Academics, Researchers & International Organisations

Sapna Sainath on being the Principal of Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies and experience as a teacher

sapna-s-1Dr. Sapna Sainath is an Associate Professor & the Principal of Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies. In this interview we ask her about her story from being a law student to the Principal. She shares her experience as a researcher, a public speaker and a teacher. She also tells us about what is expected out of a student to make the most out of his/her law school life.


Please tell us a bit about your pre-college years, you as a student, your ambitions as a child. Did you have lawyers in your family or among close relatives?

I was born in Bangalore and have always lived in the old, traditional and conservative part of the city-Basavanagudi. After completing my schooling at Sri Kumarans Children’s Home (SKCH), one of the most well known schools in the south of Bangalore, with a merit scholarship, I did my Pre-University with Science in Vijaya College, again a landmark in South Bangalore. Coincidentally, I am now the Principal of BILS, which is under the management of Vijaya College.

After II PUC, came the cross roads of professional courses where I had to choose between BE and Dental, as I had secured seats in both. But, I made my choice easily and very fast with Law. The reason being that, my father, Shri. Sainath, is an Advocate who specializes in Tax and Company Law Matters and, on and off, has been to the US to brief cases. It was easy sailing through seven years of LLB and LLM and I secured a First Class First Rank in both, all credits to the utterly law school environment at home. Because, by then, my brother had also joined Law, my mother was no less than an experienced lawyer’s office assistant and there always used to be a big crowd of people, the clients and juniors, with the top floor of our house being converted into another branch of the office.


What were your objectives when you thought about law while still in the preliminary years of Law College? What were your goals after graduating? What were the options available to you? Did you want to practice as an Advocate just like your father?

My foray into the academic line was simple obedience of my father’s instructions. I joined Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies (BILS) in 1999, an LLM in hand and fresh out of college. I was lucky to have had the initial mentorship of Prof. S.S. Alur, then Principal of BILS and teaching experience with an enthusiastic student community, which has only grown better over the years.


You have pursued PhD from NLSIU. What was your motivation behind pursuing PhD? When did you finally decide that you need to do it? What was your topic of research for PhD? Why did you choose that subject for research?

The year 2010 proved to be a milestone in my teaching career because that year, I registered for my PhD at NLSIU under the guide-ship of Dr. Sarasu Esther Thomas. Dr.Sarasu, has not just been my guide for my doctorate but a Guru in the real sense who changed my thought process and gave a new direction to my academic career. I worked under her for research papers in Human Rights under the Ford Foundation Project.

My PhD dissertation topic is titled, “Employment and Related Laws in the Information Technology Enabled Services Sector (ITES) in Bangalore- A Gender Perspective”. My research has adopted a Feminist Methodology and the investigation is on women-centric issues like sexual harassment at work place, gender discrimination etc., I was conferred with a PhD in August 2014. Since then, gender issues have become my core research area and I have also published many articles in this area in Indian Bar Review, International Journal of Law and Policy Review, to name a few, in the course of these three years.

I have realized one thing; constant, serious research is oxygen if you need to be in the academic field. It’s my passion for research which got me the enrolment in LLD at the NLSIU, even before I was conferred with the PhD degree. My research area will alternate between Institutional Child Abuse or Cyber Crime and Security Issues- only time will tell.


You have taught a number of both traditional legal subjects and the trending ones from Criminal Law to Human Rights to International Law. Which of these you enjoy teaching the most? Also, which other subject would you like to teach?

Though as a law student, I studied the subjects more from the examination point of view, my real studying and understanding the concepts came only after I started teaching. I have thoroughly enjoined interacting with students on law of Torts (it still remains my favourite subject) and Jurisprudence.


Tell us about your teaching methodology. Do you encourage students to take notes or do you engage your students in active class participation? What advice do you share with your students on scoring higher grades?

I have adopted a teaching methodology of my own without being overtly formal about the so-called ‘pedagogy’.  I just enjoy communicating and sharing with the students. The different perspectives that pour in from the students have been a great learning experience. Case law discussion figures prominently in my classes.


Please share your journey as an Associate Professor at BILS.

When I look back at my journey from being little more than a college girl when I joined BILS to being promoted as Senior Lecturer, then Assistant Professor of Law, then Associate Professor of Law and finally the Principal, I only want to thank God for putting me in a place which helped me grow as a person and gave me professional freedom to pursue my career.

In October 2013, when I took over as the Principal of BILS, the institution where I grew as a person as well as a professional in the last fifteen years, it was my second milestone. BILS had become a second home to me and therefore, on one hand, as its Principal, it was an advantage being on home turf and on the other, it was a huge responsibility to be put at the helm because the aim to do the best and to perfection so, nothing should go wrong for BILS, was a bit of pressure.


You have been a Chairperson of Board of Examination for MG University, Kerala. What was your scope of responsibility?

I have held various University positions from which, I have had varied experiences in the course of these fifteen years. As an examiner, I have been in a position to tell students the importance of presentation in answering a University Examination. Having evaluated hundreds of answer scripts, I know what makes a scoring paper and what does not. Being on the University Board of Studies many times, has improved my editing skills.


You have been invited to address several seminars and public lectures. Having been a delegate at the Seminar on “IP Management  And IP As A Profession” conducted by United Nations Industrial Development Organization in collaboration with Brain League. How has the experience been?

Seminars and Presentations in the initial stages used to be on voluntary basis, but now it is on invitational basis as a resource person. Public speaking which addresses a target audience has always given me immense satisfaction and I have always come back richer with experience and contentment. Most of my Seminars are gender thematic which has helped me develop and recognize my own inner voice and strength.


How do you say a student can manage to stay ahead of the ‘rat race’? What are your long term goals as the Principal of BILS?

The most important milestone has been the establishment of research centre at BILS called- B-CARL BILS CENTRE FOR APPLIED RESEARCH IN LAW. As a first project, the Centre will undertake the research into an important area – sexual harassment of women at work place. The objective will be to review the working of the 2013 anti-sexual harassment law. It has already garnered much interest from the Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD), India and we are confident that it will go a long way. As a Director of B-CARL, I will be directly reporting to the Dean of BILS, who will be Chairman of the Centre. His rare mix of an IPS Officer, hard core Advocate and efficient administrator as Vice-President of our Management will add a new dimension because I will, for the first time, be foraying into research on the applied side as against the doctrinaire research which is a dangerous streak for academicians.

From whatever  little experience I was fortunate to gain over the years, one thing about whichI am now certain- anything done with dedication, diligence and determination will bear fruit. I have been fortunate to find two gurus in my professional life, though a little later in the day- one in the form of my PhD guide and the other in the form of the Dean, BILS from whom I have learnt certain very important lessons and they are-

  • Total Focus & Dedication in whatever you do.
  • Perseverance- never give up anything that you undertake.
  • Most importantly, keep your word once you have given it.

These are lessons not just for one’s profession but one’s life. They were not difficult for me to follow as I have been brought up with the same values. What it definitely did, was to reaffirm my faith in them that no modern work place or technology can be a substitute for values.

At BILS we have always stood by these values as the first teaching with academics following next. Today’s students have no doubt more exposure than we did fifteen years back and that again means the competition will be equally high. Let each student remember first to enjoy the college life- it will never come back. Take joy in winning a moot, participating in a debate, presenting a seminar or gaining experience as an internee. Just as a busy man has time for everything, a good law student will have to do everything from internship, to debate, to seminar, to moot court, paper publication et al.


Lastly, what would be your message to our readers?

My message to students is- it’s all about time management. If you want what you want, you have to do what you have to do.

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