This interview has been published by Ayush Verma.
How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers in your own words?
I am a Maritime Lawyer whose journey has been full of ups-and-downs. I graduated in Law from the National Law University, Odisha in the year 2016. In my undergrad years, I was a sportsperson and did not really cherish the idea of mooting. However, ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) caught my attention and I went on to participate in multiple ADR tournaments, both in India and abroad. Mediation and Negotiation were my forte. However, in my final year of law school, I decided to appear for the UPSC Civil Services Examination. Three attempts later, I thought that maybe it is not my cup-of-tea. Then, in the year 2019, I decided to pursue LL.M in Maritime Laws. In the year 2020, I graduated with flying colours and I joined the National Maritime Foundation (New Delhi) as an Associate Fellow.
You talk about your love for the defense maritime sector in your portfolio. Did your upbringing or parents have anything to do with that or were you influenced by some other role model?
While in school (La Martiniere College, Lucknow), I had joined the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and I have served 5 years in that organization, both as a Cadet and a Senior Under Officer. Therefore, the love for the Armed Forces has always been there in me, ever since I was a kid. Incidentally, another factor that played its part in this journey was the fact that my house in Lucknow (my hometown) is located nearby the residence of a Param Vir Chakra awardee- Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey (PVC).
You could have joined the Navy or taken up other ventures under defense. How did this passion for the oceans find intersectionality with the law for you?
My father is a Marine Engineer and hence, the inspiration to try something different comes from him. As a child, I lived in Port Blair (Andaman & Nicobar Islands) and have seen the life of a seafarer from close quarters. Therefore, when I decided to pursue a Masters degree in Law, I had already made up my mind that I shall opt for Maritime Laws. In addition, Maritime Laws are not confined to any one particular jurisdiction. Rather, it is of an international character with eccentricities usually not found in any other branch of law.
The conviction to choose this avenue is still uncommon. To any young law student, how would you describe your work?
It is quite unorthodox and it does not fit the bill of “usual legal work”. This is because maritime law is an arena which is evolving with each passing minute considering it is heavily enmeshed along with geo-politics and geo-strategy. It has a vocabulary of its own which needs to be understood by the incoming law student who wishes to make a mark in the domain of maritime laws. Hence, if you are willing to go that extra mile to try something new, a career in maritime laws certainly will satiate your hunger.
What according to you is the key to success in this branch of law? Do you suggest any particular internships or volunteer work to develop an interest in the field?
The mantra for success is hard work and a passion to work for the betterment of the maritime fraternity. Initially, it might seem that the investment (both psychological and monetary) is a bit too much but as time passes by the journey will become not just smooth but also pleasant. Internships are a great way to get oneself initiated into the arena of maritime law and practice. I would recommend that an internship in a maritime law firm or a shipping company would be a good starting point for a beginner.
You have acquired an LL.M in Maritime Laws from a well-reputed university. However, is a postgraduate degree or diploma really necessary to make a career in this field?
I would say that knowledge of maritime laws (either theoretical or practical) is essential to gain a headstart in this profession. To become a maritime lawyer, it would be advisable if the candidate undertakes some sort of formal education- whether a PG Diploma or Post Graduate Degree- in maritime laws. Not only will the candidate be well versed with the nuances of maritime laws but she/he shall hold much more credibility in the market.
Based on your experience in the field, which organizations or law firms do you recommend working with to gain good field experience?
I would suggest the name of Bose & Mitra Co. as a credible maritime law firm wherein the students can get a good hands-on experience of the real world vis-à-vis maritime laws and practice. If the student wishes to enter the domain of maritime research and academia, I would suggest the name of National Maritime Foundation as the place to start one’s journey. The exposure that the students will get is exemplary. Hence, the choice rests with the student since opportunities are immense.
Do you think law schools in India provide diversity for career choices to students post-law school? What advice do you wish you had received in your law school years?
I certainly think that law schools can work constructively to invite eminent resource persons from various fields of law (be it maritime law or any other) to allow students to interact with them. Exposure to various opportunities and domains will really help the cause of students. Also, the students should actively engage with the University administration to request them to facilitate more of such interactions because the students will eventually benefit from such endeavours. Thankfully, NLUO (my alma mater) was one such institution wherein the student community was highly active and energetic. The result is that, we have law graduates from our senior batches who are accomplished fashion designers in today’s time.
I wish somebody had asked me to take risks and try new things, as much as I can. We, in India, are afraid of trying something new. That hinders our creativity. If we do not take risks when the stakes are low, we will never be able to take the leap of faith when it matters the most.
Besides building a rich practice, what activities or interests outside of the legal field do you like to engage in?
I am a sportsperson at heart. I like to engage in some kind of sporting activity or fitness regimen. It can be as simple as walking for long distances or playing a volleyball match with my friends. The second hobby that I cherish is that of reading. I am a voracious reader and the genre that I love the most is history.
You have an impressive record of achievements but what is the one thing you hold as a badge of honor?
The award of being the Best NCC Cadet (Senior Division, Army Wing) is the one which I wear with immense pride.
Considering your skills, did you ever consider a career either in litigation or a corporate job? More importantly, what pushed you away from this lifestyle?
I did consider a career as a Litigation Lawyer whilst I was interning in the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench). However, I never visualized myself as someone who is cut out for the corporate arena. I always believed that I would never do something (professionally) which everybody else vies for. I had to do something different because I have always been that person who does not walk the path which has already been tread by many. Another reason was that my parents gave me the freedom to explore uncharted territory. Their faith in me is rock-solid. Hence, I took the plunge and I feel happy today that I did.
You have acquired an education on ‘Maritime cybersecurity’. Do you feel that cyber-crimes are increasing in the maritime sector so as to adversely impact national security?
Cyber security in maritime operations has become extremely vital considering we live in a digital age. While we are witnessing the advent of autonomous shipping and port security being automated, it is highly imperative that maritime cyber security be implemented in the right earnest with proper infrastructure. There are certain critical maritime physical infrastructures which need protection round-the-clock because they are vital for the maintenance of smooth maritime operations. If they are hit, the entire maritime infrastructure and supply chain will be severely impacted. For example, offshore oil drilling installations are vital assets for our economy. If they are targeted in a terrorist strike, one can only imagine the disastrous effect it will have on our economy. Therefore, the robustness and efficacy of cyber security of such critical maritime infrastructure will play a vital role in the overall growth of our maritime industry.
Any parting advice you’d like to share with our readers?
Please be bold and take risks- but with your eyes open. Learn to venture out of your comfort zone and explore uncharted territory. You may suffer some setbacks but do not be disheartened. Keep trudging along. I say this because life works in mysterious ways and you never know how you might find your calling, unless you take the leap of faith.