How Can Law Students Plan their Career in Criminal Law?

Legally Flawless has started this drive to make law students and young lawyers aware, for them to achieve success in the field of law, through strategies from the achievers themselves.

In our fourth blog of the GYAN Series, we are going to learn everything about Career in Criminal Law from Mr. Rachit Khamparia.

Mr. Rachit is currently a fourth-year law student at the Institute of Law Nirma University. Sir has achieved some commendable positions in various mock trial competitions and is also the Chairperson of the Centre for Criminal Law and Justice, ILNU.

We find that you have a great inclination towards criminal law. So, how should students decide among litigation, corporate, or various other fields of law?

Yes, Criminal law was one such subject that really made me interested in studying law and that’s how I started focusing on studies from 3rd semester. The academics in 1 st year was completely a roller coaster ride for me but things changed when I got to know what exactly I want to do in the future.

Now, coming to the second question as to what should students decide is something which is completely dependent on what interests you more and there is no hard and fast rule which you can follow to pick the right career path.

I believe you should firstly pick your area of interest. Suppose if you are really interested in criminal law and don’t want to work under a lawyer initially as they pay less you also have the option to join a white-collar firm which will serve both the purpose and you won’t even feel the burden of working there as it is related to your interests and in order to decide the subject area you should use initial 3 years of internship in figuring out. Try doing multiple internships in different levels of courts and firms.

How should one go about studying criminal law in college?

Know-how to “read” the law. The bare act is the thing from where it begins and ends. If you have a command over the bare act, nothing would be difficult. Everything is there in the bare act, all possible interpretation, applications everything. Just know how to read it and you are sorted. I have never relied on reference books at the first instance. I always try answering through the bare act and then shift to the commentaries and case laws if at all needed.

The first thing, to begin with, is the Index of the act, read the heads and the list of provisions; it will give you an idea of the extent of the act, the things that it covers. Never try to memorize it, just build a rough structure in your mind as to the areas that are dealt with in the act. Then go ahead with the sections. While reading CRPC, my suggestion is to start with section 154 rather than section 1 because section 154 talks about Information in Cognizable offenses and that is where the whole process begins.

In the preliminary reading just connects things. Never go into reference books and cases in the first read, that’ll just confuse you more. Read at least the whole act twice then move to cases. My suggestion, always, is to spend as much time as you can with the bare act. Once you are done with the first reading now divide it into stages and make a chain – put sections into categories of pre-trial, trial, and post-trial. This will give you a link and you’ll never have to memorize the sections after a few readings if you have understood the procedure, section numbers won’t be a problem. If anything you’ll be able to locate the section and will have a rough idea of it.

While dealing with the Indian penal code, focus on the ingredients of the section, it is the ingredients that you have to prove and disprove in the court of law. With Evidence Act, however, a different approach is needed. Evidence is based on principles and theories so that you can refer to the reference books as you go through the provisions, and always start with section one and go in that order, skipping sections can’t be done in Evidence Act. Another important thing is to develop links between the three acts. There is a lot of cross-referencing in CRPC and IPC, meaning to say IPC provisions are mentioned in CRPC and vice versa, so when you encounter such provisions go and read them first and then proceed further rather than ignoring them. It’ll develop a lot of bridges between substantive and procedural law and you’ll have one big picture of things.

You have a very good knowledge of criminal law which is far beyond the book. So, how did you learn the practical aspects of criminal litigation?

I think, curiosity takes you a long way. I have this weird habit of finding answers to things, the question or the thoughts don’t leave my mind until I have definite answers to them especially while studying law. If I come across a question, be it from a class discussion or a movie or some series that I am watching, I have to know at least the fundamentals of it. So you’ll often see me reading/ researching on a single topic for months. So I think my interest in criminal law started with this only. I have interned under Adv. Yug Chaudhary because I developed an interest in death penalty litigation and I would have gained a fair amount of knowledge through cases and books but the experiences I had with him were completely different. The things I learned about the death penalty during my internship stage I could have never learned through books. So I think the key is to keep finding answers and gather knowledge from as many sources as you can and rely on the practical aspects more than the books because as a lawyer you have to be sound on the practical application. Law is there, everyone knows the law, everyone can read it, it’s the application of it that helps in distinguishing us. And the key to practical aspects is going through internships as I said earlier.

Where all have you interned till now?

So the idea behind internships was to diversify my knowledge in law and to understand the functioning of different high courts and Supreme Court. Try to diversify your internship that will give you an edge to build your contacts in different levels of the judiciary. That’s why I have aimed at learning from the best, irrespective of the level of judiciary and the state.

