Interview: Prof (Dr) Lalit Kumar Deb, [BSC. LL.B, LL.M; Dean of Birla School of Law, BGU]
Prof (Dr) Lalit Kumar Deb is presently Dean at Birla School of Law, Birla Global University. He has a teaching experience of about 36 years. He has been Principal for Lingaraj Law College, Berhampur and has also headed UG Department of Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai.
We managed to ask him the following questions:
How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers? I am Prof (Dr) Lalit Kumar Deb. I am a teacher, with an experience of about 36 years. Former Principal, Lingaraj Law College, Berhampur; former Head, UG Department of Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai. I practiced as an advocate for a few years, was a member of the Juvenile Justice Board, Ganjam for seven years. I love reading books on philosophy, law and literature. I am also interested in drawing, painting and listening to music.
Please tell us something about your pre-college life?
I spent my school days in Stewart School, Bhubaneswar and then in Technical School at Aska. The entire pre college life was spent in hostel. I loved to play cricket, and was interested in drawing and painting.
What inspired you to pursue law? My father, Late Madhusudan Deb was an advocate of the Supreme Court, who later joined the teaching profession. After I completed B. Sc (Hons) he inspired me to join law. I joined the three year LL. B, course in Lingaraj Law College and then went for the Masters Degree.
What were your areas of interest during your graduation and how did you go about developing expertise in them? While studying for the three year LL.B degree in Lingaraj Law College, Berhampur, I developed an interest in International Law. Later, I joined ML course in Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, and opted for International Law as my specialisation. We had a renowned teacher of International Law; Prof. B. S. Murty. Prof Kesava Rao, Vice Chancellor of National Law University Ranchi was in my batch. Prof R. Venkata Rao, former Vice Chancellor of NLSIU, Bangalore was two years senior to me; Prof Bhavani Prasad Panda, former Vice Chancellor of MNLU Mumbai, and Prof T. S. N. Sastri, Vice Chancellor, Ambedkar Law University, Chennai were my juniors.
What do you find most challenging in a law school? The levels of understanding of the students are not the same. There are good students and average students. A teacher must try to bring the average student on par with a good student. The school must help develop the inherent qualities in the student and also make him a good human being.
What Qualities Do You Think A Good Lawyer Should Have? Knowledge of law, good language and communication skills, logical presentation is highly essential to become a good lawyer. However, besides being a good lawyer, we need good human beings. The duty of a lawyer is to bring people together and solve issues. Presently there is much stress on the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism.
What prompted you to choose teaching as a career? As mentioned earlier, my father was a law teacher. He was my inspiration for taking up the teaching profession. Further, one of my teachers while I was studying LL.M in Andhra University, Prof B. S. Murty encouraged me to take up research and teaching.
Tell us about your teaching methodology. I generally prefer the lecture method with power point presentation, together with discussion and Socratic Method. Informal discussions beyond class hours are an important means of creating interest in students.
How important a role do you think law school plays in shaping one’s career? Law school plays an important role in shaping ones career. Three elements play important roles: the reputation of the Institution, the quality of the teachers and the success of the seniors. Generally the alumni of a law school influence the future course and prospects of the new generation of students.
You are now the Dean at Birla School of Law, Birla Global University. How is your work experience so far? The Birla School of Law is hardly two years old. The first year was started hurriedly with a few students. The first task was getting good teachers who had studied law from National Law Schools. The academic side involves encouraging students to participate in moot courts and other activities both at the school and inter-school levels.
Could you give our young readers certain tips on excelling in academics? The key to success is hard work and discipline. Read the bare Acts and case law; write articles on topics related to the papers; Attend classes regularly. you can get all information from the net, but there is no alternative to a teacher. Learn from your friends.
What is your advice to students who wish to pursue career in academics but are confused between litigation and academics? There is a dearth of good litigation lawyers. But becoming a good litigation lawyer requires struggle and perseverance. If you are prepared take up litigation. With experience you can also have an opportunity to join the judiciary. If you want a peaceful and steady career take up academics.
According to you what is the thing that a law student should not miss during law college life? Law students should not miss classes or group activities. Students grow together and inspire each other. When you leave the institution the memories you take should be such that you can look back fondly.
What is the importance of mooting, publication and internships in a law student life? Mooting helps you to learn the basics of interpretation, presentation and arguing cases; publication helps to build up your CV and also helps to think and write clearly and analyze issues; internships bring you in contact with persons who can be your guiding beacons during and after you complete your course.
Which is your favourite area of study in the legal sphere? My favourite area of study is Law and Literature. It covers three areas of interest: Law in literature, Law as Literature and Law of Literature. Law in Literature deals with the depiction of law in literary works, such as ‘Merchant of Venice’ or ‘To kill a mocking Bird’. Law as Literature refers to the study of judgments as literary masterpieces. The judgments of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Justice Krishna Iyer, Justice H. R. Khanna and Lord Denning provide interesting reading. Law of literature deals with the laws dealing with literary works, such as copyright law, plagiarism, and press laws.
What is your opinion on the Indian legal education system? Legal Education system needs some reforms: First there is need for uniformity in the law curriculum of the five year and the three year integrated LL.B courses. There should be only one uniform system of legal education. Second, instead of 5 year integrated course 4+1 course should be introduced. Four years in the law school, and one year as apprentice under a senior lawyer or professional. The study should include both clinical and experiential learning.
Tell Me About A Recent Supreme Court Issue You Disagreed on And Why? Recently the Supreme Court on May 5, 2020 disposed of a PIL filed by Jagdip Chokkar seeking directions to permit migrant workers to return to their native places by train without conditions and charges. The petitioner stated that subsidized train fare was beyond the means of workers and getting medical fitness certificates was difficult for most workers. The Supreme Court disposed off the PIL stating that “As all necessary steps are being taken by the centre and states, we do not see any purpose in keeping the writ pending.” A few days later about 20 migrant workers, who were returning home walking, were run over by a train while they were sleeping on the tracks.
Migrant workers are the worst hit during the lockdown. Women and children suffer the most, The apathy of the state governments is clearly evident from the news media. Large number of migrant workers walked hundreds of miles, with women and children hardly getting food to eat. Many dying on the way. As the precious fundamental rights of life and freedom of movement were involved the Supreme Court should have given necessary directions. In a similar manner, in the case of ADM Jabalpur vs Sukla (1976) the majority in the Supreme Court had reposed faith in the Central government.
What would be your parting message to our readers who are primarily law students and young lawyers? Be sincere, hardworking and disciplined. Attend classes regularly and participate in all curricular and extra-curricular activities. You will learn a lot not only from your teachers but also from friends, A good scholar always has doubts. Ask questions to your teachers and your seniors, it will reflect your interest and understanding of the subject.
All information is available on the net, but the computer can never be a substitute for listening directly from a teacher and interacting in the class, Read a lot: Fiction, non-fiction, newspapers and journals. A lawyer is a student throughout his life. Once he stops learning, the lawyer within him dies.
The interview was submitted by Vasundhara Dhar.