Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

Jaya Godhwani, LL.M. candidate, Maastricht University,on pursuing forensic science, and her internship experience

Jaya Godhwani pursued a science and law combination degree from KIIT, Bhubaneshwar, batch of 2013. She is currently pursuing a masters in law from Maastricht University, specialising in forensics, criminology, and law.

In this interview, we speak to her about:

  • Interning with Senior Advocate Ram Jethmalani
  • Critical details for a career in Forensic Science
  • Her LL.M. experience from the Maastricht University.

 

Tell us about your life before college. Did you have lawyers in your family?

Ah! I feel nostalgic. Well, when I was a child the world seemed to be a place of joy and happiness to me. There was nothing to worry about. I am the youngest child in my family. Since my childhood years I have been very active. My mom and my school teachers say that since my schooldays I have leadership qualities in me. I was determined and very hard working during those days as I am now. I was always keen to participate in the debates, recitations, and other extracurricular activities. I represented my school in many inter school debate competitions and brought laurels to my school by winning few of the competitions.

My whole family is into business. I was the first child to step out of my hometown to do something different. Subsequently, I inspired my other young family members towards this profession. My younger cousin is pursuing BB.A. LL.B. from KIIT University.

 

Why did you decide to study Law?

I still remember this one instance in my life very clearly when I made up my mind to study and pursue my career in law.  In 2006, when I just cleared my 10th Standard, I had to fill a form in which I had to choose my subjects for class XI. I never wanted to choose Science/Biology because I saw my elder sister working day in and out on those bulky botany and zoology files, and the dissections which she used to do. On the 7th of May 2006, my dad made me read an interview of a girl who did her BSc. LL.B. from NLU Jodhpur and Prof. NL Mitra’s view on B.Sc. LL.B. and its booming career in India. Second page of the newspaper had some information about Forensic Science and its relation with law, how it’s used in courtrooms, and the dilemma faced by judges with respect to its admissibility in the cases. Those newspaper articles sparked my interest, as it was really challenging to work and gain in depth knowledge in those dimensions of legal sphere which were untouched, unheard and fascinating. In those fractions of a second I just opted for Science/Biology as a subject for my Class XI. It was then, in 2006, I decided to pursue B.Sc. LL.B.

 

What have your internship experience been like?

When a student enters a law school he/she is not much aware about different sectors related to law. He/she learns from their seniors and teachers how to play the cards and learn the rules of the game slowly. Same thing happened to me. When I entered the law school I had no idea about internships and how to get them. My college formed a placement and internship cell in 2008 when I entered the law school. I was chosen as a member of that placement and internship cell. It was then I learned from my mentors about internships in law firms and in the litigation sectors. I wanted to explore both areas so as to decide for myself where I wish to head.  Therefore, all the decisions with respect to internships were taken very rationally and cautiously because I was warned since day one that these things play a vital role in framing Resume. So after talking to many people around, and most importantly not forgetting my area of interest, I decided my internships majorly in litigation sector.

 

jaya-godhwani2How did you get the opportunity to intern at the Chamber of Senior Advocate Mr. Ram Jethmalani?

Grabbing an internship under eminent criminal lawyer Mr Ram Jethmalani was my dream since 2006, when I decided to pursue my career in B.Sc. LL.B. You can say it was like a miracle for me to get internship under him. He used to come to our college to deliver lectures during the International Law Weeks. During one of his visit to my college, I approached him personally and spoke to him about my interest in Forensic Law and expressed my desire to intern under him. He asked me a few questions related to Forensic Law, and personally offered me an internship. My happiness knew no boundaries; I wasn’t able to believe that I actually laid my hands on my dream internship in the third year of my law school.

 

Our readers would be keen to know how you went about securing your internships.

The first rule taught to me by my dad and teachers was never narrow down your scope. A lawyer should know everything. So I worked in that direction. My faculty and seniors helped me build my blocks. I chose to explore NGOs, Law Firms, and Sole Practitioners to observe closely their working patterns. Apart from Forensics, I gradually developed an interest in Intellectual Property Rights due to Professor. Dr Tabrez Ahmed, one of the most intellectual teachers in the IPR Field.  Therefore, under his guidance I started targeting all the top firms which worked in those sectors, because I knew, I would willingly give my best in those internships. After securing enough of good internships, my other teacher Mr. Kumar Kartikeya and Mrs. Parimita Dash pushed me to explore the world of mooting, because according to them, a law student should also know how it feels to plead before the Honourable judges.

The most important thing according to me, which I kept in mind while framing my CV, was maintaining an adequate balance in all the areas, i.e. internships, moot courts, publications and extra-curricular activities.

