What is Public Policy? What is its link to lawyers and their work? In this episode, Abhirup who is a practicing advocate from Karnataka and also an experienced Academic Associate not only explains public policy in a simple manner but also shares his understanding as to how knowing about public policy helps lawyers in the cases they handle.
Prasanna: Hey budding lawyers, welcome to the podcast. today we have an advocate abhirup with us. hi abhirup.
Abhirup: Hi Prasanna. Thank you so much for having me on your podcast and your channel. It’s a real honor and privilege to be here. thanks so much for having me
Prashant: Same here bro. I actually like having such conversations with young lawyers so and you are one of them. It’s good.
Prasanna: So, Abhiruv is an advocate practicing before the trial courts and the high court of Karnataka. He has completed his master’s of laws i.e LLM international law from the New York university school of law. In past, he has also worked as an academic associate in the center for public policy at IIM Banglore. Where his research work was focused
on the history and evolution of the Indian constitution and constitutionalism of India. In this episode, we’ll be talking about his diverse experiences and especially about his work in IIM Banglore. So let’s start. Abhirup, you have completed your LLM from New York
University. Usually, people who go abroad for further studies, either settle there permanently or work there for a few years at least to cover up their expenses and loans. So why did you choose to come back to India
Abhirup: Thanks Prasanna. I was very clear going into the LLM itself that I wanted to return to India once the program was done. I never really intended to be there even while I was applying. And also while you are applying and when you go through the application forms, a lot of universities caution you about, try to use their part ways to get employment there while it is possible, it is not necessarily the norm. It’s not something that is given. You cannot always find a job but that aside, I was also not keen on staying there in a different country working there because I really felt that the purpose of me going was to develop my skills and to return to India and contribute in some manner which is why in fact, I think I left the US maybe about a day or 2 after my graduation. I didn’t even stay back there too long after. in fact, you have an option to sort of apply for an extension of visas, sometime around the beginning of your second semester at least in us I’m not sure how it works in other countries but in us, you get an option to extend your visas sometime around Jan or Feb and I didn’t even want to do that because I was clear that I wanted to return as soon as the program ended. These countries, especially in the west where people tend to go for their higher studies, already have the intellectual and even the monetary resources to manage
their affairs pretty well they don’t really need. whereas in a country like India, there is so much to be done I mean if all of us look around, there is a lot for all of us do to and contribute to our country which is why I felt yeah, I really wanted to come back and contribute here.
Prasanna: yeah And also in most of these countries like you are not really allowed to stay for long after you complete your graduation if you don’t have a job, right?
Abhinup: that’s true I think in us you get a couple of months maybe 5 or 6 months if I’m not wrong I don’t exactly remember until you find some sort of employment then there extends for maybe a year and by the end of the year your employer should sponsor your visa or you know they have to sponsor your h1v visa because there is no choice if they don’t then you have to return so that as your right. You do need to
have some sort of employment, you can’t just hang around there.
Prasanna: okay so let’s move ahead now and you started working at IIm Bangalore as an academic associate after coming here at its public policy center can you tell more about CPP at IIM.
Abhirup: so that’s right I did get that was my first job as soon as I returned. I was an academic associate at the center for public policy at the imb. the center of public policy was a new addition to the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. So the whole purpose and
reason behind, having the public policy is the institution at some level felt that business was not operating in this vacuum. The businesses and the companies operate in society we are there, they are here to provide their services and sell their products to people who are in society and there is a definite relationship between how businesses interact with society the impact they have on society, and vice-versa as well. So there
was a need felt to sort of to understand how businesses could be more responsible if I could use that word. To Be more responsible means that to be contributive to society and not just be there to sell their product and services and make a profit but also to do a little more.
Prasanna: yeah and public policy is a sector where you cant you know be very if I may use the word capitalistic or something like that. The sector itself has that sense that if you don’t have that feeling, you cant work there.
