An Interview with Sunil Kumar [Assistant Professor at School of Law, Lovely Professional University]

Sunil Kumar is a seasoned legal academic professional with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. He possesses strong legal research skills and is a postgraduate in History and Law from the University of Delhi. He has published several articles on contemporary socio-legal themes with reputed media organizations and journals in India and abroad. Currently, he is with the School of Law, Lovely Professional University as an Assistant Professor. He tweets @ kumardiaries

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

Warm Greetings! Well, I take genuine pride in teaching law to young and old learners. In the process, I am also a learner. I firmly believe that enrichment of one’s knowledge is a lifelong process and learning never stops. So for over ten years now, I have been an active participant and a contributor in the higher education industry in the field of legal research and teaching. I like to write often and have published several research papers with reputed media organizations located in India and abroad. Besides, providing timely and relevant guidance to research scholars, I have closely mentored countless young law students on matters of academic importance.

I like to teach subjects centered on themes of gender justice, family law, criminology, comparative constitutional law, comparative criminal law and international law jurisprudence. I have frequently spoken at public forums and at various national and international seminars and conferences of repute organized by leading law universities and institutes of India. I have taught at Law Centre-II, Faculty of Law (University of Delhi) for about two years, besides serving a brief stint at Delhi Judicial Academy as a Research Fellow. I also had the privilege of taking Guest lectures on the subject of ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution) at the Indian Law Institute (New Delhi).

I am a recipient of Junior Research Fellowship awarded by University Grants Commission (India) and am pursuing my doctoral studies at Department of Laws, Panjab University (Chandigarh).In year 2018, I contributed towards quality dialogue building upon being invited as a Panel Speaker and Discussant at the National Seminar conducted by National Commission for Women (NCW) on the theme of “NRI Marriage related Issues in Punjab” at LPU. Recently, in March, 2020, I was invited to adjudge a National level Moot Court Competition at PURC, Ludhiana (Panjab University).

2. What inspired you to choose law as your career?

I have been always been an academically inclined learner and have performed well throughout my years as a student. Episodes of discrimination and events of injustice occurring in the society had a profound impact on my worldly outlook since my formative years. Even though it may sound utopian, I dream of and visualize a future for humanity where no one goes to sleep hungry at night and where every child feels safe and the poor and underprivileged are able to lead full and fearless lives with assured dignity in every department of life. My upbringing deeply revolved around moral ideals and ethics and righteous deportment while interacting with public at large.

Alas! Our world seems so imperfect with challenges of poverty and discrimination. There is a burning need to impart quality education to mitigate the social evils of different shades. The process of imparting legal knowledge and education in general allows me to not only shape many a bright careers but also helps me to bring a definite change in the society by expositing on ideas based on justice, equality and harmonious living among young minds. Law teaching gives me an opportunity to meaningfully contribute towards the nation building process. I sincerely thank my teachers at St.Stephen’s College (Delhi) for a laying a sound foundation towards critical thinking and inquiry in my mind. I also remain grateful to my teachers at Faculty of Law (University of Delhi) and Department of Laws (Panjab University, Chandigarh) for recognizing the legal acumen in me and giving wings to my career aspirations.

3. How was your college life like? What bent you towards Law?

Law offers a wonderful peek into the human mind and the way it operates and this in itself is a stunning process of discovery to start with. It permits not only a quick peek but a rather long look at the vagaries and vanities of the mankind. So, for example, while analyzing and studying a case of murder, you not only get to know that one human being was killed but one also gets familiar with the whole environment and societal circumstances which led that person to commit murder and this leads to further inquiry by legal and forensic experts.

Alternatively, you may investigate the motive behind the murder.
Every reported case dealing with a crime, a property dispute, matrimonial discord or a even a case of patent claim serves as a scientific case study on society and prevailing economic situation in the country. Cases help us to reach at a critical understanding about societal and economic problems and further prompt us to look for solutions to ensure a more peaceful world. Crime is ancient but till date we continue to grapple with multiple theories woven around criminological variables and fluctuating metrics. In essence, I sincerely feel that the study of law offers one of the most exciting and enriching experiences, and I am happy to be a part of this wondrous expedition.

