An Interview With Professor (Dr.) Vageshwari Deswal [Professor at Faculty of Law, Delhi University, Delhi]

Prof. Vageshwari Deswal is an academician, feminist, author and activist with a brilliant academic record. She has been a University topper and gold medalist throughout her graduation and post-graduation. During her teaching experience of twenty years, Prof. Deswal has more than fifty publications to her credit. She has authored two textbooks and edited three more. She has completed various research projects among which the notable ones are- project on Acid attacks for NCW; Prison reforms for NHRC and Farmer Suicides for ICSSR.

She routinely writes for leading newspapers and magazines and has a blog titled “legally Speaking” for The Times of India. She is a familiar face as a Law Expert on Doordarshan, LokSabha TV and on various other National platforms. She is a visiting faculty at several judicial academies and Administrative training institutes and is regularly called for academic consultations and collaborations by various Universities and governmental organizations. Prof. Deswal has been invited for lectures in India as well as abroad and she routinely associates with NGO’s for POSH training and gender Sensitization programs.

1. Hello Madam, please tell something about yourself to our readers.

I am a feminist and strongly believe in the equality of all human beings. For me, compassion is the only religion, and the highest form of knowledge is ‘empathy’.

2. Madam, what interested you to take up Law as a profession?Why Law and Not Engineering or Medical Studies?

Contrary to popular perception, law is a noble profession. One that enables you to fight injustice, support people, be their voice and safeguard their rights. My mother is a lawyer too and since my early childhood, I remember her working pro-bono for poor clients. In addition to giving legal advice, she would also counsel her clients who were distraught with the system. This humanitarian approach of hers deeply impacted me and shaped my thought process.

3. You Completed Your B.A.LL.B, LL.M and Ph.D. from Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak. Tell Us About Your Law School Journey and Experience.

I always reminisce about my law school days as the golden period of my student life. I topped the university consecutively for five years and was awarded the university gold medal in my B.A Law as well as LLB Course. I was also awarded the University merit scholarship and later the National Merit scholarship for my academic performance.

I was fortunate to have been taught by great legal luminaries such as Prof. Ranbir Singh and Prof. KPS Mahalwar, who encouraged me to participate in debates and moot courts. It was there that I learned that one should always stand for what is right, even it means standing alone. My teachers inspired me to excel and not settle for anything but the best as there is always room at the top.

Apart from academics, the law school also taught me valuable life lessons. My batchmates hailed from different backgrounds and we all had different ambitions and expectations from life. While understanding and appreciating different points of view, I made some long-lasting friendships that have stood the test of time.

4. Madam, 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?

Of course, I was an ardent debater and mooter and won prizes while representing my university in national as well as international competitions. We did not have any online courses at that time (the nineties). We would participate in seminars and conferences by assisting our teachers with research and other related work.

Times have changed now. Students start publishing papers during their law school years. That is because the curriculum requires them to write term papers. I find this as a very positive change in the legal education system. Nowadays with easy accessibility to the latest updated statutes, judgments, articles and other related information, life has become easier for law researchers.

I feel debates, moot courts and mock trials are integral to the understanding of the legal processes and every law student should participate in them.

5. Madam, If You Could List Out 5 Activities Which on A Scale of Priority, Should Be at The Top in Any Law Student’s School-Life, What Would Those Be?

Internships, Moot Courts, Debates, legal aid and outreach programs, law research and publications. But, there cannot be any hard and fast rule. All students should plan their extra-curricular activity chart on the basis of their individual aspirations.

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

Being a law teacher is challenging. You constantly strive hard to keep abreast with the latest developments in the law. Teaching gives you the opportunity to learn and grow. To help students build opinions, impart a perspective and holistic understanding over legal points is immensely satisfying. As a teacher you are capable of guiding and shaping minds, helping students realize their potential and achieving their goals. It is extremely fulfilling when you see your students excel. The respect and affection that a good teacher receives from one’s students are unparalleled.

There is nothing negative about being a teacher

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

Understanding legal research methodology, command over language and clarity of expression is very important for any legal writer.

All law students have to be essentially structured and articulate in one’s thought process and its presentation whether orally or on paper. For that, one needs to read adequate available literature in the concerned area, try to do some empirical study to get first hand information regarding the subject, prepare a hypothesis, outline the objectives of your research and then start writing. Before finalizing the draft one should edit it meticulously to avoid any errors.

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?

Writing books is a very demanding and time-consuming exercise. Don’t accept any proposal to write till you are not passionate about the subject. It doesn’t make sense to reproduce the content that has already been written unless you can bring some novelty to the same. For that, you need an independent understanding and perspective that one gains only after years of teaching and interacting with students on that subject with an open mind. A teacher who is closed to the opinions of students can never grow.

A successful academician is one who reads, writes and teaches in equal measure. One who brings newness to the subject generates interest of students, piques their curiosity by imparting a contemporary feel to the subject and encourages them to think, deliberate and learn.

9. 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?

Always remember there is no shortcut to success and there is no substitute for hard work. For excelling in academics, you have to be consistent in your studies. Attend classes, ask questions, don’t be afraid to put your own point of view but always be open to learning.

Studies in law, entail a lot of research work. Law is a dynamic discipline that is ever-expanding. One needs to stay updated with the latest legal developments to score an edge over others.

Another important aspect is discussions- with teachers, classmates, family and friends. Ask for their opinions, try to understand the reason behind their perspective. Compare that with what the text says. That will help you learnand understand the various hues of law in the best possible way.

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?

Law has always been viewed as an elitist profession. This holds true even today. But, the popularity of this discipline has soared in the last decade. With the opening of NLU’s, the law has been placed at par with medical and engineering.

The competition to get into a law school has increased manifold and the brightest of minds are now attracted towards the legal profession. With globalization and internet accessibility, now we are producing world-class lawyers.

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

Dream big, aim for something that you would love to do and then consistently work hard towards your goal. Stay positive, don’t let temporary setbacks or failures dampen your spirits and don’t give up. Success will come to you.

And most importantly cultivate the habit of being happy.

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

Teaching is more than a profession. It requires one to be passionate about what one delivers in the classroom. It saps up your energy, but returns in multiples. Teaching is a two-way process. One teaches and learns simultaneously. Take up teaching only if you are prepared to spend every day of your life surrounded by books, but trust me the returns are far beyond human contemplation. Be a good teacher and a better human being. You have the opportunity to influence people, use that wisely. Good teachers are cherished and respected like none else and that to my mind is the best of life’s earnings.

Law Corner