Mr. Sameer Gupta is a young law graduate who is about to join a Tier 1 law firm, and is currently engaged as a research assistant with members from the International Law Commission to research on emerging issues in international law.
He has participated in several moot court competitions of national and international repute wherein he has received Winner, Second Runner Up, Best Speaker and multiple Best Memorial citations. In this episode, we chat with him on the topic Moot courts, its procedures and also listen to some of his experiences.
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Mr Prasanna: Hey budding lawyers! Welcome to the podcast. Today we have with us Mr Sameer Gupta, who has graduated this year itself and is scheduled to join a tier-one law firm. Sameer is currently engaged as a research assistant with members of the international law commission. So Sameer, Would you like to share the work profile of wherever you are working right now?
Mr Sameer: So as a research assistant to the members of the international law commission, we are generally assigned projects on international law which might include and predominantly also includes the law of the nations, the law of the seas. It also includes investment arbitration. It might also at times include municipal arbitration because it has little impact on international arbitration as well. So this is a brief overview of the work assigned.
Mr Prasanna: Cool! Sameer you look a bit tense. Don’t worry it’s just a podcast.
So today we are going to talk about moots because Sameer has been an avid mooter and he has not only participated and organized several moot courts but also received several awards like the best speaker, best memorial, best team, etc. So Sameer, would you like to tell something about the moot courts you have participated in?
Mr Sameer: So from the very beginning of my law school, I’ve been engaged in participating in moot court competitions except for my first semester. I remember I started participating in moot courts from my second semester. So, the initial beginnings were quite tough in terms of learning as well as achieving things. But gradually when I started to participate more, I had the relevant skill and experience. I started to receive some sort of result. So after that, I also participated in around ten moot courts in my law school.
Mr Prasanna: Nice! So, let’s just start from the basics, because many of our listeners are law students who have just entered into law college or students who are preparing for law entrance exams and not even in law school. So, can you just briefly explain in a layman’s term what is a moot court? And what is the main difference between a moot court and a mock trial?…because many students just get confused when they hear a term like and all. They think like something which goes on in a courtroom like in Bollywood movies.
Mr Sameer: I would define the moot court as something which is definitely different from a mock trial. When I was also in the initial years of my law school, I used to watch videos where people define moot court as mock trials. But I would rather say that a moot court is an extra-curricular activity specifically defined for law students where the exact same set up of a courtroom is created whereby the participants can argue for a case which is based on a hypothetical scenario. And that hypothetical scenario is textually represented in a sheet that is said to be the moot proposition. Now, with respect to the difference between a moot court and a mock trial- a moot court generally involves arguments on the question of law( for example whether the right to the internet is a fundamental right or not). A mock trial will involve something which is on the very preliminary basis(for example whether A murdered B or not). Generally, moot courts are on the appellate state.
Mr Prasanna: As you explained about the moot problem, the hypothetical example, can you give us an example and also explain what is a moot problem exactly and are there any specific types of moot problems?
Mr Sameer: With respect to what a moot problem is I’ve already told that it’s a hypothetical scenario so the organisers of the competition, mostly the colleges, will culminate a series of facts. For example, he was a trader in the city of XYZ where he was trading liquor. Then the government came with a prohibition order then the sale of liquor was banned. Now, A has moved the Supreme Court. A is arguing that the prohibition order banning the sale of liquor has violated his fundamental right to freedom of profession. So, when these instances are connected together they culminate into a moot problem and we have to argue from both the sides, that is, we have to argue from the petitioner A and we have to argue from the side of the respondent that’ll be the state that the prohibition order is correct.
Mr Prasanna: In this example, you are giving there could be the state. Otherwise, it can be private parties itself, right?
Mr Sameer: Yes, definitely private parties can be there. For example, in moot courts concerning arbitration. In those moot proposition, there can be two private parties involved. In such cases, there will be a dispute between two private parties. So, the parties will be identified as party 1 which is a private party, and party 2 that will also be a private party. So, it always depends. The nature of the parties always depends on the moot proposition itself.
Mr Prasanna: What is a moot memorial? For example, we now know the moot problem, we can imagine how a moot court is but before that we have to submit a moot memorial. It depends on the competition and the college which is organizing it but it is anywhere between 10 days and 30 days before the competition is we have to submit a moot memorial. So, what is that?
