NLU’s And Non-NLU. Can You Share Your Advice “How A Law Student Can Bridge the Gap Between NLU’s And Non-NLU”?

My experience with NLU system has been very limited but highly enriching.

I personally feel that more than students, it is the faculty members and administration who have to bring change in their attitude and functioning manner in the TLS system. Lack of real autonomy and accountability is disheartening. Additionally, red tape has worsened the situation at TLS.

As far as students of TLS are concerned, they can think of a level playing field with the help of technology. Thanks to digital revolution and ‘internet world’. They can take help from E-content portal and On-line databases. Student Unions and their representatives can also play constructive role as being ‘watchdog’ in monitoring the conduct of general and teaching administration.

13. Tell Us About Your Teaching Methodology. Do You Encourage Students to Take Notes or Do You Engage Your Students in Active Class Participation?

I generally don’t prefer giving formal notes. Students are; however, free to jot down important points during lecture. I can’t imagine a lecture without interaction with students. The Socratic method of teaching is very important for critical thinking.

I usually try to incorporate films and novel in my discussion to explain any socio-legal problems. As a matter of fact, question paper in end-semester has a section on films and novel.

14. Could You Please Give Young Readers Certain Tips on Excelling in Academics? As A Teacher What Tips Do You Give to Your Students for Proper Understanding of a Subject?

The pursuit of excellence in one’s work is part of celestial justice. If someone wants to excel into academics, s/he has to find higher reason for doing so. Usually, most of my students are from humble background. I encourage them to do well in their studies, at least for the sake of parents.

I do maintain that law cannot be studied and comprehended in isolation. Law is a melting pot of various disciplines. Therefore, an interdisciplinary approach becomes essential in study of law. I recommend my students to understand the context in which law has emerged (For example, socio-political, economics, political, scientific etc.).

15. Sir, Now You Are Working as An Assistant Professor at the Department of Contemporary and Tribal Customary Law, Central University of Jharkhand. Please Tell Us A Bit About Tribal Customary Law Which Is Unique and Different Subject Base Department in India. What Is Special About This Subject and Department Which Is Encourage to Our Readers?

The Department of Contemporary and Tribal Customary Law (DCTCL) was established in 2012 as Centre for Tribal and Customary Law (CTCL). The CTCL was unique in sense that it offered LL.M. programme in Tribal and Customary Law. This was for the first time in India that tribal people and their issues was studied from law and policy approach. When I joined the Centre, as one of the founding faculty, the programme structure and course was to be designed by the faculty members. This was a great opportunity and all thanks to Prof. D.T. Khating (the then Vice-Chancellor of CUJ) for reposing his faith on young faculty members.

The Course curriculum is designed in a manner that will to develop and interdisciplinary perspective on the study of tribal people. It is truly interdisciplinary in sense that it touches the disciplines of law, anthropology, sociology, public-administration, economics, and political science.

16. What skills do you think are required for a career of academics?

The bread and butter of every academician are, in an ideal condition, primarily centred on their oratory and writing skills.  In real life situation, however, networking has played an important role in shaping the career of academicians, especially in India.

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

I have faced many failures and relatively very little success in my life. However, with every failure, I have raised the bar of my targets a bit higher or tougher. I was a born in a village but eventually studied in India’s premium universities, this is success.

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

Teaching profession in higher education may appear to be a laid-back job. In reality, it can be really stressful if you want to excel in this field. At the same time, you will enjoy the never-ending process of learning-and-unlearning.

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