Abhirup: That’s very true. That’s very true. And you see this a lot in some businesses who are not as environmentally conscious as an example that’s just one example where you know they may extract a lot of resources from the environment they may pollute in a not so sustainable way or they may pollute the environment through their activities this is one aspect of it or maybe that could include acquisition of land you know which involve
displacement of local communities that’s another issue causing may be setting up a factory and things like that. So businesses don’t operate in a vacuum they are here and are very much part of society and function in the society and this institute was, this portion of the institute started to sort of had understood the interplay and the role, the true and the larger role businesses have to play in the society
Prasanna: So what was your work profile there and what was your daily schedule?
Abhirup: So I was an academic associate at imb I was primarily attached to a professor there and you can assist him or her on their projects and their research activities and also in the conduct of their classes.so, I was attached to professor Deepak morgan and professor morgan was taking a course called business governmental society in the imb for the BGP, now it’s the MBA students and my role was to, one was to assist him with
his research with whatever projects he had going and the, two was to also assist him in the preparation of the class and the courses that the students were taking that is the course he was taking for them that could involve maybe uploading course material just reading and uploading course material on to the platform for the students to access maybe preparing short brief notes for the class things like that and he, professor
morgan also encouraged me to do my own independent thinking and research as well. That was also something that I was, had the time to do while I was in imb. So what was it like regarding what topic was it So, I was primarily focusing on the role of minorities communities in India in pre and
post-independent India and how they, especially the Muslim community how they contributed to the freedom struggle how the laws were shaped for them even before the independence and even after that what impact laws had on their social lives was primarily my focus of research.
Prasanna: Interesting topic. Maybe we can have another podcast on that
Prasanna: so can you tell me what is public policy?
Abhirup: public policy in very simple terms is the cause of action, which the state perhaps wants to notch its, its people towards through the form of maybe legislation or enacting some rules or things like that so that’s how it manifests itself. But this is in a very subtle way what public policy is. So you have the state which is trying to guide social conduct in a particular way. And it does that, it has these particular goals, which it wants to achieve. And it does that through public policy. For example, you can go as far back as pre-independent India in the British way here are things like the prohibition of Sati act. So you have a lot of sort of goal that the state wanted to achieve. And this was in line with its understanding of what public policy is it felt that it was not proper that this particular activity was going on in society. And then that manifested itself in the legislation in this case to prohibit that or to control and that activity or that conduct. So, this very simple way what public policy really is.
Prasanna: so we can say the public policy is nothing but solving the problem, and how to do it.
Abhirup: Precisely, yeah.
Prasanna: Okay, were are you inclined towards public policy from the beginning of your law school, or what made you interested in this work Abhirup: with the feeling as young lawyers Very intricately involved in various aspects of public policy whether we know it or not, that’s just the nature of law. You know, a lot of laws, maybe public policy agnostic if I can use that term but most of them are also there because they are a manifestation again like I said have some sort of course of action the government wants to be to solve a particular problem. So when we are engaged in the practice of law, it’s very hard for us to remove ourselves from different facts of public policy that are necessarily involved in the practice of law. So, as a young lawyer, or even as a lawyer, generally, you will necessarily are involved in this activity where you are engaged in understanding why a particular law is there in the first place. What made the parliament, or whichever legislative body come up with that law in the first place. Why what was it that they were trying to achieve through the enactment of that law. So when you’re thinking about all these questions through your practice of the law in your, in your cases in your office, or wherever you’re practicing. You’ll necessarily have to ask these questions to yourself. So to understand the larger scheme of things, and how this plays out in the real world I was, I didn’t want to know how these things happen and what goes into thinking about what kind of questions are thought about before particular laws enacted, or when I say law I don’t mean it in the strict sense just human Act of Parliament or an act of legislature could manifest itself in other ways. Also, maybe some sort of policy, which a department puts out, which not just other institutions of government to act in a particular way. It could even be delegated legislation rules or regulations which flow from another statute. Things like that.
Prasanna: Yeah, and I think most of us like not most of, but many lawyers don’t focus on these things, they usually focus on the technicalities. And, and the procedural part of them, you know, of what happens in court. So, these things are more important. If I can say so because that is no it means, then you can prepare your arguments, based on that. That’s why we had the subject called interpretation of statutes right.