Mr Sameer: Yes, so as soon as you see the moot proposition and the rules of the competition there will be a deadline for the submission of the memorial. Now, you’ll have to understand what a memorial is. A memorial is nothing but a written submission. So it is a written submission from both parties. Remember these written submissions have to be prepared separately. For example, in our case, it was person A. So, there will be a written submission from the petitioner side. Now, there will be a written submission from the respondent side. Now, within this written submission there are several parts of it. Now, these several parts are identified within the rules of the competition itself, For example, it includes a statement of facts, arguments, a summary of arguments, index of authorities, list of references,n number of things, front page, and all. So every component of a written submission is clearly identified in the rule of the competition itself. So it is just a written submission from each of the parties to argue the case.
Mr Prasanna: So, as we said before that in the mock trial we talk about the facts, and in moot court, we talk about the law. But now as you mentioned in the moot memorial we have something called the statement of facts. So, can you just clarify why it’s there? I mean you have answered it in a brief before but I would like just more clarification on that.
Mr Sameer: What I intended to say was that in the mock trials you have to establish the fact.
Mr Prasanna: You have to argue on facts. Whether it is right or not, right?
Mr Sameer: Yes, you have to establish whether a person has murdered or not. The facts in itself are disputed. However, in a moot court competition, the facts are not disputed. It is only the question of law that is disputed.
Mr Prasanna: Ya, as you said it’s the appellate’s stage in moot court.
Mr Sameer: Yes, appellate’s stage and also original jurisdiction as well in a lot of cases. What I meant from the appellate’s stage was that generally, only questions of law are there. For example, if there is a case before the Supreme Court for violation of fundamental rights. This will come under the original jurisdiction. It includes original appellate everything but as opposed to mock trials. It does not include any case at a preliminary basis that is on a trial basis whereby any case is initiated to establish funds.
Mr Prasanna: Ya, so we have the facts which are usually established by the lower courts and we just use those facts to understand the problem more and we argue on the law right? This is what I understand.
Mr Sameer: Yes that’ll be one case and in a lot of cases facts are not established by lower courts as well. It is directly to the high court or the Supreme Court.
Mr Prasanna: Ya, in the original jurisdiction.
Mr Sameer: Yes.
Mr Prasanna: Ok. So can you just give some tips for drafting a good memorial? Because you know that you have been awarded the best memorial award.
Mr Sameer: Yes, so for drafting a good memorial it is all about the relevancy of the research. Your research has to be very relevant to the facts of your case. For example, if there’s a question on violation of fundamental rights so the research has to be on that specific point. You cannot generally write that the fundamental rights are such and such. You have to write that sale of liquor is a fundamental right or from the other side, you can say no sale of liquor is not a fundamental right. It has to be specific. Now generally what a lot of people do is refer to unauthorized sources that are not authenticated properly. So, the use of authorised sources is also very important. For example, we all know about SCC online. Generally, for moot court competitions, the use of such authorized sources are high appreciated. That is one relevant point.
Mr Prasanna: Can you just give more examples: unauthorized and authorized?
Mr Sameer: See, if you just google if you just do a google search and you reflect on case law, you will find that there are n number of results available on the internet. When you see those results, those results are not authenticated by a particular organization. For example, SCC online is even appreciated by the Supreme Courts and High Courts as well so that is something which is acknowledged in the nation but the other websites which appear on the internet if you cite them on your memorial, that is something which is strongly discouraged.
Mr.Prasanna: Manupatra? How is Manupatra?
Mr Sameer: Manupatra also works well but I’ve also had an experience when I’ve cited the many citations. So, that was not appreciated. So to be on the safer side I always try to use SCC online because it is the authenticated type and standard sort of a citation used at least in our nation every year.
Mr Prasanna: So, other websites such as the Indian kanoon and all don’t even stand that is what I understand.
Mr Sameer: See, in terms of its use I would definitely say at times you would find them very useful. Those are very rare times. I don’t use them quite often. However, in terms of moot court competition, I don’t think anyone would recommend citing Indian kanoon. So, that is something we should be wary of. And in terms of court drafting when you find a case law you have the case law, you have the relevant paragraph but how you draft it, how you connect the relevant paragraph with the facts of your case, is also very important. You will understand how to connect facts and law. How to present your argument in these words. So those are things which come in time a lot of people have that still with them. but these are things which are important to draft a memorial.
