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Final test: NUJS mooter Deepak Raju on Jessups, tears, unity and Noojie cultism

Legally India MPL Live: You are known to be an NUJS mooting guiding light. This is your fifth year in law school and you have now qualified to represent your country at the 'World Cup of Mooting'. How does it feel? Can you also throw light about your previous mooting endeavours?

Deepak Raju: I think I am too young to be called the guiding light of anything. I have been mooting since my first year. I love it and think it is the most worthwhile thing I have done in law school. This is my eighth moot, my second time representing India and my third international moot. It feels great. In fact, representing India is still as exciting as the first time. I will still have a tricolor hidden somewhere in my luggage just for its emotional aspect.

In my first year, I won the national round of Commonwealth and represented India at the international round at Nairobi. In my third year, I was an octo-finalist at Vienna and got honourable mentions for both the memorials. The next year, I was a member of the team that won NLS Arbitration Moot and won the Best Memorial Award. I have also participated in KLA, MM Singhvi and GNLU International Moot.

MPL: How are your preparations for the Washington Finals going? Do you have to redraft your memo and submit it again? How tough is it to prepare for the World Finals? Are you approaching successful ex-Jessupers for guidance or sponsorship?

Raju: The same memorial that was submitted for the national rounds is being automatically considered for the international round. With regard to speaking, we realise that the competition is of a completely different level. We have already approached two successful ex-Jessupites from other law schools. It is very heartening that they have agreed to coach us, a rare show of unity among Indian law schools, at least if one were to go by Legally India comments.

At present, we are happy that we are getting Government funding for the trip. I have an educational loan to repay and would not be able to afford the trip without sponsorship.

MPL: How many legal databases do you use for mooting research? Which do you think is the best?

Raju: We use Westlaw, Hein Online and Lexis Nexis. All of them have been very helpful. But the most valuable resources were found in the dusty archive section of the ISIL library. Though anyone wanting to use the library must be warned against a possible allergic reaction to dust and impenetrable bureaucracy, the collection is unparalleled. It is a pity that it is not maintained better. Many volumes have been stolen and many moth eaten.

MPL: How is the mooting culture at NUJS? How competitive is it? How are the intra-college selection rounds and the moot allocation done? Do you think NLU Delhi seeking some help from an ex-Nalsar Mooting Coach is a good strategy for the younger law schools? Should it be emulated by others?

Raju: Mooting has been the most sought-after student activity in NUJS since I can remember. When I entered law school, it was actually a kind of religion and had its own rules of conduct which were strictly adhered to.

For instance, I benefited a lot from a rule of that unwritten code which said that no mooter could say no or demand anything in exchange if an NUJS student sought “mooting help”. The adherence to this rule was so fanatical that persons who were known to hate each other’s guts and had had public showdowns would stay up nights on end helping each other with their national and international moots even though they were not officially part of the team.

I remember a now-extinct and sort of funny tradition that prohibited a moot team from contacting anyone in Kolkata from the beginning of its journey till it either won the competition or got eliminated (any religion comes with its share of superstitions). Even today, the mooting culture is robust and a lot of the old traditions, especially the best ones, remain.

The Jessup team is chosen through a challenger. The other teams are chosen through a rigourous three-round process that lasts three months. While the first two rounds are on domestic laws, the third is on international law. Of late, we have started offering moots not taken by the team, to the student body in general, so as to encourage more people to moot. We have also created a grade B team with a view to train new talent.

Hiring of an external coach may be a good strategy for new law schools. But it may be a better strategy to approach different external coaches for different moots. I saw some comments on Legally India that the external coach is an unfair advantage that NLU Delhi has. That is completely baseless as (i) older law schools have senior students who act as coaches and (ii) in an international moot, having a coach is the norm and not having one is a handicap.

For the international round, we are also availing the help (though for free) of external coaches who have been to the White and Case International Finals.

MPL: Last year there were some stories doing the rounds about the politics of the NUJS moot committee. Have those been solved? Would it be better if college mooting was devoid of politics or is it a good preparation for life outside college in its own right?

Raju: It would be stupid for me to deny that there have been differences in the NUJS mooting community. Just like in any other community made up of a large number of free thinking individuals, differences are bound to exist, and have always existed, in the NUJS mooting community. However, the sad part was that somehow purely internal affairs of the university came to be discussed through anonymous comments in Legally India and other fora.

This year, a large part of the mooting crowd is made up of the first and second year students. They all share the pride of representing one of the strongest mooting colleges in India and the fanaticism in mooting, along with the commandments of the religion of mooting in the sphere of ethics, is resurging.

The single-minded focus of our young team members is evident in the large number of wins that we have been gathering this year even before the international moots, our traditional forte, have started. Even more heartening is the large number of first-year speakers and researchers responsible for our recent wins.

With a long-term vision, we are training a large number of young mooters through our Grade B team and offering moots to the General Body if the moot team rejects them. So, in a year or two, we will be an even stronger force in the MPL than we currently are.

The Moot Court Society has also embarked on a path of ensuring transparency and inclusiveness. As the Convenor of the Society, I am glad to say that not a single objection was received this year in respect of the internal selection process.

MPL: What is your take on the MPL rankings this season? Do you think NUJS has a shot at winning the MPL 2?

Raju: Last year, NUJS lagged behind throughout the season and shot up after the international moot season began. Every single year since I joined NUJS, I can recall us doing better at international moots than at national moots. This year, given the larger number of moots we are participating in, we are second in the rankings even before a single international moot has happened. So, do we stand a chance? Res ipsa loquitor.

MPL: Finally, since you should have a pretty good idea in light of your past successes, what do you think it takes to be a winning mooter? And what is the best way to become one?

Raju: 49% hard work and sustained enthusiasm; 1% talent; 50% LUCK.

I don’t know if there exists a “best way” to becoming a good mooter. It is for each one to figure out. But the worst way would be to moot for “CV value” or other ulterior motives.

Mooting should become a passion and one should stop mooting if one stops finding it exciting. I remember, after our after our moot in Vienna, when we were about to leave the apartment we were staying in, my researcher broke down and started crying. I had a tough time controlling myself. The tears were not because we were unhappy in any way with our performance, but because Joseph Tisk (a character in the Vis Problem) and his cars had become an integral part of our lives and we could find nothing that would fill the void left behind when the moot ended. The feeling remained till we decided to do Jessup.

More interviews of Jessup winners to follow. Also have a look at Raju and other’s perceptions on the standards of Surana judging at the Jessup Rounds.

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