I have been fortunate enough to secure internships under one of the best in the field of Litigation like Sr. adv. Gopal Sankaranarayanan (Supreme court) which thoroughly helped me in understanding the functioning of Apex Court and made me more affirm about my inclination. Thereafter I interned under Adv. Yug Chaudhary in Bombay High Court which was an eye-opener for me as to how criminal law is practically applied in the cases.

Also interning under him made me realize that if you want to succeed in litigation you need to be deeply passionate about it and should have strong control over your ideology. Apart from that, I have interned under Sr. Adv. Anil Kharein M.P. High Court. I have initially focused more on learning than going after names and that is the reason why I did two core trial court internships, in Jabalpur and Pune, which helped me in understanding the procedural laws.

In order to give exposure to the civil side as well I did an internship under A.O.R. Sanjay. K. Agarwal and recently completed my clerkship under The Hon’ble Chief  Justice of  Madhya Pradesh High court, Justice Sanjay Yadav, and I am currently interning with Karanjawala & Co., Delhi with the Civil Commercial litigation team.

How did you plan your internships?

One of the first thing before applying for an internship is to have clarity as to what you are expecting from that internship. Internships are meant to give you a better view of your chosen path. Students often end up in internship in places which they don’t like, or are doing work that makes no sense to them, this not only results in diminished interests in your field but also exhausts one very good chance that you could have had interned under someone else. For any law student, internships hold primary importance. It is here that you are able to distinguish between the theory and the practical aspect of things. The objective behind applying to a specific firm should be very clear in your mind. This will not help you get the best out of your internship but also develop your interest and knowledge in that field in the best possible way.

From the second-year itself it was very clear to me that I have to go for litigation. Therefore I chose those luminaries who would help me learn the nuances of the law.

Secondly it’s very important to be prepared for the internship before you go for your first day. I have a habit of preparing for my internship at least 4-5 months in advance. I read about the person I am going to intern with, I read the subject matter to the best extent possible. This helps me not only extracting the best possible learning outcomes but also helps me in establishing a connection with the lawyers. If I know the basics of the subject matter I would not waste my time in researching case laws or reading the law, I can spend more time in drafting the arguments and other things. So, always plan well in advance and be thorough with at least the basics of the subject matter on your first day.

How do you make the most out of your internships?

We have just four weeks while interning. In these four weeks, you have to learn the things, make a good reputation with the lawyers/ partners and also decide as to whether this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. So this becomes quite hectic and often ends up with just going to the office and reading through files.

So always be consistent with your choices, I have initially worked in the constitutional and criminal field and thereafter gradually shifted to other laws. This does not mean that you should restrict your knowledge in other areas but intern with people and subject matters that make you think and test your abilities. This will help you to explore the field and you’ll know as to whether you can go further in that field or not. Also always try establishing good contacts in your internships. All the internships that I have done are through references from my previous internship only. This way you know more people and establish good contacts.

You have participated in various mock trials? How was this activity a stepping stone towards shaping your personality and your inclination towards criminal law?

I have had the opportunity to represent the institute in UILS mock trial competition, Chandigarh where we were adjudged the 2 nd runner up. I started doing mocks during 2 nd year only and I have always found ways to participate in it, be it as a participant, an organizer, or as a witness. Every aspect has helped me learn something different about the law and its applications. Mock trials really test you on your fundamentals; they make you apply the law to things in a way you would have never thought of before. You have a problem at hand that you need to break in a limited time frame with limited resources. You are forced to think outside the box and examine things from all possible perspectives. The beautiful thing about mock trials is that you can never be prepared for it fully. You can never solely rely on your speech or your questions. Mock trials test your presence of mind, spontaneity, logical reasoning more than any other activity. In a limited time, you have to extract the best possible answers/ contradictions from a witness to support your case so this really tests your fundamentals. Similarly, you can’t have a fully prepared closing argument beforehand as you really don’t know what contradictions or omissions are there or what story is presented by the opposition.

There are aspects and things that I have solely learned from mock trials, sometimes just by merely observing. Mock trials for me are the closest thing that you get to practical dealings in law school and therefore every student must do it at least once. Especially while doing cross-examinations your skills as a lawyer are honed to a great extent, in a competition you cannot  go wrong with your cross examination, therefore it really tests your skills and at the same time it is exciting throughout, it never gets boring or tiring, even as an audience.

What is your advice for the juniors, who want to make the in career in criminal law?

This is difficult to answer as even I’m in a learning stage and have a very limited knowledge of the field but with whatever experience I had from the last 4 years I can say that:-

  1. Stick to the basics always, never complicate things while reading laws.
  2. Do as much meaningful internship as you can, do running internships if you can multitask and be exploitative when it comes to learning something.
  3. Interact with people about things; it’ll help you give a diverse perspective to things. Have the habit of raising questions when reading things.
  4. Don’t just run behind collecting certificates; instead, try to focus more on quality learning.

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