“Mooting? Objection my Lord!”

 Shruti Gurdanti

a Dancer turned Law student 

explains how they use drama to learn the fine  art of cross examination

 

A Reel Life Court room Drama

Most of us get a thrill watching the court room scenes in the movies. There is the over powering defence council (mostly from the villain’s side) trying to break the meek prosecutions (usually the protagonist’s) case by pacing up and down the court room and yelling the very famous “objection my lord” at the drop of a hat, whether or not required, while the judge, not having much of a role to play, but to helplessly respond with another famous dialog, “objection over ruled” or “objection sustained.”  Though I must admit, it was these over dramatic court room scenes which inspired me to become a lawyer. To the extent that it became one of my dreams to one day stand in front of the judge and shout out Sunny Deol’s legendary speech of “tareeq pe tareeq” and considering the backlog of cases in our judiciary I did not think it was impossible to live my dream!

However, much to my disappointment I was told that courts in reality are nothing like what we had assumed them to be and apparently law school was all about studying. So when I entered law school I was sure I was getting myself into a life long of studying and I prepared myself to bury my head deep into books and forget about all the dramatization of the movies. But law school did not disappoint me after all, I started ‘Mooting’. As interesting as the word sounds is the activity itself.

‘Moot Courts’ are mock court room trial competitions where just like the real court proceedings there are two parties, (plaintiff and the defendant, prosecution and defense, petitioner and respondent, etc) a panel of judges and a court clerk. The two parties arguing against each other are students who are given a problem and depending on the side each is representing they have to make their oral as well as written submissions in the court. The problem is usually framed on disputed and unsettled law so that the students on both sides have a fair chance to utilize the available legal literature to defend their clients. The teams are given a minimum of one month time to prepare their written submissions (legal term: Memorials) after which they are to orally present their case to the judge. The most thrilling part about Moot courts is the fact that the judges usually are judges from the judiciary. At the time of the oral presentation to the judges the room in which the competition is held is set up to look precisely like a real court room and the proceedings are conducted with the authentic court room mannerisms. So much so that, there are special points for the teams court mannerisms. Thus, when the judges enter to take their seat, just like the actual proceedings an announcement is made for everyone to stand and bow to the judges while they take their seats. The teams (advocates in the competition) are supposed to bow and refer to the bench as “Your lordship” or “my lords” or “your honour” or “Your Excellency.”

Though, unlike the movies, the judge is the true boss in these moot court competitions. The judges like in any other ordinary court room situation ask the lawyers all sorts of questions, to judge their knowledge on the problem and to check their understanding of the law. This question – answering is so grueling that the law school colloquial for this is ‘grilling.’  The team which is best able to come out unscathed through the ‘grilling’ and is able to convince the judge about their case is the team which is declared the winner and the judges’ rule in favor of that side. These moot court competitions are one of the biggest extra curricular activities in Law school. The academic reason behind introducing this activity was to ensure that students gain practical knowledge and experience of the court.

But once I started mooting I realized that it was more than the learning and experience that it provides you. Mooting for me became a way by which I could run away from the mundane and monotonous routine of studying.  For me it was one way of dramatization which we have been seeing in the movies. It was my way of finally getting the chance to be the over powering council trying to put my point forward by hook or by crook. In Moots students depending on the party they are representing have to modify their body language and modulate their voice. For example, recently I participated in a competition where the problem was very similar to the Bhopal gas tragedy case and I was to represent the defendants. Since I knew my client was wrong I was very submissive and literally begged the court to relieve my client of all the charges. However, I was pretty sure that the judge would definitely rule against us considering the gory crime that we were defending. However, when the results were out we were surprised to see that we had won. Hence, somewhere down the line mooting runs parallel to the sensationalized court room scenes of the movies and plays, where the manner of presentation and theatrics makes more impact as compared to the accuracy of law. Nonetheless, the sheer thrill of acting as a lawyer and pleading in front of the judge to rule in favor of your client is terrific making mooting one of the most enriching experiences for every law student.   

 

 

Editor: Manohar Khushalani

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Shruti Gurudanti

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