4. Things you liked to do in law school. Your favourite subject?

I have always been a very inquisitive student of law. Due to this factor, I was not a bookworm only but often took benefit from opportunities of visiting courtrooms, child reformatory homes, old age homes, theatre shows, exhibitions and even museums. I also attended lectures delivered by eminent personalities and participated in several seminars which were organized at the university level for the benefit of students.

My favourite subjects were criminal law, jurisprudence and constitutional law. While pursuing LLM degree programme at Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, I specialized in Comparative Criminal Law, Civil Liberties, Rehabilitative Techniques and Correctional Administration.

5. How important do you think mooting or any co-curricular activity is in shaping one’s future career in law?

To my mind, co-curricular activities play an instrumental role in bringing out the latent qualities in a student. In the study of law, mooting, debates and declamations provide a healthy platform for a student to hone and master his reasoning abilities by allowing one to speak on a variety of issues. Extracurricular activities provide an excellent opportunity for law students to share ideas and exchange knowledge and also learn vital techniques of sound argumentation through observation and continuous experimentation.

6. How Did You Plan Your Internships and How Did You Go About Applying for These Internships?

In order to give oneself a wholesome learning experience, I opted for an array of internships. I chose to intern with non-governmental agencies, advocates and prosecutors to properly understand the working of our legal system. I reached out to concerned officials thorough teacher recommendations and references.

Apart from this, while pursuing LLM degree programme, I ventured into the field of legal writing and publishing. While being a scholar in residence at Post Graduate Men’s Hostel of University of Delhi, I along with few others similarly enthused and career driven batch mates and with healthy support from the hostel administration to boot took a novel initiative. We successfully launched the first ever Legal Journal titled “Perspectives” under the banner of our Hostel and ensured its publication and circulation till the time we completed our studies at the university.

The idea was to herald and encourage an academic culture where every resident scholar and especially law students got an opportunity to write quality articles, essays and critical pieces on burning legal issues and themes of socio-political importance. I was informed encouragingly by my teachers by other reliable sources that this initiative remains unique as normally one can easily come across a classroom centric institution or college coming out with an academic magazine or journal but one rarely came across a Legal Journal being brought out under the banner of a Hostel! The venture found resonance with the student community and faculties alike. The whole exercise of editing and reviewing scripts not only taught us the value of a good piece of writing but it also trained us in the uncommon art of quality writing and publishing. I am happy to mention that through this effort we left a worthwhile legacy for the upcoming batch of law students to emulate.

7. Describe your teaching style. How do you define good teaching?

Thomas Jefferson once said, “A lawyer without books would be like a workman without tools.” I strongly advise all my students to religiously cultivate a habit of reading quality law books and literature to gain insights into the legal world of advocacy and solicitor ship.

Good teaching is enabling and facilitative in character. It doesn’t serenade and wallow in verbosity and speechifying. A good law teacher would introduce the premise of a legal problem and shall allow the students to search the meaning and explanation by employing tools of clinical bare act reading, judgment analysis and a careful investigation of policy papers and documents. I like to take my students on a journey where they themselves are the captains of the ship. I act as a facilitator, mentor and guide to them. Using examples from everyday life and data based studies, I make sure that even the supposedly tough concepts appear like cakewalk to my students. They have not disappointed me thus far and they come up with unique queries and even practical solutions thereby making the learning of law an exciting exercise overall. To know any further about my teaching style, you will have to attend my class.

Law teaching is poised on the cusp of a great reform movement. How soon and how quick that happens is dependent on initiative and collective efforts of the fraternity but it cannot remain judgment centric anymore. Gone are the days when say for example, a teacher could attempt to explain the concept of ‘privacy’ through a legal lens by just mentioning one or two cases. Now obtaining a critical understanding of the legal concepts is the need of the hour. In this spirit, law schools are going to emphasize more on holistic learning and not just on rote learning oriented around select cases and judgments.

Moreover, the widespread use of internet is proving to be both empowering and debilitating at the same time. Easy availability of literature online is a boon but a law teacher needs to guard against incidences of plagiarism and plain copying.