Mr Prasanna: Ya, so while drafting a memorial you talked about research. Can you just give some more tips on how to do proper legal research for a moot court competition?
Mr Sameer: See I’ll give some basic about how to conduct research. So, whenever we used to read a moot proposition, we used to identify a few terms from the moot proposition itself which are the notable terms which are the highlight of the proposition and then we used to just google search. We used to just connect words like a+b+c on google search then there will be a list of results which will have that set of words with them. Now we will try to understand ok this was the scenario in which the original case happened. At times you will find the original case, at times you won’t. So, you will understand what is the relevancy of key terms. Now when you identify the key terms when you identify it, after that you use that very key term in the search engine of SCC online or manupatra for that matter. we will be able to find the specific results. So, this is a very quick way to find very specific results because generally what happens is people read the moot proposition they have few questions of law in their mind and after that, they search on the question of law. That is also a part of the research but that is not a preliminary thing. The preliminary things should be to understand the basic terms, the basic technical terms. So, at least we can move forward with the research.
Mr Prasanna: Can you just give some example?
Mr Sameer: I’ll give the very same example as I told you about the prohibition of the sale of liquor. So, actually, this was a moot proposition in one of the competition. So, when you talk about the prohibition on the sale of liquor there is a principle termed as rest extra commercial which means that the sale of dangerous goods is not a matter of right. This is something, the term rest extra commercial was not within the proposition itself. however, when I used the term sale of liquor from the moot proposition when I just googled and I used a combination of words then there was a search result within which this principle was used. So now I understand the principle which is relevant to my case. So, this is one method of it and there are several methods of it which we learn through our own, through experience, through others so that is it.
Mr Prasanna: Ya, so experienced professionals like you people must take help from like for example in your college days your juniors would come to you and ask for help like should I start and how to go about it right?
Mr Sameer: Yes and yes they did come to me but the good thing about every law school is that in every subsequent batch I mean even my juniors who came to me for help they actually become better than you. So, that’s a very good thing to see. So that was really nice.
Mr Prasanna: Ya, and even your batchmates for that sake right even you would have come across many batchmates who are better than you. But you would have improved more than them or like you would have experienced this in some skill or so.
Mr Sameer: Definitely, see it’s not about the person from whom you learnt but it’s what you learnt. So, I’ve been able to learn different things from people junior to me especially my batchmates and also people who were senior to me. So, it is ultimately the culmination of all the experiences. so, you take everything as they come.
Mr Prasanna: Ya that’s nice. Court etiquette, so this is something very important especially in moot courts because when you start working in litigation, no one is going to teach you court etiquette, and all right? So would you just talk about these terms and what are the most basic and common terms used?
Mr Sameer: For example, I will just give you a basic example of what a court etiquette would be. For example, if the judge is saying something and you don’t agree with him, you don’t say that no your lordship I don’t agree. you would say lordship we’d bet to defer. So, court etiquette it also involves a lot of things to address properly your hair as well in a place you don’t look shabby. So a lot of things. So, it also includes the use of proper words.
Mr Prasanna: You are wearing the collar band. I just remembered this because this had happened. I would just like to share one incident. A lawyer entered into a courtroom and he started arguing and the judge just listened to like he didn’t listen to him. He was talking to another lawyer just beside him. That lawyer got confused like why am I arguing my matter and why am I not being heard so then again he tried to argue whatever his matter was. He was just presenting it and the judge then said where are you. So he said your lordship I’m here I’m suggesting this matter my part is here and all. The judge said I can’t see you. Still, people didn’t get it. Then he realised that he’s not wearing is collar band. Then he went outside the courtroom, wore his collar band and then came again inside and then the judge acknowledged it. So, that is one funny incident that I remember. Ok Cool!
Mr Sameer: So these things are actually necessary. We do understand that these are things which are taken care of by the court but this is also very necessary for the decorum. I mean you are arguing before a senior citizen so that is important and as law students who moot for competition, I think this one of the most brilliant things that we learn.
Mr Prasanna: True true true. Ok, so what were the common problems that you have faced in moot court?
