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Doing Chennai proud

Chennai girl Malavika Raghavan is part of a NALSAR team that has made it to the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition


THE FAX from the Chennai Surana & Surana office was brief: "NALSAR Jessups Team 2004 - Pack your bags!"

"I'll always remember the day I got it," says Malavika Raghavan, the Chennai-based member of the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) team. By April 5, the four-member team would have faced law students from over 70 countries at the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. And if their arguments are right, they will bring home the Jessup World Cup.

When she boarded her flight to Washington DC, Malavika knew she was stepping into history. She is the first `baby' — a first year student — to make it to the national Moot Court team. It is also the first time that a NALSAR team will be sitting at the World Finals.

A quick look at Malavika's winning interests, and you know why she got chosen. You are not too surprised she did well academically at school (Sacred Heart). But you definitely go saucer-eyed at the prizes she's won in countless inter-school debates and essay writing and oratorical contests. She has contributed to The Hindu and was commended for her Commonwealth essay; has completed courses at the Alliance Francaise, taken Geography Talent Tests and compered shows; has attended camps on animal welfare, played the bugle, saxophone and the side drums for the school band and been an active member of Girl Guides. All this, when she wasn't throwing javelins or basketing balls at inter-school sports. The one award she hasn't received should be for time management.

Still, getting into the NALSAR team wasn't easy. She had to spar with the judge, "running a step ahead, surprising him with information he didn't think I had, letting out all the things I had read up on. I had to think on my feet — a burst of adrenaline — it was all over in 15 minutes," she phones from Hyderabad. Once there, "for three months I thought of nothing else. Moot became life, and life became moot." It was the law of gravity, of time and space in High School, but now she had to think legally. She and her teammates had to out-argue 40 teams from well-known law colleges to qualify for the World Finals. "As we went through the internal process, we constantly researched criminal law at ISIL, Delhi and NSL, Bangalore. It was quite an experience."

The Jessup Moot Court competition, the largest and the most prestigious, is in its 45th year. And the cup does carry Indian names — followed by the numbers 1999-2000. The present participants have to prepare their briefs on `The International Criminal Court' to win this year's competition. "Absolutely fascinating," is Malavika's verdict, since the court was established to punish perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crime against humanity.

"To me now, the U.N. and the International Court of Justice aren't just some organisations in the hazy distance reminiscent of civics textbooks and paper pamphlets, but dynamic forces in world affairs, centres of realpolitik. I've found out their dark sides as well as what a surge of development they have caused — the two faces of the system — because of the two sides of the arguments we need to present."

"We have to argue three fictionalised cases and climb various levels. We will be attending a law conference," says Malavika. Would she choose criminal law over the comfortable corporate one? "I could," she chuckles. "I thank my stars — because I am with Anup, Neela and Parameshwar, MY team, and there's no one else more perfect to make this journey with," says Malavika.

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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