8. What do you like best about teaching at Lovely Professional University?

School of Law at Lovely Professional University is delivering quality legal education on all fronts. The latest learning tools and educative techniques are employed to impart legal knowledge along with best industry based professional skills to the students. Moot Court exercise is taken very seriously along with other extracurricular activities like debates and declamations. For a law teaching professional, the university offers flexibility in terms of designing of law courses and research avenues are also made available in galore. A teacher is equipped with facilitative tools and these are the best in the industry in order to design quality law courses. The syllabi are designed to answer the emergent academic needs of the discipline.

The management is very co-operative and supports novel ideas and innovations. Academically useful and fresh ideas are suitably rewarded as well. I take genuine pride in teaching alongside a team of highly motivated colleagues. Overall, the teaching experience at School of Law, Lovely Professional University is professionally rewarding and motivating.

9. The best experience and success habit you would like to share with law students to encourage them.

Never doubt your strengths. When in doubt, try to gain access to the root of the problem by thinking calmly as to what led to its causation in the first place? You may invariably find the solution there itself. Problem is a construct of our mind. If we start treating it as malady, it will cloud our entire thinking process. We need to break down the problem bit by bit till the time, it becomes NO PROBLEM. Also, read, read and read sincerely. This is one success habit; I would like to share with law students. Law students should stay informed about developments taking place in the world. Law doesn’t operate in vacuum. Law affects the lives of people who are living reality in flesh and blood. So do not forget to take your daily dose of newspaper along with your morning cup of tea.

10. What Would Be Your Parting Message to Our Readers Who Are Primarily Law Students and Young Lawyers?

For Law Students

Read books of varied interest: Work as a law professional goes beyond the mundane in present times. This requires a law student to prepare in advance for the challenges of a highly competitive professional world awaiting them in near future. Law opportunities of diverse character will come along your way and to make a mark you require possessing a wholesome and critical understanding of legal concepts and ideas. How would you achieve this? One very good way is to nurture a habit of reading quality books and literature. So, if you are trying to learn about Article 14 of Constitution of India,

1950 which talks about equality you may try reading revolutionizing texts like “Gulamgiri” by Jyotirao Phule or biographies like “Up from Slavery” by Booker T. Washington. In case you are trying to understand the rationale behind the various provisions of the Constitution of India, 1950, then try glancing through the pages of Constituent Assembly Debates. Do try to read “Constitution of India-Cornerstone of a Nation” by Granville Austin. You will find meaning and purpose to your academic sojourn by nurturing a serious reading habit.

Listen patiently and speak confidently:-Listening is very important. If you do not have a good ear, you may not find many clients in future. You must learn to listen patiently. Speak boldly and effectively when all eyes are on you. You will shine in due course of time.

Have a Heart, Never Give Up and Stay Hungry: Do not fear failure. Do not run away after falling once. Rise and rise again. Never give up. Never stop learning and growing. Victor Hugo once remarked that, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose idea has come?” Your time will surely arrive.

For Young Lawyers: There are three types of lawyers. In the first category are those lawyers who go for money and money alone in their profession. The second category of lawyers seek respect and regard from Bar and Bench alike along with money, of course. There is a third category of lawyers. They do not seek power and pelf in the long run but go out all the way to ensure that justice or at least semblance of justice is brought to their client who may not be rich enough to pay hefty fees but is a victim and seeks justice. By ensuring justice for the disempowered and underprivileged the third category of lawyers earn prayers and blessings.

Empathize with underprivileged clients and give them a patient hearing even if you know you may not be able to take their case due to any reason. Guide them to their destination in such scenarios. In the initial days of your career, you may feel the need to have some money as you must be young and may start a new family. So quite understandably, you will need some copper to sail through good and bad times. However, sometime later if you find your métier in your profession, then you may pause in your life and use your acumen to bring relief to the needy, knowing very well that they may not be able to pay you handsomely. Still, you may end up earning their priceless prayers and blessings. And that will be a great reward and satisfaction to you as a legal professional in the evening of your life. You must be able to answer your conscience well, when you go to sleep at night.

Thank You, Law Corner team for providing me with an opportunity to share my views and interact with students. I wish you all success!

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