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An estimated 6-minute read

My first Moot Court Competition

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KK Luthra Memorial International Criminal Law

It all started on 7th November 2009 when after ranking 3rd in the Intra-College selection rounds of National Law University, New Delhi, i was selected for the KK Luthra Memorial Criminal Law Moot Court, 2010, which happens to be the the very first moot on International Criminal Law, to be held in India, with 48 teams participating including Cambridge University and team from Pakistan. It was conducted by Campus Law Center, Delhi University.

I had previously participated in a no. of Model UN Conferences, especially in Security Councils, so I already had an inherent interest in Human rights and matters of International Humanitarian Law. This years moot problem was based on the crime of Genocide in a certain country, which had domestic laws similar to that of India, and the applicable statute was that of the UNICTR. To summarize the factual matrix: It was a medley of the Genocide in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, the Godhra-riots, Sikh-riots, and The Bombay Riots. All in all it was a well-balanced and compelling problem, wherein the accused, the CM of a State, was convicted by the trial chamber of an International Tribunal, set up in his home country, and the moot was to take place in the Appeals Chamber.

My  Team comprised of myself as the 1st speaker, Aditya Sharma as 2nd Speaker and Mohit Sharma as researcher. We first of all started, by reading and re-reading the entire problem and critically analyzing and interpreting factual issues. The best way to do this is to keep writing your interpretations of each fact, for both the Appellants and the Respondents side simultaneously. After having sufficiently internalized the factual situation, we started drawing parallels to similar factual situations as stated above. After further research on each precedent, we shortlisted ones which closely resembled the given factual matrix. Then we turned to case law on the these factual situations. The International Tribunal judgments proved very useful in this regard, since they contained an in depth discussion of arguments from either sides, and discussion of past -precedents. This helped us divide legal arguments from each sides perspective. To brush up our knowledge on International Criminal Law, we referred to several manuals of the same subject. The late night heated discussions on applicable law and interpretations and countless cups of coffee, are a sweet reminder of the beautiful experience that mooting is.

This brings us to the second stage, the memorial writing stage. We visited the ISIL library, which is right in front of the Supreme Court, and got hold of a no. of books and texts on specific sub-issues involved like jurisdiction, crimes against humanity , Joint criminal enterprise, instigation etc. We then turned to writing arguments, having with us piles of photocopies, random notes taken during discussions, criminal law manuals etc. We had divided the five issues in question between the three of us, depending on who has a better  grasp of it. The writing of the memorial went right into the night till dawn. It took us around 7-8 days to finish the memorial from the day we actually started writing. The result, after printing and spiral bindings was far from perfect containing several un-avoidable typographical errors due to last minute hassles. But that didn't end up being an impediment in securing us the 4th Highest marks in the memorial 30.5/ 40, the winning team had 32 Marks. Preparation for the oral pleadings was spread over 5 days, which included reading the memo several times. The actual pleading included a single piece of paper containing an authority cheat sheet, with the footnote no and page no. of the authority in the memo. This proved to be quite useful especially during the grilling questions posed by the judges. We had quite a memorable stay at the DU hostel, details of which are a story for another day. During the inaugural ceremony we met with legal stalwarts like Siddhartha Luthra, who happens to be an extremely humble and a gregarious human being. He took personal interest in each team and asked for feedback and other inputs.  We also met with other teams we had met at the ISIL library, who were equally nervous about the next day event. The first day ended with an exchange of memorials, and we spent the night taking apart the memorials for both the prelim rounds, which really made us feel like real lawyers, reminding of the scene from A FEW GOOD MEN,the one with the day before trial.

We were scheduled for the Session-II prelims, so the morning was spent frantically cross-referencing and revising arguments. We were the respondents in the first round, and it turned out to be quite an easy affair, considering the Appellants had erred on several points of law and fact. We won that round by a margin of 120 marks(A=309, R=430), which really boosted our confidence. The  second round was comparatively easy with the judges being quite passive, and less inquisitive. We won that round with a margin of 110(A=460, R=350). Soon afterwards, we were told that we have made it to the Top 8 teams, based on our memo scores, since there were 13 teams with 2 wins each. The teams that lost out in the prelims were Cambridge University, NLIU bhopal and NUJS. We were pitted against 3rd and 4th  year students from NALSAR in the quarter finals, which eventually won the Best Speaker and Runners-up award. The quarter-finals had a set of extremely talented judges who mostly tested your general knowledge of criminal and constitutional issues, rather than on main issue. One of the judges, who seemed like an accomplished trial lawyer, asked questions(many of them leading) as one would cross-examine a witnesses and ultimately make you say something which in retrospect would seem quite incorrect. Since, the quarters took place at around 9 in the night, the judge were very hostile and testy. All in all, to prevail in the quarter finals one requires an in depth knowledge of all areas of law, in depth knowledge of basic fundamentals, and presence of mind which comes only from experience. We lost to NALSAR with a margin of 20 marks. The biggest consolation, was that just before the results came out, the opposing counsel came up to me, and said: ''It's gonna be really close, you guys very confident up there, and we screwed up really bad! Which year are you in?"

First Year. The look on his face after my response, and the compliments that followed, are one of the best memories of that moot. The judges from that round also congratulated us on our convincing abilities, including Mr. Siddhartha Luthra himself. Even though, my journey into my first moot has ended, i went to Indian Habitat Center the next day, to witness some stellar mooting from the GLC team, who very clearly very experienced and much better grasp of the legal issues in question. The first  speaker, was so confident that he even evoked a couple good laughs from the presiding Delhi High Court Judges, from his witty retorts.

All in all, this was one my most memorable in my still short but quite eventful life in law school, promising a great many more in the next 4 and a half years. I would like to thank our mentor Mr. Apar Gupta, who in my belief is one of the best mooter i have come across. Thank you Apar, for taking time out of your busy schedule and spending time with, and providing us with those useful nuggets, that made our experience all the more enriching. I would also like to thank my team mates Aditya, for his un-ending arguments, Mohit, for being an emotional and moral supporter through this ordeal, The Registrar, the VC and the librarian for providing us any books we needed for an indefinite period, and finally my fellow students at NLU, Delhi who constantly counselled and motivated me.

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