Abhirup: You’re absolutely right. I agree with you completely because, as you practice the law is very easy for you to just focus on that one particular case that you’ve got, you know, and mister forest for the trees, so to say, you just you’re focusing on that one. One particular key. Yeah, I got that one particular case, this is the client. This is the solution or the outcome, the client wants, and I need to sort of work towards that, which is, which is what a lawyer should do. But it’s very easy. When you’re doing that, or engaging in an exercise for you to lose sight of the larger picture, which can in many ways actually help your client to understand why did that law, come there in the first place. Exactly. You know what was it, even for the legislative body or the department or whichever party to put that particular rule or that policy or that statute in place. There must be something.
Prasanna: Yeah, I think history comes at this place and even history plays an important role here. If you try to know the history behind that particular law that would be very helpful for your case to face.
Abhirup: This is the legislative history. What were the social circumstances surrounding the passage of the law, what was happening was there were there, protests were there? was it were they public petitions to four different representatives to particular people of a particular law to solve .policy debates happening. You know what was said during the debate. What were the thoughts of different people before the law was passed? There are some questions. With the recent issues about the lawyers, it was concerned about issues that the law was not addressing or there was addressing, which it didn’t need to. These are all things that we most need to look at so history definitely plays a very important role to understand. You know the purpose of the law. And again, like you rightly pointed out, we look at statutory interpretation. At times and have to look into the legislative history of the particular statute if you want to understand and interpret it correctly.
Prasanna: That’s an important case that comes to mind when we are talking about this.
Abhirup: Yeah, I mean, many times the board needs to look into the history of enactment before it gets down to integrating it, I can think of. Some tax statutes, for example, there was an easy amendment to the finance act, maybe two years ago. It was about the payment of, who gets to be the chairs of the duty on shares. The transact the duty on the transactional sale of shares. So that was an amendment and it was made for a particular dominant person and if I remember correctly, it was the buyer of shares. Again I remember, this is just the case because I was just reading about this. There was a reason why this hasn’t come before the courts as yet, to determines the Pair of duties. But after that amendment, a determined rule needs to pay the duty. So there was some reason there are reasons so we look at the price that the ministry release will streamline this process they wanted to reduce the ambiguity they wanted to identify the person who needs to be these duties for there to be easier identification of the person from whom revenue needs to come to the state. This is a very mundane example, this isn’t as juicy as some other social issues that maybe we have.
But if you look at the press notes that they brought then you know you’re the reason why.
Prasanna: yeah. Do you think that lawyers must also study, maybe you take up some courses on public policy? While working on some of the cases. In most cases.
Abhirup: Public Policy is definitely helpful. They definitely help you orient yourself a little better in terms of not just yourself also for law
As you’re studying a little bit to understand where you came from why they came there what they want to solve, or a problem. To achieve a particular goal A particular standard or a particular for example you can take an environment laws to mitigate the environmental damage, but it’s also there to achieve a certain standard that we aspire for to live in a comfortable life in a clean and healthy environment. So, the courses in public policy I’d have to be helpful, definitely help you situate yourself, or even take, for example, commercial laws also. The thing that comes to my mind. Almost immediately is the commercial courts’ Act, which is very recent legislation. Not more than five years old. Now, why did the government feel like a commercial courts act? Right. And one of the most important aspects of the commercial codes act is that it means certain important changes to the CPC.cut down on the remember, time is spent in court for a suit. So, what was this problem that the government received to control, one, which obviously comes to mind is the long pendency of our suit that takes forever. And when it comes to disputes of a commercial nature you can’t have these disputes just sitting in court, and not going anywhere, because that’s not good for the country if you’re not able to conduct business in an expedient way or business people feel that if a dispute arises, and they have to go to court, it’s going to languish there forever. So, when the government comes up with this new legislation to sort of speed things up in the form of a commercial codes act amended CPC in certain ways in the act, so that the procedure and code are a little more streamlined it’s a little faster, or it’s a little more modern. It’s not the CPC as you know, it’s the 1908 legislation with of course my various state amendments. But the council that makes it embraces, you know, technology, embraces your, the advancements that have happened in the last couple of years into consideration to speed things up. So that commercial disputes and disputes between these business entities can be resolved quickly. So what is the aim of that it’s to just help through the process, immediately and to make it easier to do business in India? We want to improve, ease of doing business rankings for example, in the world. So this could be one aspect that the government is trying to achieve and move towards striving towards us and as an activist. So when you as a lawyer, are going to the commercial Court, which is established under the averages required to be established under the Act, it would, in my mind be important for you to understand why this act even came. Because if you go with your mindset of I am this is nothing different from the CPC, then you are also going to be part of that system that causes these unnecessary delays which are sought of remove. So if you’ve understood why, what was the public policy. What was the reason behind this act coming into force? Then you as a lawyer also can conduct your case in a manner that is befitting the reasons why the Act came in.
