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NLU Delhi Jessup winner: We are not ‘spoonfed’ and could win MPL

Akshay BD, a member of the NLU Delhi team that is representing India at the Jessup World finals this year spoke to Legally India about the controversial ‘mooting coach’ allegations, the world finals preparation, the MPL standings and NLU Delhi mooting culture.

Legally India MPL: We had reported earlier about NLU Delhi appointing a new first-of-its-kind mooting coach, who is a young Nalsar alumnus, to assist the students in their mooting endeavours. How far has this plan worked? Can one see the recent success of NLU Delhi in Jessup, Ledien Air Law, etc as a result of this innovative move by the University?

Akshay BD: The official view of the Moot Court Society and Professor Singh is: We have hired a Nalsar alumnus for our moot courts. Honestly, I am disappointed with your reporting of this issue. The article seems to suggest that an associate at a law firm spends time substantively helping teams every Saturday. These are incorrect. We do not have an official moot coach. 

Anyway, to clarify, Mr. Ketan is a visiting faculty who is hired especially and only to judge our internal rounds. He judges our intras intensively spending over 2 hours for each round. This is evidenced by the fact that our intra rounds go on till 3 am in the morning. He sits through all the rounds making the procedure comprehensive and making sure that each mooter feels he or she has been heard adequately.

He is, of course, very intelligent, making it quite impossible to bluff your way through the process. Such a dedication coupled with the transparent and almost foolproof selection procedure has ensured that the teams that deserve to moot are selected. Beyond that, it is really the team's efforts that have paid off. When you are standing at the podium being grilled by a judge, no amount of spoon-feeding can save you and I am sure you will appreciate this fact.

We have worked very hard to be where we are today. Therefore, I request you to report this accurately since it is disappointing to be confronted with baseless accusations about being offered 'substantive help' (read spoonfed) and taking away credit from teams that truly deserve it.

[Editor’s response: The details in our original story came directly from Professor Singh. Now it could be that there was some internal miscommunication and Mr Ketan does not come every single Saturday and the exact help varies, but we stand by the reporting in our original story based on the facts as communicated to us at the time.

In any case, I think this issue has been blown out of all proportion and no one ever alleged ‘spoonfeeding’, except for maybe in jest by other colleges. Older colleges usually have professors providing similarly ‘substantive’ help by judging the moot teams, or they may have fifth years or alumni doing so. We think it is a testament to the initiative and creativity of NLU Delhi, which does not yet have a long mooting legacy to draw on, to innovate and it is clearly proving to be successful. But this should in no way take away from the achievement of the mooters, nor was it ever intended to. Best regards, Kian]

MPL: How are your preparations for the Washington Finals going? Do you think that being a young team of third years, you may have any disadvantage in the world finals? Are you approaching successful ex-Jessupers for guidance or sponsorship?

Akshay: We are going to start our preparations for the Washington rounds soon. We want to make sure we make the best use of this opportunity we have been presented with. We are a young team with little experience with international judges. I do not, however, think that it necessarily puts us in a position of disadvantage. In fact, it worked to our benefit in the national rounds because we were severely under confident knowing that most of the members of other teams were fifth year students. This is one of the reasons we worked that extra bit to ensure we cover up any evidence of inexperience in front of the judges, which eventually paid off.

For the international rounds, of course, we will probably face the problem of lack of experience. But, we will, as always, strive to give it our best. We are planning to approach ex-mooters and persons who have passed out from other Universities. I hope our approach to this preparation in guided in the correct direction. We are also plan to tweak our oral pleadings to suit the style that is typical of the international rounds. 

As for sponsorship, we have an absolutely wonderful Vice Chancellor Dr. Ranbir Singh, who has given us his unconditional support to order any books/journals etc. The University does not allow the students to spend one pie from their pockets for any moot court competition. We are completely funded by our University. 

MPL: What is your take on the MPL rankings this season? Do you think NLU Delhi has a shot at winning the MPL 2? How is the mooting culture in college? Is it popular on campus and competitive? How are the Intra Selection rounds and the moot allocation done?

Akshay: As far as MPL is concerned, I am very happy with the way things have turned out for our college. It offers great visibility for law schools and students who win moot court competitions. Every law student wants to make his University proud and I think if we can do that in any little way possible. MPL has added a whole new flavour to mooting, making it an exciting and competitive activity. People are checking the charts often, significantly increasing the stakes and value attached to each moot. I hope we win the MPL this time. I think it is definitely on the horizon. However, like any unpredictable sporting table, we may see a completely new actor spring to the top of the table because of one moot. So, it’s never over till its over. At present, it’s great to know my University is leading in the MPL because of our team.

Students from the first year to the third year take part in the intra selections. It happens once every year. It is judged by Mr. Ketan along with another judge. There is just one round of intense mooting based on different areas of law each time. This year, however, we plan to streamline the process by releasing two separate problems (one for international law moots and the other for national law moots) and therefore two separate rounds. 

The mooting culture in college is extremely competitive. It is especially so because our institution is young and the only way to showcase any legal talent to the outside world is through moots and publications. The administration has ensured, from the very beginning, that we treat moots as high priority academic activities. In addition, the University funds all the activities. Therefore, it is these added incentives in the form of encouragement from the administration and the motivation of the students to prove that they are equal to any other National Law School that has driven this performance. Besides, mooting gives you visibility in college and outside :-)

More interviews of Jessup winners to follow. Please have a look at Akshay’s perceptions on the standards of Surana judging at the Jessup Rounds.

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