By Apoorva Thakur
New Delhi. 31 July 2020. “Let’s contribute to defend the futures of those who happily sacrifice their present to defend us!”This was the pledge of appeal made by LAWGYSTIX when they reached out to potential attendees for joining in a one-of-its-kind virtual Q&A-style panel-discussion held for an hour on the evening of 26 Jul 2020, to commemorate Kargil Vijay Diwas.
True to the objective behind the creation of LAWGYSTIX, that is, to infuse societal sensitivity in the budding lawyers and aspiring judges of India, while they engage in unique learning through this online platform, the registration-fee of this event was transparently diverted to the National Defence Fund, Govt. of India.
‘India’s Laws and Defence Forces: Exploring Facets’, was the theme chosen for the discussion amongst members of the stellar panel that comprised of Col Manhar Sharma (Retd), who had actively participated in the 1971 Indo-Pak war & as part of IPKF in Sri Lanka; and his better-half, Dr. Rita Sharma, a PhD in clinical psychology, former Principal of Airforce School (Agra), and presently, Director at The International School (Agra); Capt DK Sharma, VSM (Retd), who is the Ex-PRO & Spokesperson for the Indian Navy, & presently, a Defense & Strategic Analyst with leading web-portals; Flt Lt Sreelatha Pillai (Retd), who, after serving the Airforce, got internationally trained to be a brand-manager & sales negotiation-expert, presently also a soft-skills coach at her firm, ‘Antarah’; Advocate Ashok Chaitanya, who served in IAF for 15 years, and presently represents all the three Forces as Central Government Senior Panel Counsel at the Armed Forces Tribunal (Principal Bench, New Delhi).
The session-moderator, Advocate Apoorva Thakur (a lawyer and educator, Concept-Head of LAWGYSTIX), began with a ‘rapid fire’ where each panellist was asked to state one word about the unique privilege as well as the peculiar challenge faced by those in the Forces. Words like ‘opportunity’, ‘adventure’, ‘esteem’, etc. came in as answers to describe the privilege; while words like ‘unsheltered’, ‘discipline’, ‘uncertainty’ were mentioned to indicate the challenges!
As the session progressed, Advocate Ashok Chaitanya, when asked about the different application of laws (exceptions, expectations, and exemptions) to members of the Defence Forces, enlightened the attendees about the privileges enjoyed by them under landmark legislations like the Representation of People Act, Indian Tolls Act, Indian Soldiers’ Litigation Act; while he also mentioned the suppression of few of the usual Fundamental Rights under our Constitution available to other civilian citizens of this nation.
Further, Dr. Rita Sharma, being a reputed educator, clinical psychologist, and Army Wife herself, beautifully answered the question on mental health-aspect of being in the Forces during peacetime versus wartime – including the psychological makeup of the serving officer as well as his family members. She used a simple anecdotal-narrative style to stress upon the importance of mental fitness & self-motivation to enter and continue in the Forces, presence of supportive loved ones who abide by necessary protocols, and the readiness to pay a price for getting all the respect & entitlements associated with being a ‘fauji’.
Next, Flt Lt Sreelatha Pillai and Col Manhar Sharma expressed their views on the question whether professionals like engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. should be asked to compulsorily serve in the Forces for any minimum term for getting their license.
They both agreed on the immense value for time, discipline, and patriotism as essential prerequisites to serve in the Forces.
Quotable one-liner excerpts were-
“If one’s heart and soul is not there in serving the country and you are not ready or willing to lay your life for your motherland if duty calls upon you to do so, then you are clearly not sculpted for the Defence Forces!” and “You can take a soldier out of the Forces, but you cannot take the Forces out of that soldier!”.
As the engaging discussion advanced, Capt DK Sharma and Advocate Chaitanya addressed the significant questions pertaining to the scope of defence laws for juristic study, Armed Forces Tribunal as a forum for legal practice, and work-opportunities in the Forces for law-graduates. They enlightened the attendees on military laws being a part of the curriculum in certain law-schools across India, as also the SSB being the entry-point to any law-grad. wanting to serve as JAG.
The final segment, relating to the positive impact of having served in the Army, Navy, or Airforce, was elaborated upon by all the esteemed speakers, attributing their service-period to their present confidence, calibre, multi-skilled nature, and holistically developed personality.
This invigorating session, planned and executed within a day by first year law students, witnessing around 40-45 registrant-attendees, and raising a humble collective amount of above INR 10,000 for the National Defence Fund, came to a close with beaming panellists energetically shouting out, “Vande Mataram! Bharat Mata Ki Jai!”, successfully marking our glorious Kargil Vijay Diwas of 2020!