Prasanna: These examples also tell us that how laws are interconnected and having knowledge of multiple areas of laws will always help lawyers.
Abhirup: definitely If you want our society to grow and you want people to increase their standard of living improve the standard of living improve their wealth. You need to have an environment that is easy for people to do business. And this is one aspect, this may not be the only you know your business’s. And we as lawyers we interact with these with the system, and our info and implement and practicing laws need to be only in our best interest that we understand why it does not come about in the first place.
Prasanna: Do you know any professional courses on public policy and any best kind of Institute which are offering it in India.
Abhirup: Yeah, so there are several, of course, imd the Center for Public Policy where we have several public policy courses. National School of India also has a Public Policy Center, which is really good. Then of course there are various other universities. When the NLS are up to was created by statute. I think in the late 80s. it was just a law school, I think, the public policy came about, maybe I’m not exactly sure when but it was a newer addition and again you can see why you know because it’s telling that in a law school, this is only or natural that you also understand. Public Policy. I’m not aware if courses are cross-listed, that is whether Law School students can take courses in the Center for Public Policy at the National Law School. I am not entirely sure that happens. but you can see the very fact that it has a Center for Public Policy in the law school itself shows. This is something which a lawyer should know likewise in business school like mentioned in the start of our conversation that business also functions in a way that is not at all remove from the society, in fact, it’s completely enchanted In a society
ABHIRUP: so having these departments in these larger institutes only goes to show their importance either in the practice of law or in a business and things like that.
PRASANNA: okay. So did you also do any such course before applying for a job?
ABHIRUP: no I didn’t do any particular course in public policy. It’s just my understanding through the practice of law that how these things impact on various legislations, rules, and police in which you end up in practice.
PRASANNA: okay.so In law school, there are many curricular activities we all know like moot courts and Muns, so do you think that any of any extracurricular activities can help law students to learn public policy?
ABHIRUP: internship for sure will help I will count it as an extracurricular activity as like you go in law school and on the same day you go to an institution where you are interning framing of various guidelines or rules or legislations, or even. It can help you identify the problems that you may want to want to resolve through a modification in public policy or the evolution of a public policy or a particular issue. So it’s only when you’re on the ground, and you’re experiencing the various either social or economic issues that need to be addressed that you will. These questions will be apparent to you. Because if you don’t know what the issues are on the ground. It’s very difficult for you to think of the questions that you want to solve through public policy internships for sure are very helpful.
PRASANNA: And I guess also writing research papers on such topics will help, right?
ABHIRUP: Definitely. So, writing, of course, public policy and writing are almost inextricably linked. Writing spanning your thoughts, your ideas, or thinking of the kind of questions you want to solve. Through your either your study in college, or even your fieldwork.
Whatever you see and you can come up with a policy or a solution for these issues.
That is one of the starting points for, you know, it’s snowball into something bigger and the evolution of maybe a stronger public policy in just saw that particular problem so writing definitely helps.
PRASANNA: Do you know any of the fellowships also in this sector?
