Recently, we reached out to our alumnus, Mr. Swapnil Verma, who is now a Deputy Manager (Law) at the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. However, in 2010, Mr. Verma was a student at the National Law Institute University, Bhopal and on his way to establish the NLIU Law Review, the first student-run journal of the university. He continues to actively contribute to the journal as a peer even today. We talked to him about his vision for the Law Review, the initial struggles faced by the first team and how far they believe the journal has come over the past ten years.
Here is the conversation we had with Mr. Swapnil Verma –
Q1. What drove you to establish the NLIU Law Review? Were there any difficulties you faced in publishing the first volume of the journal?
Honestly, we felt that the fifth year of our B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) programme was somewhat superfluous to our needs. We had already seen and been through almost everything that was within our expectations and well beyond. From a perceptible loss of purpose came out the idea of trying to do something novel, useful and possibly with some longevity. There was also an earnest desire to try and give something back to the place that had made us. Having said that, it may be an exaggeration to say that Sankalp and I established the NLIU Law Review. It was and, in my understanding, continues to be a team effort of a handful of committed hands and inspired minds. We were fortunate to be attempting something that captured the imagination of a lot of students and found favour with Professor Ghayur Alam, who readily agreed to be the Faculty Advisor and guided us.
The biggest challenge we faced was in terms of time. We were into our last trimester and wading into February 2010 when we started taking concrete steps. It took some convincing that we shall be able to any tangible progress before we eventually pass out in April 2010.
We made some questionable but firm decisions, none more than limiting the management of the law review till only up to the then Third Year Batch representatives (Batch of 2012) while only reserving the role of peers for the two senior batches. The relatively dim placement/PPO prospects at the time had the senior students economizing all their energies and focus. The decision, we believed, injected a strong drive and purpose in the young student body members who were suddenly and perhaps unexpectedly spearheading the venture. We definitely benefited from their energy and enthusiasm while simultaneously earning the ire of some senior batch students who were desirous of a more direct involvement.
Young and excited as we were, we tried to emulate the methods of Constituent Assembly Debates in adopting a Constitution for the law review, holding passionate brainstorming sessions and distributing responsibilities based on the skills and willingness of individuals. Once we had that sorted, our younger friends led the charge and delivered, while Sankalp and I subsisted as mere mentors.
There were other challenges such as ensuring quality content for the first issue and some teething troubles such as procuring a software for checking plagiarism. But we were more invested in the process than the outcome and student body members showed great responsibility, optimism and resourcefulness to ensure that we could have the pleasure of holding a copy of the first volume of the NLIU Law Review late in April 2010. It was a journey made possible by all those who came together, shared our aspirations and apparently gave us something worth cherishing to look back from so far.
Q2. What was your vision for the journal? How far do you think the journal has come towards achieving it?
The idea was to promote legal research by having a flagship student law review. It was felt that even though the students of NLIU Bhopal were excelling in international and national moot court and like competitions, there was little emphasis on scholarly legal research. We had also witnessed and had been a part of a sub-culture where mandatory project papers submitted by students would not hold much academic merit. It thus appeared that establishment of a student law review may be a small step to encourage the quality and incidence of legal research in the students. In the larger context, it was also a part of the vision that with the sustained efforts of the student body behind the law review, it may gradually but progressively become a publication of national and international importance and repute. Frankly speaking, when working on the blueprint, we used to think of ‘Harvard Law Review’ all the time!
Having been a peer to the NLIU Law Review, I can attest to the fact that the quality of papers received and approved for publication has definitely improved over the years. However, having been established in and operating from a premier law institute of the country, I feel the NLIU Law Review can possibly achieve much more acknowledgement, prestige and impact. I say this with utmost respect and without discounting the immense efforts of all student members, contributors and support of the administration.
Q3. Any advice for the student members of the Law Review, prospective authors of the journal or its readers?
I congratulate all the student members of the NLIU Law Review who have contributed to, nourished and nurtured this project since the last ten years. I feel that this journey of ten years must have given us valuable and tangible learnings, experiences and insights which can be harnessed to chart the path forward. This juncture can be a platform to reflect on the past, adapt to the changed expectations, ‘review’ the relative highs and lows that the law review witnessed and thereby rise to the next level. If required, I shall love to contribute further to the cause. In fact, I entreat all ex-students of the university to shower some attention to the law review and thus hop-on to the wonderful journey that this venture has continued to make long after we were gone.
Meanwhile, I entreat both the student members as well as prospective content-contributors to identify legal situations and frameworks where there is relative dearth of research in India and provide impactful studies and deductions. I request authors to be inquisitive and fearless in their approach and contribute content that can invigorate legal debates and challenge settled assumptions.