Mr Sameer: The common problems I would say at times lack availability of resources For example I remember when I went for a space law moot court competition I didn’t have the relevant books. So, it took me actually a month to arrange the books because the books which are relevant to space law are not that easily accessible. Not every institution has it. At that time, our institution didn’t have it. So that was one thing. Then managing time I mean especially when you moot a lot. I mean people who moot they’re just crazy about moot court competitions. So, they have to manage a lot of things simultaneously. They have to manage their academics, publishing papers and if they want a job they have to pursue internships. So, that is one thing managing time. So I think these are the most difficult things which I faced during the preparation of moot court competitions.
Mr Prasanna: Ok so as you mentioned about the space law thing. So, did you realise that you didn’t have a sufficient amount of resources after reaching the venue of that competition or?
Mr. Sameer: No No No. To see the availability of resources has to be just even before you prepare the memorial because memorial preparation is a very important part of a moot court competition. You cannot just go to the venue without a good memorial you are anyway not going to proceed to the advanced round. So you have to prepare the memorial at the very best. So when we were trying to participate in that competition we had this in mind ok we will start the memorial preparation if we are allotted the moot court competition from this state. So we had a window ok we’ll try out all sorts of books ways to arrange the books will we participate in the competition. So technically the arrangement of the books was quite a difficult task.
Mr Prasanna: Also, I would like to know that how do you choose books for reference and all because I’ve seen in moot courts people carrying huge suitcases and all with all those used books. Many times it is relevant but most of the time all those books are not relevant and not required. So how do you choose and how do you like to explain to our listeners which book you should choose like are more relevant and are more useful.
Mr Sameer: Yes, if I were to give you an example if you see the guides the different guides available for constitutional law itself. So, when you see the guides available with those small guides so those are for your academic activities. For example, that guide will explain to you what is the concept of a fundamental right. But if you were to find something very specific regarding a fundamental right and you have to see about fundamental right and sale of liquor. I’m giving the same example to ensure coherence. So, if you have to research on that aspect you have to see the books whether in the index of authorities of that book or in the contents of the book you just briefly skim the pages. In that context do you have that relevant section? For example, in this case, we can definitely refer to DD Basu. DD Basu is a voluminous book divided into various volumes. It has n number of pages. I don’t even remember the exact number of pages but I remember reading somewhere close to around 2500. I mean I did not read from the very beginning but I referred to 2500 pages.
Mr. Prasanna: Is there also a miniature version of that?
Mr. Sameer: Yes yes.
Mr. Prasanna: Ok
Mr. Sameer: Again, see the miniature version of it is an academic purpose. But if you were to research very specifically in a very detailed manner then you would refer to the relevant volume of the DD Base. This would be one example. So, when you start your research on your moot proposition you will understand that this is a very relevant part of the proposition which I want to understand. This is available in this book and therefore I will refer to this book. So it automatically comes to your head that there’s nothing sci-fi in that.
Mr Prasanna: It was quite funny for me to look at those people like they used to have a suitcase with their notes and all and another suitcase with just books and I was like dude this is not required like so many references are not required because when you are mooting how many books will you refer? Do you agree with that?
Mr. Sameer: See, uh, I didn’t use to carry a lot of books but I was someone who with my team I would create a lot of compendium. I mean we used to get the case laws printed. Then we used to flag them, the relevant paragraphs of it, and then we used to submit it before the court that this is compendium number 1.You can refer to flag number 1. I am arguing about this case. I remember seniors a lot of people do that they refer to 20 volumes or something. So that is there but a lot of times people also carry extra books because there are few arguments from the opposite side which you do not include in your memorial. So, you can definitely argue that what the opposite team is arguing if can say that ok what they’re arguing is not the correct position of law and this is mentioned in this book. So, that becomes the fronting point of your argument. So people generally tend to be over-prepared in moot court competitions and that’s a good thing actually. So that’s why even I can understand the fun behind carrying a suitcase but at times a lot of people use that to a very good extent. So it has both sides of it. It’s just how you experience it.
Mr. Prasanna: Ok so I think even you are in that category of people who used to carry so that’s why you’re kind of defending.
Mr. Sameer: Yes, I remember I didn’t use to carry suitcases in all of them. I carried a suitcase in one moot court competition because there were too many compendiums. In others, we were 3 people or 5 people so we used to carry 4-5 compendiums each. So we need not carry a suitcase because a suitcase becomes a sort of flamboyance activity. So we tend to avoid that.