ABHIRUP: Yes, so there are actually quite a few fellowships which various institutions, offer. I could think of, and also these fellowships depend and vary in their scope, and time that they run for. For example, there’s a William Clinton fellowship, a young India fellowship. Various universities offer some fellowships and opportunities for example again the Ashoka University offers a particular fellowship for, you know, in this regard. Then you can also work, it’s maybe not a fellowship in the strict sense but you can also work in NGOs, or an institution, such as Teach for India and things like that where, you know, it’s not totally like a fellowship, but you do get an opportunity to be exposed to these kinds of to these activities and these learnings.
PRASANNA: Yeah, and one, which comes to my mind as conducted by the PRS legislative. It is known as lamp fellowship, right?
It’s of course a fellowship, but you can only do it after you graduated. I don’t think there’s an opportunity for you to do it while you’re still studying in college. I think they’re required to graduate.
ABHIRUP: the lamp, an excellent opportunity for you too, you know because you’re in the seat of your at least you’re very close to the seat of our that, from which public policy emanates essentially in the. Again, as I mentioned in the manifestation of legislation or laws or whatever because you’re the people were thinking about these things. And who also have the power to enact these things into law. So yes, the lamp fellowship is also an excellent opportunity.
PRASANNA: Okay, so, uh, you know, solving problems, writing research, etc. All this is fine but listeners, you can also make this a full-time career. So, can you just throw some light on these like what are the career opportunities for public policy enthusiasts?
ABHIRUP: Yes. So, in public policy, you can have a very rich and rewarding career, a very fulfilling career. It is not as though, that there is nothing that you can do if you choose to focus on public policy. There are a lot of things you can do the things that come to my mind or one is obviously trying to get into government. Okay. Get into government think tanks get government research organizations to get into tying into government directly by being standing up for you know office in different forms. That is one thing you can do. The second thing is also you can join various think tanks. There are different think tanks which do exceptional work, or where they need people who are constantly thinking about these things. And who is writing about these things? So join think tanks contributing to the work they do, contributing to the research is also something which you can do.
Then, of course, is also becoming a part of academia. You can join University to join a college. You can influence so many younger minds and of course, many universities also come out with very detailed and comprehensive research which in many occasions Influences or is of is of pivotal use with the government. So that is another way you can contribute. So these are some of the different careers, you can have in public policy.
Prasanna: And also you can go abroad. There are many international organizations, you can work with.
ABHIRUP: for sure, I mean public policy, while, for the most part during this conversation we’ve been talking about it in the domestic sense but even on a larger scale, you know, globally, there are so many global issues that require solving hunger, global poverty.You know, which requires people to think about these issues. You can join an international organization, like the UN or different organs of the UN, maybe even the Red Cross, things like that where they also think about these questions, it’s not just about the work that they’re doing on the ground, but they’re also thinking about how to mitigate or reduce the kind of problems that are out there to help solve. And for that, we can definitely contribute.
PRASANNA: Okay, So the last question which we usually have at the end of a podcast is can you share an incident from your career, which is very memorable to you.
ABHIRUP: yeah So, I mean, there have been many incidents, of course, for the last two years I’ve also been practicing as an advocate and I’m proud of that and I am. I think one of the most interesting memories that I have one of my most favorite and interesting memories I had was this big conference that we had organized. It was the 13th International Conference on public policy, where the theme was inclusion and exclusion.
A; and we organized that was the first year in fact, and if I’m not wrong, that IMD wanted to organize this conference in New Delhi. It’s usually done in Bangalore itself because IMD is in Bangalore. But in that particular year, we wanted to do it in Delhi. And it was a big event. Spread out for almost I think three or four days where we all went to Delhi and we call very, you know thinkers and researchers in different fields to understand how policy can be shaped to include more people obviously since the theme was inclusion and exclusion where we can take more people in the fold, bring them into society, and also look at how they may be policies or they may be legislations which are excluding people also.
