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Mooting drama part II: [UPDATE: Sastra happy to work on improving moot constructively]; NLIU agrees Palkhivala moot judging was weak, NLS mooter vows to get organisers changed

An NLIU Bhopal participant of the 12th Nani Palkhivala Tax Law Moot held at Sastra University School of Law Thanjavur, has added an open letter to that of NLSIU Bangalore and Nalsar Hyderabad, who had complained about the judging standards at the moot, as reported on Legally India yesterday.

NLIU Bhopal mooter Jasraj Singh Narul wrote that “the judges in the second preliminary round were not up to the mark”.

Meanwhile, one of the NLSIU Bangalore mooters, Anumeha Karnatak, who together with her team-mates and Nalsar Hyderabad participants in the moot first raised the issue, has issued a new statement, that they “simply want ‘fair judging’ in domestic moots”.

Karnatak added: “I hope you’ll find it in you to support our cause and not be dismissive about it. Also, we, along with other teams, are going to try our best to make sure that Sastra University of Law does not conduct the next edition of the moot.”

We have reached out to Sastra University’s moot court committee convenor for further comment earlier today but have received no response at the time of publication.

Update: We had missed an email from late Saturday evening with Sastra's comment. We regret the delay, here is Sastra's moot committee's response in full:

The organisers do not wish to enter into iterative arguments based on allegations that are devoid of merits & arbitrary.

We can't help but wonder the true intent of making such feedback public when the participants could have given it to us personally, like most other participants. We do take participants feedback very seriously and this edition did witness improvements drawn from previous years feedback.

Nevertheless, as is our duty, it will be our constant endeavor to improve the quality of the competition.

We are eager to take constructive criticisms and work towards betterment, leaving behind the scandalous remarks made by misunderstanding and misrepresenting the facts.

As organisers, we still maintain that the moot quality was never compromised on any front and completely deny the baseless charges made by the dissatisfied few.

Yesterday, the Sastra mooting committee had commented: “I feel there is no need for a point-wise response to such baseless, arbitrary, unfair, imaginative & sweeping allegations made by the teams from NLSIU Bangalore and NALSAR. We feel that their inability to accept their exit in the preliminary rounds and their failure to take the fair result of the competition in the right spirit has resulted in this avoidable frustration and their puerile outburst.”

NLIU’s Jasraj Singh Narul wrote:

This is in regard to the Nani Palkhivala Moot Court Competition. I read the post with regard to the concerns of NLSIU and NALSAR and I think the time is right to point out the similar concerns faced by team NLIU as well.

I would like to bring it to your notice that the judges in the second preliminary round were not up to the mark. I am no one to question their knowledge but when the lofty standards scoop that low, one is left with no other option but to question. Clearly the judges did not want Supreme Court judgments but were pretty convinced with foreign jurisdictions and points which were not even germane to the issue.

As pointed out by the NLSIU team, the memo of the opponent team was really not up to the mark. Same happened in our case where such arguments were advanced which were irrelevant and against their case.

We submitted various books for references like Nani Palkhivala on Tax, Justice GP Singh's book on interpretation of statutes, letters addressed to the UN by the Indian Government with respect to the treaties and what not. The judges didn't understand a word when it came down to interpretation. They would just pass it between themselves and give us back.

I remember that when the other team was made to argue, one judge invited him and said- " you need not argue, the case is already in your favor". You just don't decide the case without even hearing them out!!!!!

One judge was clearly biased when the rounds started as he wouldn't allow our team extension of time however, he would give as much time as the other team needed.

The judge was pretty much prejudiced from the very start as he would fill in the gaps and supplement the information to their speakers.

I would like to quote from the round-

Speaker from the other team- " The assessee is not liable to be taxed in India under the India-Germany treaty".

Judge 2-" Do you want to say that the assessee is not liable to be taxed in India because the India-Germany treaty does not apply?"

Speaker-" Indeed not your lordships! The counsel submits that the India-Germany treaty is applicable and even then the assessee is not liable"

Judge- " No! You mean to say that India-Germany treaty is not applicable because if you agree to that you will lose your case."

Speaker- " But your lordships!"

Judge interrupts again

Speaker-" Yes the counsel agrees with the bench and would like to amend the pleadings"

Judge-"Allowed"

The fact sheet had pointed out already that if the above was accepted by the respondent the assessee is liable to be taxed in India. Our team had pointed it out in their written submissions that they are already accepting it. Therefore, their case stood dismissed by Estoppel. But the judge turned a blind eye on it.