 

How did you develop an interest in Forensic Sciences?

Since my early years in school, I loved to take up challenges. After reading an article in the newspaper which talked about forensic science and related issues confronted by Indian Judiciary System, which inspired me to opt forensic law. DNA test, Fingerprints, Saliva test and other areas of forensics, sounded fascinating and interesting. The decision to pursue my career in this particular field, strengthened when I interned in the Directorate of Forensic Science.

Forensic Law is at a very nascent stage in India.  Therefore, according to me, many lawyers are not much aware about this particular field of law. As far as my knowledge goes, I don’t think so many people pursue this course.

 

Tell us your experience interning at the Directorate of Forensic Sciences.

Indeed, it was amazing experience. I worked in the Ballistic department, where I examined the firearms so as to determine the nature and type of weapons used in the crime, linked fired bullets/ cartridges with the suspect weapons.

I also worked in the Chemistry department, where I was assisting an expert in a dowry death case, in which I examined the burnt clothe samples. Different questions, like whether kerosene or something else was used to burn the lady, and I also learnt about  chemical  analysis of exhibits such as the viscera, biological fluids, trap cases, dowry death cases, acids and various others exhibits referred by the Investigating Agencies. Viscera including biological fluids are examined for poison detection in cases of homicides and suicides.

Finally, I along with my other co interns made a report on the status of forensic laboratories in India.

Overall, my experience at forensic laboratory was eye opening, as I learnt how it gave new dimensions to criminal justice system, by unfolding the truth.

 

What is the procedure for an internship application with the Directorate of Forensic Sciences?

I raise my serious doubt if one can get an internship directly under Directorate of Forensic Science. There are no specific guidelines regarding framing of application for this internship. In my case, University Grants Commission (UGC) was looking for motivated students, in 2009, to work and prepare a report on the current status of Forensic Science Laboratories in India. So, some of the students from my course applied and we were fortunate enough to get an opportunity to work for that research project. As a result, I was offered an internship in the Directorate of Forensic Sciences.

 

Are there any opportunities to study the subjects you chose to specialize in your LL.M. in India?

Well, NLU, Jodhpur offers an LL.M. in Forensics, Criminology and Law in India and some of the Government Institutes also offer the same course. After working in the Directorate of Forensic Science and after learning that, Scandinavian countries are the world’s best when it comes to forensic law, which motivated me to study abroad.

Additionally, the lack of knowledge about the subject in Indian legal sphere intrigued me more towards foreign university. I really wanted to explore how they are different from us and what we have to do to come to their level. Moreover, I wanted to know the reason, why serious crime rate is so less in these countries. I found out that the Netherlands is one of the countries in the world which has the lowest crime rate because of their stringent forensic law and use of advanced technology to curb the crime. This urge of knowing and learning things brought me to the Netherlands to study Forensics, Criminology and Law.

 

How did you go about choosing which college to go to for your LL.M. and did you ever consider Indian colleges?

It is one of the most important decisions in one’s life to choose the right college and program for your higher studies. If you don’t do that properly, then you don’t enjoy it and you end up in no men’s land.

As the trend goes, I spoke to my seniors who already got themselves enrolled in Master’s Programs. I think they are the best persons to guide you about these things because they have a pretty fair idea what went wrong with their applications or what better they could have done. So, I started hunting for colleges on www.LLMguide.com which suited my area of interest and shortlisted few of them. I made few friends from abroad when I represented my college in International Youth Forum 2011 in Russia; I spoke to them about those universities which were there in their hometown. Furthermore, I also looked at the faculties, the structure, the library and the guest lecturers of the universities. I got in touch with the alumni of those universities through social network sites, and inquired about relevant information and then shortlisted universities. Frankly speaking, I never wanted to pursue LL.M. from India so I never considered any Indian college as an option for my post graduate studies.

For me, Maastricht University was the best as it met all my desired criteria. Of course, like for every student, the university and course both matter, same goes for me. After learning that Maastricht University is ranked 6th among the top 100 best young universities worldwide, my decision became more firm to pursue my master from Maastricht. The course offered by them was the best when compared to the other universities in which I applied. It was exactly what I wanted to do. So, the course coupled with University ranking were the factors which played major role in deciding the college.

 

Are there any scholarships for studying at the Maastricht University?

I was lucky enough to get a UM High Potential Student Scholarship at Maastricht University. So I didn’t face any difficulties in terms of finances and other things. Regarding accommodation, Maastricht University has their own website where you can easily find accommodation if you have a subscription.