Mr. Prasanna: Ok cool! Enough of suitcases and moot problems now. Let’s move forward. How has mooting helped you in your professional life? You have started it just now but still…
Mr Sameer: See I think for a law student his or her professional life re endeavours fees for the professional life. I think roughly around the second or third year only. People start hunting for jobs, right to secure of PTO’s, so that is their professional endeavour. And in my case, I appeared for two interviews for PTO’s and I remember appearing for both the interviews. Not everything in substance was relevant from the moot court competition but the way I speak, the way I was able to present myself, even the presentations and the forms, moot courts helped me significantly and the way I used to prepare the draft. So the drafting of the document when you are able to draft a good memorial that also improves. So you make the correct boxes, you keep the alignment right. So these are small things you learn from a moot court competition. So It’s all about confidence and drafting that’s helped.
Mr Prasanna: And when you start working especially in litigation, so you understand the difference between a moot court and an actual court and many people misunderstand when they like to start participating. They assume that real courts will be similar but that’s not the case. There is a huge difference. So can you just tell something about that? You can also tell you about the first experience when you realised it.
Mr Sameer: You know that’s a very good point which we are discussing now because the procedure of actual litigation is that to submit a plaint and there’s a time frame. Some might have a written statement. There are subsequent parts of it. So that does not actually happen in a moot court competition and that is not even possible because law students they have a semester. They have to complete at least one competition in one semester and logistic things and all how will an institution accommodate students for multiple periods of time. So those are the things but in terms of the core difference between moot court competition and litigation is that there is a lot of procedure involved in litigation and the way you draft the memorial you have the room to improvise quite a lot. You can italicize it, you want to make it look aesthetically nice but in litigation there is a proper format. when you see the court documents you find that there is a huge space in the left side of the document. You see there is a change of para. The change of para, the space between. So there is n number of things which includes procedure. For example, I am arguing the case before the court in a moot court. So I will be given my award when the results are announced. But when I have argued before the court in an actual litigation scenario, so there is a possibility that my case will again be rested for another hearing subsequently. So I came to know about moot court competitions from the very beginning and since I used to read about moot court competitions during my preparation for clat. So I know about it from the very beginning. So since I read about it quite a lot I initially knew the basic difference between it. So I think I was lucky on that front.
Mr. Prasanna: ok, nice! You were really lucky actually. Many law students even after completing their first year, the second year don’t actually know the difference right. So that’s the case with many people. So Sameer I think we have covered most of the things with regard to moot court. So can you Sum it up the whole procedure? From the starting to the end.
Mr. Sameer: So see, as any court argument would involve, a moot court competition typically involves these submissions which is your written submission referred to as the memorial at times memorandum. So there is n number of names as well. So you have to submit your written submission at a particular deadline that is fixed by the organization. Now post the submission, you will be allowed to appear for the oral argument, that is, the days of event when the moot court is schedule. At times in few moot court competitions there are again the memorial qualification round. So if you do not qualify for the memorial qualification round then possibly you will not be allowed to participate. In competitions where there is no such memorial qualifications round, you can go and participate in the oral rounds. Now in the oral rounds you have to appear from both the sides. Mostly, in most moot court competitions you have to appear from both the sides from the petitioner , respondent or plaintiff or appellant or applicant. There are again n number of names as the case may be. So you appear for both the sides. You may be petitioner first or respondent first and vice-versa. So that happens and then you are done with your preliminary round. After that you have quarter finals, you have semi finals, then you have finals. Subsequently the final results are out. So this is a typical framework. It depends of different moot court competitions but mostly this sort of framework is used.
Mr Prasanna: And I think this is something colleges which are not organizing at the national level they usually don’t have so many rounds right? They usually have the like semi-finals and the finals after the preliminary round.
Mr Sameer: Yes you are correct on that point. I remember one college in Maharashtra. It organises a moot court wherein there is an oral round from both sides and after the oral round from both the sides that is the preliminary round they directly select the top four teams. And there are top four teams then there is a combination of two teams then there is final. Because they skip the …. final and the quarter final. So a lot of people do that because of logistic reasons.
Mr Prasanna: Ya so as you said there are so many rounds. Are the moot problems same in each round? Or is it different?
