Monday, September 13, 2010

Whats the idea Sir ji: Talking about Legalsutra- Part 1

Documents and archiving them has intrigued me for a long time, especially after our alumni Lawrence Liang's talk on Archives, while we were going through a process of making our own archive. The talk stimulated my interest and I helped in the creation of Open Book Society (OBS) and its website openbooklive.com. It did pretty well for starters but is currently pretty much out of service, as all founder members lost interest (building another google books project for research papers is tough and expensive!). However, what remained in my mind was the idea of the creation of a law school project and other document repository, which we had shelved during our OBS days, because as Lawrence had told us, on seeking his advise, that let the private economy of law school projects run as it does.

Later, I got to know that Prashant Iyengar, a Nalsar graduate, who used to work with Lawrence (atleast then a year or two ago) and had created the brilliant Open Judis for searching through Supreme Court judgments had a similar idea, and he had in fact started a wiki for such projects and collected about 150 of them. But, due to academic considerations, he could not devote enough time for it and this project too, as fare as I know, fizzled out.

Now Legalsutra is my idea to use today's best document viewing technology to create a repository of documents which are quite useful for law school students, such as research papers/projects, study notes,case notes, case summaries, moot court memorials, random legal research etc. My experience has been that a huge quantity of such documents are churned out each year, especially by students of the premier law schools of India, and most of it goes waste, and sometimes doesn't even pass to junior batches, let alone being accessible to students from other law schools. The users will be able to search, read, comment, discuss, share and upload these documents, and I hope that with the demand for such documents will come their supply.
The whole point of launching Legalsutra would be to increase access to legal knowledge, encouraging collaborative learning, and providing a platform for displaying your law school skills.

Currently I am working with a really smart coder who is just 15 years old, Rishabh Verma, from Chandigarh, and I am hoping that we'll be able to have a beta launch soon.

The next part of this post will come only when Legalsutra is launched :).

If you are interested in helping out with the tech part of the launch, and you have a good knowledge of PHP, and of hacking drupal CMS, or in any other way you can think of then please feel free to mail me at mail AT arjunsheoran DOT com.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bending Over Backwards

(I put this notice up on the NLSIU notice board, on  facebook and also mailed it to the students and faculty of NLSIU on 14th August, when Mr Rahul Gandhi was supposed to visit NLS. After and even before meeting Mr Gandhi, I really liked his way of doing things, vis-a-vis other politicians, and hence the following post is not targetted at him, but at the NSLIU Administration. Ultimately, all that I had predicted in this post came true, but I will deal with that in another post).

Why I don't like the way the NLSIU Administration is handling His Highness Rahul Gandhi's visit to NLSIU


While this might seem like a party pooper in the atmosphere ofimposed festive[1]mood in law school, I think we are not asking a very fundamental question.  Why is His Highness Rahul Gandhi, PrimeMinister/Congress Party head in waiting /scion of the Dynasty, being allowed toaddress the students of NLSIU in the present manner? And why is theAdministration going out of its way to organize the "talk"?
Well, we've been told that Mr Gandhi wants to talk to the youth ofthe country, and wants to inspire them to join politics and help in nationaldevelopment, hence he is in NLSIU, and because he such an important person,hence the elaborate and unusual arrangements. That sounds fair enough. Butactually it isn't. Is the administration unaware that if Mr Gandhi will talkabout joining politics or any other issue, he'll directly or indirectly beasking students to do so by joining NSUI (Congress' Student Wing)? Even if hismere presence makes students to join NSUI and support the Congress, doesn't itstill amount to campaigning for a political party (albeit with power to getmoney sanctioned for NLS).
When was the last time the administration spent so much money onsprucing up the campus and setting up the talk venue in the quad for a political party leader, whodoes not hold any constitutional post apart from being an MP? As far as I know,never. In fact, in the last one year itself, not even the Chief Justice ofIndia, BCI President, UGC Chairperson, Governor of Karnataka, the Union LawMinister have been given such a privilege, with the University Administration bendingover backwards.
It is strange that in an University where a candidate running forthe office bearers' post can be disqualified for "bringing in party politics through student mass organisations/front"[2], theadministration has allowed a political party's General Secretary to come talkto students, and subtly bring in party politics in our campus. And though onemay argue he may never talk about joining NSUI or supporting the Congress, hismere presence will be a campaign for the Congress Party and NSUI, which isproblematic.
What is even more shocking is the way in which the administration isgoing out of their way to please him by spending lakhs on the organisation ofthe function, prescribing dress codes (Ethnic wear only), issuing guidelinesabout questions to be asked and what not (as inappropriate questions may"harm" the reputation of the institution) and probably selecting whowill ask what questions. Will they do the same if the BJP Youth WingPresident/General Secretary or from Communist Party of India -Marxist or BahujanSamaj Party comes to generally talk/ inspire students to join politics (andsubtly builds support for BJP and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad/ CPI-M & Student Federation of India etc, justas His Highness is doing for his party)? Possibly not. And even if they doallow it will still be not the right thing at the first place.
If the university administration really wants us to get inspired tojoin politics, then possibly the charade of non-political elections for Officebearers, including for Activity Based Committees and Class representative post,must be removed, and NSUI, ABVP, SFIshould be allowed to come recruit students, campaign, holddemonstrations/strikes/dharnas, haveturf wars and pitched battles in our campus, because that is what this would leadto, even if the Administration may not want it.
I personally seem to like His Highness, but that is my personalopinion, but making decisions for a University on the basis of a personalopinion is a serious matter, and strikes at the heart of non-partisan nature ofNLSIU. I would be attending the "talk", though without following the diktat ofthe dress code and without following any subtle gag orders to ask questionskeeping in mind "the reputation of NLSIU"without "any personal questions, personalagenda's or remarks".[3] Ihope a few others could do the same.
This is nothing but a wrong move and a dangerous precedent. This isa damaging trend that is about to start, and I am sad it is happening in lawschool.