There are scholarships available for Non-European students at Maastricht University. For further details on the scholarship you can visit the scholarship page at the Maastricht University official website.

 

How is the faculty & academic schedule at Maastricht?

I am really impressed by the faculty of the Maastricht University. All the staff members are engaged in highly qualified scientific research programmes and incorporate the findings of their research activities in the different courses.  The connection with real life cases is also enhanced by means of apprenticeships and guest lectures. They are just not into purely academics; some are Directors of Forensic Laboratory, Attorneys, Public Prosecutors, Young Lawyers, and Honourable Judges of the Supreme Court. Therefore, they teach us the applicability of law in practical world. So apart from theoretical insights they emphasise on real world practice.

The Maastricht University has an innovative problem-based learning approach. It is a student centred instructional method widely used at the University. In all courses we have a tutorial group where we prepare, discuss and formulate learning goals for next session. The student reads and discusses all the literature in the tutorial and the tutor (instructor) acts as a catalyst, rendering help when and where it is required. This allows us to develop an independent approach and enhances our research skills. Moreover, it helps us to think in a new dimension.

So my typical day starts like any other student in Maastricht. I grab a Bun and head towards university, for my tutorial or lecture. When it is a tutorial session, the whole week I have to study more than 3000-5000 pages to prepare myself for class discussions. Sometimes, I have to submit assignments every week, which make my routine more hectic. Lectures sessions are always pretty relaxed as compared to tutorials as I have fewer pages to read.

Frankly speaking, personally in India, I didn’t at all prepare anything before the classes, I used to sit and listen what the teacher said. But here things are the other way round, I have to understand the literature first, on my own, and then in tutorials I have to share and express my views and thoughts about the same. If at all my way of thinking is wrong or different than my fellow students, they share his or her view and the tutor at the end use to address in general about the things. So according to me, in India things were pretty relaxed and flexible.

 

What more do you believe Indian Universities should provide to the students?

I am really impressed by the teaching method adopted by the Maastricht University. Especially the tutorial sessions, where though we don’t have any background or knowledge about those new subjects, but still we are asked to prepare for tutorial sessions. We then discuss the texts we have read and then it ends as a productive and interactive session. Here, we learn from other fellow students as well as from the teacher. So the learning process which takes place here is unparalleled. I think Indian Universities should also adopt these kind of approaches, which will help students to read, learn and think independently and in a different dimensions altogether.

 

Was there time enough for non academic pursuits at Maastricht?

I think one should always learn to balance things in life. In legal profession, you need to have contacts and socialization/networking is the best method. So, yes I do take out time from my busy schedule to hangout with my classmates. In fact, I also organised two Indian Events at Maastricht with the help of the Dutch Municipality. One of the events which I organised was Holi Festival for my foreign classmates. I think it is always good to showcase your culture to your international friends; this is how they will learn about your culture and vice versa.

So after hectic weekdays we do organise some or the other class events on the weekends, just to relax and know a bit more about each other.

 

Do you think higher studies are a necessity for a successful legal professional?

According to me, the more knowledge you gain the better it is for you. I was always determined to go for higher studies. So well, in my case I do agree that it was necessary for me as I wanted to gain in-depth knowledge in such complex areas of law. I do wish to pursue my career in criminal law therefore, I thought a Master Degree would be more helpful as I wished to know how to read and interpret forensic reports in criminal cases.

My suggestion to law students would be – if you think your area of interest demands more research in that field, then definitely you should go for higher studies. Exploring new dimensions and expanding the horizons is always beneficial. Afterwards, one can always get into good law firms first as a trainee and then as an employee. If not that, then a PhD in law is also good option, as it would be wonderful to have young and bright intellectuals in the academic sphere.

 

What are your future plans? How do you plan to use the experience and the knowledge gathered at Maastricht?

I would love to work in a Forensic Science Laboratory in the Netherlands but it is not so easy to get through because of the confidentiality and national security clauses of the country. Meanwhile, I am working on a project related to forensic science, which I hope gets approved by the European Union and the Indian Government, in near future. So by the end of August things will be clearer to me.

In the future, I would love to come back to my country and practice in the criminal law field.

 

And any word of advice for all the young law students out there?

I don’t think so it is possible to do something without dreams. So, dream high and work hard to achieve your goals. Dreams do come true. Make as many contacts as possible during your life journey, you never know when and how somebody can help you to turn your dreams into reality.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. BalakrishnanGurumurti

    May 21, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    indeed a good piece to be read and become wise on what you shd do!

  2. BalakrishnanGurumurti

    May 21, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    indeed well structured questioning by super lawyer web

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