The moot proposition reserved the Appellant the right to amend the pleadings but the judge would not let us argue the point of shell corporation which according to the proposition itself wasn't raised during the initial stages under the problem before the final hearing on appeal.

However, he was very comfortable to allow the respondents to amend their grounds which the appellant did not even contest.

I am sorry to say but the guy did not get the concept that Supreme Court judgments are binding and not those of House of Lords.

We brought it to the Kiran's notice about the same and he agreed to it. We requested him to track down the judge and not call him again for judging. What we went through shouldn't happen with any other team in near future. The overall arrangements were pretty decent when it came down to student cooperation and food. We applaud for that but we express our deepest disappointment for having been judged by such judges.

Nani Palkhivala Memorial Tax Moot is a prestigious moot and its standards will fall down drastically if such shortcomings are not looked into. We would like the student fraternity of SASTRA University to take the note of the bitter truth and not revert back to us questioning our competence. It is really unprofessional to agree with us in person but get personal on a public platform!

We understand that it was your second edition of the moot and things will improve eventually but adopting a hostile attitude towards any criticisms will not be welcomed by any college. We apologize for the above but the truth had to be told. I believe that the same shall be looked into in the near future. All the best!

NLSIU postscript

NLSIU Bangalore mooter Anumeha Karnatak, who originally shared the NLSIU and Nalsar teams’ joint complaints with Legally India, full post-script regarding the episode.

I was one of the participants at the Nani Palkhivala Moot, 2016. On behalf of my team and the team from NALSAR, I would like to thank everybody who has supported us in our attempt to bring to light the unfairness and injustice that we faced at this Moot. It is really heartwarming to see people in large numbers, and from various law colleges, taking our side and understanding what we must have been through.  We would like to clarify that we do not seek any relief or redressal from this. And it does not concern just us. It concerns everybody who has been subject to arbitrary and unfair judging at various domestic moot court competitions.

While this is the first time that teams have voiced their grievances on a public forum like this, I am pretty sure that several others share our concerns. It wasn’t surprising for us to see people labelling us as “sore losers”, “arrogant losers” and what not. But we decided to fight this nonetheless because we knew what we were standing for was just, and would greatly help several other prospective mooters who will now be able to stand up against arbitrary and unfair judging at different competitions. You all will agree with us that a lot of preparation goes into preparing for a moot.

From making the memorial to preparing for the oral rounds, it’s a lot of hard work. After giving 100% to a moot, the least you can expect is fair judging by somebody who understands the law and is willing to appreciate your arguments wherever warranted.  But alas! To your shock, you face judges who do not have the basic understanding of the law in question and do not even bother to read the problem. Just think about this. In most moots, judges are briefed for a maximum of 15-20 minutes. If the area of law is technical in nature then this briefing seems largely inadequate.  Don’t you find it outrageous that your 2 (or more) months of preparation are suddenly considered lesser important than their 15 minutes of briefing?

People (mainly from Sastra) have tried to silence us time and again, sometimes by calling us “sore losers” and at other times by asking us to “grow up”. It’s understandable why they would do this. Since such serious lapses have occurred on part of their judge, they are in a damage control mode. Hence the best option available is to shift the entire blame on the participating team. Again you will see that attitude they have maintained consistently to dodge all our specific allegations. Suddenly you’ll see an increase in the number of volunteers who claim to have witnessed our round. Last I recall, there were just two of them in our moot room. 

Anyway, this kind of backfire and outrage by people who are incapable of understanding the seriousness and depth of the issue could be the reason why most teams in various competitions might choose not to speak up against downright arbitrary and unfair judging.

I will now finally stop and thank each and every one of you for showing considerable support to both the teams. Remember we are united in this cause. It’s not about a certain “arrogant team” from NLS or NALSAR. It’s about every team that gives its 100% to a moot and is yet subject to highly arbitrary and unfair judging. And and and, special thanks to the dude from Sastra who conceded in one of the comments to the previous post that our round was better. :P

We do not wish to conquer Jessup, my friend. We simply want “fair judging” in domestic moots. I hope you’ll find it in you to support our cause and not be dismissive about it. Also, we, along with other teams, are going to try our best to make sure that Sastra University of Law does not conduct the next edition of the moot.
I also thank the LegallyIndia team for promptly taking up this issue. You guys are the best.

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