Law Students Focus on Freedom of Expression in Regional Law Moot Court Competition

A young woman stands at a podium
A law student from India participates in a moot court competition involving freedom of expression. (credit: Internews)

Twenty-five teams of mostly undergraduate students from law schools in five South Asian countries participated in a moot court competition involving freedom of expression, as part of the South Asia Regional Round of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition.

Hosted by the Centre for Communication Governance at the National Law University, Delhi (NLU) and supported in part by Internews’ Global Human Rights Program, the competition took place over four days in November.

The case for the 2012/2013 competition focuses on the fictional country of Malamba. The case involves the Malamban government’s decision to deactivate mobile towers to prevent mob violence and a request to turn over a record of text messages on the day a bank in Malamba was attacked.

Media law moot courts play an important role in promoting interest in international laws governing freedom of expression. They are a powerful medium to train law students and legal professionals in media law issues, and an effective platform for initiating international discussion around media law and policy.

The participants were asked to argue the case in a fictional Chamber, named the “Universal Freedom of Expression Court.” The rules allow teams to use arguments from sources such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, African Court of Human Peoples Rights (including reports of the respective regional commissions), US Supreme Court and decisions of the Human Rights Committee in relation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

Internews’ partnership with the Annenberg School of Communication at University of Pennsylvania and the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at the University of Oxford will extend the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition to include regional rounds in the Middle East, South Asia, the Balkans and Latin America and allow many more law schools to participate.

Although this is the third year that NLU has hosted the competition for Indian teams, it is the first time that teams from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh have participated. Teams from Indian states as diverse as Kerala, Orissa, Bengal, Rajasthan and Bihar argued against teams from Quetta and Lahore in Pakistan, and other major cities in the region such as Dhaka, Kathmandu, and Colombo.

“We are very excited about the regional rounds,” said Anup Surendranath, the South Asia Coordinator for the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition. “This allows more universities from the region to participate and helps develop a mooting culture within South Asian law universities.”

“We believe this competition provides a wonderful opportunity for regional collaboration and learning for young emerging lawyers in South Asia,” said Vice-Chancellor of NLU Professor Ranbir Singh. “Students take this very seriously and spend months researching and preparing.”

The final round was judged by a high-profile bench consisting of five judges, including Justice Naima Haider, from the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Justice S. Muralidhar from the Delhi High Court and Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium.

“Our leaning was immense,” said Muhammad Dawood Jan, who served as the Lead Counsel for University Law College, Quetta in Pakistan. “We had the opportunity to be exposed to the latest advancements in the field of media law, technology and innovation and different mooting techniques.” The South Asian teams used online resources to prepare for the moot court competition.

The winning team (from National Law University, Delhi) and four other South Asian teams including two other Indian teams (from National Law School of India University, Bangalore and Jindal Global Law School, Delhi), a Sri Lankan team (from University of Colombo) and a Pakistani team (from Lahore University of Management Sciences) will go on to participate in the final rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition, held annually in Oxford, UK. There, the South Asian teams will compete against teams from the Middle East, the Balkans and Latin America who have passed through their own regional competitions.

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