[1] Given thedecorations, arrangements and imposed dress code for His Highness' visit.
[2] SBA Constitution:
Article 8, Clause (e)- Any member of an ABC shall not be eligibleto stand for the posts of President or Vice-President if he/she has been.-
1. found guilty of serious misconduct by the University;
2. found to be politicizing theSBA in terms of bringing in party politics either through student massorganizations /fronts or through any other means having a similar effect.
[3] From theemail conveying the VC's instructions.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rahul Gandhi to Visit NLSIU and why I don't like it

"Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will visit Karnataka for two days from
August 13 as part of efforts TO STRENGTHEN THE CONGRESS' STUDENT WING-NATIONAL STUDENTS UNION OF INDIA"  says the newspaper DNA.

Mr Gandhi is clearly not here to just inspire the youth to join politics, but to inspire them to join politics by supporting his party, i.e. the Congress. In a university (NLSIU) where people can get disqualified from running for office for "politicizing the Student Bar Associiation" by bringing in party politics either
through "student mass organizations" (SBA Constitution), allowing the General Secretary of AICC, who represents the Congress Party (and not the youth of the country) to "inspire" students to join politics (obviously through NSUI and Congress), is quite a derogation, and a dangerous precendent.

What is even more shocking is the way in which the administration is going out of their way to please him by spending lakhs on the organisation of the function, prescribing dress codes, issuing guidelines about questions to be asked and what not (as inappropriate questions may "harm" the reputation of the institution)...Will they do the same if the BJP Youth Wing President/Gen. Secy. or from CPI-M or BSP comes to inspire students (and subtly builds support for BJP and ABVP/ CPI-M & SFI etc, just as Mr Gandhi is doing for his party)? This is a dangerous trend thats about to start, and I am sad its happening in law school...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Scribd, Doctoc, Issuu or something else?

I have been trying to figure this out ever since Scribd came up with the news that they are planning to move from flash to HTML5 for their document sharing website because of the inherent problems in flash, as it doesn't work in several devices. All other players in the document sharing market like docstoc and issuu are still sticking to flash for now, though html5 will be the next logical step.

The problem is that the website I plan to build will depend a lot on these document viewers. I hope that scribd will get html5 technology to APIs as well.

Hopefully, something will work out with regards to this issue...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why should I have my own blog and my domain name?

The question that might come to a reader's mind is why exactly would anyone want their own their own blog that too their own domain name. I used to think the same, and in fact thought of these things as mere frivolities, especially when one of my very good friend, Rahul Sarin bought a domain in his own name. But, I guess, with time opinions change. Rahul had once told me that buying a domain name is like buying real estate. Not that think that my own name will command real estate like prices any time soon, but I guess its just about having one's name up in the virtual world. So, this blog has become my part of the internet. I had been thinking of just buying the domain "arjunsheoran.com" and keeping it registered just in case... till I hit upon the idea of having my own blog. This idea was inspired by my batch mate Ajar Rab's blog and blog of one of my seniors from law school, Ashutosh Salil who made it to the coveted Indian Administrative Service (IAS) yesterday.

I would be using this blog to write about several things that I've always wished to write and talk about, but the maximum I end up doing is a status update on facebook. Though status updates let a number of people, who are known to you about what you might be thinking about, they can never be used for making elaborate arguments or nuanced points. Facebook notes might have been a good idea, but the attraction of having a blog on one's own domain is too alluring.

Hence this blog.

I plan to write about all sorts of things, right from internal politics of NLSIU (National Law School, Bangalore), to current national and world events to interesting things that I came across. I have been told several times that I end up committing grammatical mistakes while writing, so I would like to apologize for it at the very outset. I do not plan to hide behind pseudonyms or fake names, and would be talking straight as far as possible, exercising the fundamental right of free speech and expression in the best possible manner, and would also try keep in mind all reasonable restrictions on my right.