Mr. Sameer: This aspect will also depend upon the moot court competition. I remember few competitions whereby the problem was different. This is very notable competition by BCI. The BCI moot court competition. It mostly has different moot problems for every round for the preliminary round for the….. round, even for the final round. For example the preliminary round can have a problem on tort law, the final round will have a problem on public international law but in most of the moot court competitions there’s a common problem throughout from the preliminary round to the final round.
Mr. Prasanna: so it would have become quite repetitive if there are more rounds and only one problem.
Mr. Sameer: It does become repetitive but as you advance to the subsequent round what happens is you will be arguing things which you have already argued. So in terms of your presentation you actually become more strong.
Mr Prasanna: Better ya! Ok so Sameer can you just share one of the incident from your whole moot court experiences which you remember the most like you will never forget it
Mr. Sameer: Yes, so there are many instances which I fondly remember but this has to be the best one.
Mr Prasanna: We can have another podcast for all the experiences.
Mr Sameer: So I was participating in a moot court competition which concluded on 31st march. Now on 31st of march it was not possible for us to take the flight because we have the valedictory session and all. So we don’t know when the valedictory session will end we cannot take the flight in 31st and 1st april in my college we had our mid sems. And you don’t get an exception for mid sems even if you are participating in a moot court. So at 6 am on 1st of April we are in Delhi and at 10.30 or 11am we have our exams in Ranchi. Im sitting in Delhi and I’m reading on the important syllabus and I know that I have flight to catch. The flight was at 6.30. So we took the flight at 6.30 and we reached Ranch around 8.30 so I thought by he time we reach our university it was just half an hour that the exam had to start. Now the started, I appeared for the exam. Thankfully it went well. After the exam got over the six subjects, I remember right after my exam I had to go for an internship back to Bombay. Delhi to Ranchi and Ranchi to Bombay. And in between I cannot miss classes so I had to maintain a 100% attendance throughout because I was missing out classes in the subsequent months for the internship. This was something I fondly remember because I was able to manage it. I was just thinking that this time I’m going to miss it , I’m not going to make it. I will just falter somehow.
Mr Prasanna: If the flight would have been cancelled due to some reason, what would have been the consequences in your…..?
Mr Sameer: Possibly, I hope that I would not have received a …… but my CGPA would have dropped significantly for one subject I think. Because mid terms were for I think they were for 30 or 50 marks I don’t remember. It’s just that you graduate after law school you forget everything. I don’t remember.
Mr Prasanna: Is it a standard rule which all law schools and all follow that you won’t change anything for any particular student even if he is participating in some moot court or representing the college somewhere else?
Mr Sameer: See, like you know the exception always depends upon the possibility. If there’s a possibility institutions generally do that. In our case it was not really possible for our institution. But in a lot of institutions they have general relaxations. I’m unable to name the institution because I don’t exactly remember but they even omit mid sems for students.
Mr Prasanna: Oh I tough they have to re-schedule the exams for them.
Mr Sameer: In terms of ommission i mean the students need not appear for the mid sems at that very date but maybe they can submit a written assignment. There’s an alternative to it. Because it is a lot more convenient to the students. That’s a good thing as well.
Mr Prasanna: Ya right!
Mr Sameer: Yes yes, you have to be soft towards students as well.
Mr Prasanna: Right ya, it becomes too hectic when you are participating in competitions, exam and then also have internships. So, as you mentioned you were taking leaves for the internships. So, can you just clarify more about it? Like are students allowed to take leaves for internship purpose?
Mr Sameer: See, it is not advisable to leave your classes because you will lose out on the academics as well. But I was already in my fourth year and I was very concerned about securing a job. So, and that too at a decent firm at least. So, I remember I secured an internship at a firm in the month when my academic classes were going on. So, I had to go to that firm. I really wanted to. So, what I did I ensured 100% attendance throughout my semester so that even if I miss a month of class, I will still get 70%. I remember my total attendance for that semester was at 71% and whenever I was in college I attended every class but I missed a lot of classes for my internship only. I did not have any option and my university also did not give any exception and that’s correct as well to an extent.
Mr Prasanna: Ok Sameer, thank you so much for explaining about moot courts and sharing your experience and all. I hope all law students enjoyed it and also learnt from it. Thank you for joining us here and that you all for listening to this podcast.
Mr Sameer: It’s good to hear it Prasanna. Thank you for having me here. Thank you so much!