This also is something which may not come apparent to people at first, you know, is there a rule or is there a policy that is excluding people? That is not considering them. For example, persons with disability are something I can think, you know, what are the laws that we have or the rules whenever I say laws We tend to think of some Act of Parliament or a legislature, but I’m coming to smaller rules, just take the ordinary Metro, for example, you know, a metro rail system in the city. Does the metro rail system have rules, which provides for persons with disability? Do you have hasn’t need some sort of reasonable accommodations to for persons with disabilities to access this resource because it’s not that these resources are only for people who are not visually impaired or who are not, you know, who don’t have any other disability it’s for everyone. So, these people are also very much part of society. So how do these rules for a smaller institution of government, whether or not it’s private or public or whatever it’s performing a public service, have been accommodated to have they provided some accommodations for people who have disabilities, this is one vulnerable group, then you can also think about sexual minorities, you know, trans persons or the LGBTQ community. How are they included, or how are they excluded by public policy.
Similarly, children, you know, women, animals are other groups.
How does a law compensate for these because these are all vulnerable groups? animals can’t speak animals can’t fight for their rights. Does the public policy exclude them in that, in that particular way because they are may not be part of human society in a strict sense but they are also part of this earth, you know? So how does public policy account for all these different groups? This one takes that was what this conference is all about it was very enriching It was very stimulating. You got to meet so many interesting people. Of course, it involved a trip to Delhi also which was very interesting in a way which is in many ways the seat of power when it comes to public policy because a lot of it emanates from them. you know, so that is perhaps one of the most memorable experiences from my time and I am of course as an advocate, there are many I’ve just been practicing for about two years.
PRASANNA: I think the listeners will be more interested in knowing about your experiences in court. So, you can share one of them here.
ABHIRUP: In court, Of course, there are various so I did have one situation where I was representing a person who was involved in child marriage, and this person was married off as a child. And then when she became an adult she realized about this, about what had happened and she didn’t want to really be in that marriage anymore. She wanted another. So that was a very memorable situation for me because in fighting for her case we faced a lot of hurdles, we faced a lot of situations that stymied our activities in reaching her goal of getting her annulment. Some people opposed, a petition some people said no, she, she has to be married. It was a very valid marriage. Of course, she was a child and it was not valid. so fighting for her in court was very enriching and very rewarding. Crossing those hurdles that were created by her family, who would often threaten her. And, you know, try to do things to her, trying to fight through all those things fearlessly
ABHIRUP: fighting for them, fighting for their causes trying to get them justice on an almost daily basis is very enriching and very rewarding.
Unfortunately, I can’t go into too many details of that case. But the just of that was this, it was trying to get her marriage annulled because she didn’t want to be in anymore and she was, you know, a child when that happened.
PRASANNA: So you like what you were able to do?
ABHIRUP: it like I forget to mention the most important thing the outcome she succeeded and she won that case. And now she is no longer married to that individual. And she’s like carrying on with her life now.
PRASANNA: Nice to hear that. And with that, we have come to the end of this episode. Any final tips.
ABHIRUP: So that’s what I mean I hope I was able to convey what I wanted to during this conversation. And if it wasn’t. This is the simple truth that I’ve learned so far at least in what I’ve been doing so far is to just really fight for what you believe in, never given. I’m not sure if some of your viewers have watched Justice Krishi Speak A couple of months ago on, you know, truly sticking to your beliefs and not giving up or not buckling under pressure, just fight for what you believe in. It’s a very rewarding profession to be a lawyer. It’s, you get to do so many amazing things and you get to fight for so many interesting and, you know, true and just causes, and you don’t get to do that in many other professions. So just keep fighting through it may seem difficult at first. It may seem daunting but just keep pushing through because perseverance and hard work, and believing in yourself, are really important aspects to have as a lawyer. Early on qualities to have as a lawyer.
PRASANNA: That’s quite intense but it sounds good. Thanks for this wonderful conversation and for sharing your experiences with us. And thank you so much for listening to this podcast. If you like this episode, then you must also check out another episode. And also follow us here so that you don’t miss any new episode