Be true to what you do, even if you know that what you are doing is temporary- Padma Sinha, Group Head-Technology Law at Fox Mandal

This interview has been published by  Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

Ma’am, in order to start this conversation, please let us know what motivated you to be in the legal profession? 

Law is a dynamic story for me. I do not come from a family of lawyers but have always revered the profession as a justice-serving device. Fundamental values such as moral conviction and public good (even if that is an unpopular choice) always triggered me. Legal egalitarianism leading to social equality and defending civil rights always triggered me.

Let’s say Atticus Finch motivated me to be in the legal profession.

Kindly share your experience of studying LLM at the Queen Mary-university?

I did my LLB in India in a very different teaching environment. When I started my LL.M, at Queen Mary, it came as a surprise- I mean, a pleasant surprise. The teaching methodology was absolutely distinct in ways I didn’t know existed- always highly interactive. A whole hour in each class would be spent discussing the topic of the day, exchange ideas peer-to-peer; so more often than not, after classes we all will be hanging out somewhere discussing and debating on the day’s topics.

QMUL also gave me plethora of opportunities to write & edit magazines, participate in legal clinics, visit the UN in Geneva, attend insightful seminars, participate in election & Brexit campaigns and a huge lot of other things which I will treasure forever.

I value my degree certificate a lot; But what I value more is the one year that opened my mind incredibly.    

IT law professionals are rare in sight, so what motivated you to take up this very specific field of law? 

Advancement in technology is inevitable. The pace at which technology is developing is unparalleled. I feel there is a need to ensure that the pace of advancement matches the legal safeguards. This is a non-traditional area of law which I see is burgeoning as new technologies emerge. I wanted to be a part of this- By understanding the new techs and thereafter being part of history creating the legal armour to protect ourselves from not only current issues on digital space but also much complex technology issues, yet to come, that may have profound impact on almost every aspect of our lives.

How do you analyse the freedom of speech over the internet and the restrictions placed upon the same?

Freedom of speech and expression is a guaranteed constitutional right and the fundamental premise of democracy. As it has been said, a democratic society stands fundamentally upon unfettered debate, discussion, and open dialogue, as it acts as the sole “corrective of government action” – that’s the genesis of any discussion on it.

The digital era suddenly opened floodgates of information easily accessible to a large section of the society. The outreach of voices now transcended physical boundaries. It however brought with it new risks and challenges to democracy. Many authoritarian populism across the world used internet to propagate disinformation and hate speech. Problem is that people now do not only have different opinion, they have different facts. Like various sets of information to choose form and as per their convenience deem such information as ‘fact’ on the basis of which they form opinion. Therefore, deciding whether a particular speech is worthy of protection, or not, is a slippery slope.

The ‘harm principle’ and the ‘offense principle’ are often designated as the guardians of social harmony. Our Constitution also provides for reasonable restrictions. But the irony however is with the judgement of what may form ‘reasonable’ – that has a changing face and sometimes an infectious ‘over-sensitivity’ syndrome, leading to dissident voices punished and the freedom curbed.

The current IT Rules amendment on fact-check can be an example. With the power as this amendment provides to the government, the checks & balances provided by the media & civil society would be affected adversely. The answer therefore does not lie in government taking more control to censor unpalatable criticism. That’s dangerous for a democratic, civil society.

Ma’am, please let us know what keeps you motivated to deliver the best in your field?

Motivation comes in various ways. Amongst other things, I think working in a law firm gives you a diverse scope. Adding to it, technology law is a very dynamic area where there is always a new advancement that needs a legal explaining to the client. Honestly speaking there are always some areas where you need research, interpretation and brain-storming. This constant need to get answers and communicate so to the satisfaction of your clients- keeps me motivated. I feel very motivated each time I explain something to a client and they sound very convinced.

What qualities do you think an IT law professional must possess?

  • Updated on trends in technology is a must
  • Understanding the client’s needs (including client’s products/ services)
  • Thereafter, legal risk assessment and managing them
  • Not just for IT law professionals, but generally drafting and communication skills are important.

We would like to know more about the current role in the TMT legal team of Fox Mandal.

I work as Group Head in the Technology team. My Role includes providing a wide range of advisory to clients in the technology space on data privacy, data breach and security, drafting, advising and negotiating various technology contracts.

In order to wrap this conversation up, kindly provide us with the piece of advice you would like to give to all the budding legal professionals.

  • Be true to what you do, even if you know that what you are doing is temporary. Do not be impatient. I feel law is an area of learning for the rest of our lives. So be patient.  
  • Also, learning is a very important thing to do, as a legal professional, not just technology lawyer. It’s important to constantly un-learn and re-learn. Every person you interact with, in the profession, senior-junior-peer is our learning tool.

Get in touch with Padma Sinha-

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