Exclusive Interview with V. Mohana, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India.
Smt. V. Mohana, is a graduate from Coimbatore Law College. She has been practicing in the field of Law since 1988. She was also a Panel Lawyer for the Government of India. She was designated as a Senior Advocate by the Full Court of the Supreme Court of India on 23rdApril, 2015. She has worked with eminent seniors like Mr. Kapil Sibal, Mr. K.K. Venugopal, Mr. P. Chidambaram, Mr. Arun Jaitley, Mr. T. Andhyarujina, etc. It was an honor and privilege for us to converse with us.
Legal Bites: What made you choose a career in the legal field, and what was the condition of legal education during that time?
Mrs. V. Mohana: My family has always been very academically inclined and since I lived in that atmosphere, I was very extroverted in school and used to take part in a lot of extra-curricular activities like – debating, elocution, presentations and essay writing competitions, etc. So my mother realized that I was developing as an all-rounder, therefore, she being an illiterate woman, was the force behind me to take up law. She told me that she felt that I would become a good lawyer.
There were no lawyers in my family so my mother thought that it would be better if I choose Law. So, the idea was brought in by my mother and later I started liking the idea and also developing an interest in it. Fortunately for me, in 1983, in India for the first time – the five-year-integrated-course – BA LLB – was introduced. For me it was a blessing. I applied and I got it.
As far as legal education is concerned, there were not many law colleges those days and not many girls chose law. In fact, when I joined Government Law College Coimbatore, there was not even a hostel for women. Though we had a lot of visiting professors, who were all lawyers and part-time lecturers, we didn’t have a good library in the college. I think it is an added advantage for the students when lawyers opt for teaching because it couples with experience when they teach the subject. So we had the advantage of good professors. But, I would say that it is not like today.
We needed a lot of infrastructure. We needed moot court societies, MUNs and debating societies and programs like you have here, we didn’t have those. We had a very limited infrastructure but we had dedicated teachers. There is a dearth of good teachers now I would say, but I feel that there are lots of law colleges now and it is for us and for you people to decide to take up teaching in the future considering all the amenities and facilities that are available now.
Legal Bites: What mistakes do students of law need to avoid in their initial years?
Mrs. V. Mohana: I think all of us looked at studying law only from the examination point of view and prepared only for the exams. Law is not just an exam type of a preparation. It is another professional course like MBBS or clinical subjects. It is technical in its own ways. Having a bare act open when making notes or doing assignments gives students a visual of the meaning that is being conveyed.
Secondly, I think we have a lot of time that is wasted in law school. In the five year integrated course I believe that students should spend more time in participating in extra-curricular activities as much as their interests should be in academics. We need to find that balance because I feel that extra-curricular activities and playing sports is just as important as preparing for exams and doing well academically.
And most importantly, ENGLISH. When you’re doing law, communication is very important for a lawyer or anybody who has taken up law. We tend to ignore English and I think that is what is causing loopholes and communication barriers.
Legal Bites: How important is it for lawyers to pursue higher studies. What difference would it make for a practicing lawyer who has attained a masters or a doctorate in law?
Mrs. V. Mohana: It is desirable to do a masters when especially a person wants to get into the teaching career or to do a specialization in a particular subject, because doing masters gives you a very wide outlook and an analytical perspective. It is definitely an added advantage but I wouldn’t say that it is mandatory to do a masters to continue litigation. We can do without an LLM too but doing LLM gives you an edge definitely.
Legal Bites: Ma’am, you have worked with eminent lawyers and learned judges. Please share some memorable instances that you cherish.
Mrs. V. Mohana: I am very fortunate that I started in the trial court but one of the best lawyers I would say till date in civil trials. I have been really fortunate to have started my career with M. Panchapakesan, who is a very senior man now and even those days he was one of the top lawyers of Coimbatore District in Tamil Nadu, who was litigating in all areas around the district as well.
After that, when I shifted to Delhi, I was working with Ms. Indu Malhotra, who was then an advocate on record for the state of Haryana. And I met eminent lawyers like Mr. P. Chidambaram, Mr. Arun Jaitley, Mr. Kapil Sibal, and Mr. K. Parasaran, Mr. K. K. Venugopal, and people like them. And the first time I went to brief Mr. P. Chidambaram I was in awe. I couldn’t even believe that I was sitting in front of such a senior advocate whom we have heard only in news and read about in newspapers. But, the amount of encouragement they give in every meetings I have had with them, where they had asked for my views about a case and my suggestions in advocating skills for them; which although initially reluctant to open up to, but later on I realized that it gave me a lot of confidence in approaching any issue.
Legal Bites: What is the essence of doing internships in a law student’s career? How easy or difficult is it for us to avail an internship under senior advocates such as you?
Mrs. V. Mohana: (Laughs) Internships are very helpful. But, I would say that internships should not only be done in the Supreme Court. You should have a variety of internships. I feel that a lot of students in their preliminary years should concentrate on doing internships in trial courts and in high courts. One should not wait for a particular office to give you work and take it very lightly through the period of the internship. One should actually involve themselves in the job that they have been asked to do.
Secondly, to get an internship is not difficult. You must apply much in advance and plan ahead so that you get the internship. Keep enquiring. Keep looking for opportunities. Find your interest so that you get to know where you want to do your internship. You must visit the trial courts and the high courts when you are working as an intern. You can get passes made and you can enter court rooms and see what exactly is happening, so that you understand your subjects well and apply your concepts well too.
[This interview was brought to you by Keshav and Sayandip]