Momina Zahan is an Assistant Professor in Law in Banasthali Vidyapith, and has completed a B.Sc. with Zoology (Honours) from Guwahati University and an LL.B. from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. She then travelled to the United Kingdom in 2006 to do her Post Graduation studies, completing an LL.M. in Criminal Justice Administration and returned to India in 2009.
In between her LLB and LLM, she also completed an MBA in HRM and Marketing. Ms. Zahan is presently pursuing her PhD in Women Studies and Law.
In this interview conducted by Upeksha mentee and law student at Banasthali Vidyapith, Vani Tripathi, Ms. Zahan discusses some of her experiences in the study of law thus far, doctoral studies, and a lot more.
You have a diverse area of interests, like science, management, social issues and law. How did you end up choosing them, and how was the journey been?
Thank you for noticing that. Regarding my diverse interest, I would like to say some fields were my choice and some came by chance. I believe that variety is the spice of life.
Regarding my interest in Science, I would say that I always wanted to be a doctor and serve humanity. In fact, I was on the verge of joining medical college but due to some problem, I could not join the same. So, I did my B.Sc. in Biochemistry with Zoology as Honours from Guwahati University.
And because of my paternal uncle late Justice Baharul Islam, I chose to join the legal fraternity and pursued my LLB from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University.
Shifting from Science to Humanities was tough as I could not remember things just because it is written unless I understand the why’s and the how’s. Thus, during the studentship of Law, I am more comfortable in relating to those subjects which are related to the society. After all, I am people’s person who likes to work for the betterment of society.
As for the MBA, it just happened as a mode of leaving India and reach the United Kingdom for my studies. However, I enjoyed learning Human Resource Management and Marketing Management and scored good marks in my MBA degree.
So, if I summarise the diversity of my choices, I would say Science, Law and Social Science were my choices with the hope that even if I could not become a doctor of human being and cure their disease, I can be a doctor of the society so as to cure its illness. And management just happened by chance.
When did you decide to pursue LL.M. and how you started applying for universities?
I did an LL.M. in 2007-08 from the University of Aberdeen. I started applying for LLMs from London in 2006 during my MBA through an Educational Consultancy in London. I applied to 2-3 Universities, comprising of Birmingham University (Birmingham) and University of Aberdeen (Scotland).
Out of three, I completed the whole procedure for the University of Aberdeen and got the call from the same within a few months. For this, I have developed my SoP for almost a year.
Have you applied for any financial aid, and how would you advise students to manage their LoR and SOP?
I did take financial aid in form of an educational Loan from SBI as I did not have much time in hand for pursuing any scholarship. The scholarship application requires time and effort for a successful grant.
Regarding Letter of Recommendations, always approach the teachers who have a good rapport with you, as a good reference plays a positive role in the confirmation of the admission process. If the teachers are renowned ones, then their connection with your proposed place of study do play an important role.
As for the Statement of Purpose, this is one major consideration for your successful application process. The Admission Committee must understand your capabilities after reading your Statement of Purpose. Hence a student must give his/her best efforts in writing the SoP and it must reflect her personality, her sincerity and genuineness in her application.
A student must put more efforts in the Statement of Purpose than Letter of Recommendation because her individuality is more showcased in the SoP.
You have supervised NRC project in Assam and also served as HOD in Management. What different aspects you saw in these roles and what appeals more to you, working on ground level or being an academician?
I joined the NEF College of Management and Technology, Guwahati as Head of Department of Management and worked in that capacity for more than three years. Then I joined the all-new NRC Updation Project as District Supervisor and successfully completed the first phase of the project.
But I had to leave that job for my daughter who was only 6 months then.
Every experience teaches a new lesson every day. However, I love to be in academics more than in administrative roles because of enriching nature. I love to work amidst people in a conducting environment rather than behind closed doors.
But I must add here that there is no strict distinction of roles these days, there is always an overlapping of functions in almost every role you choose.
Therefore, I will suggest everyone that adaptation and adjustment is the key to be satisfied with your work-life.
Criminal Justice Administration was your specialisation. How did you choose your specialization and what are your other interests in Law?
Yes, Criminal Justice Administration is my specialisation and I chose the area as I always to wanted to come back and serve my nation. As I told you earlier, I am a people’s person, hence I wanted to study a subject which I can use after coming back to India.
Rest of the courses like International Business Law, International Arbitration and International Human Rights Law have more scope internationally rather than in India. So, I found that this subject is one with which I can do something after coming back to India.
Beside Criminal Justice Administration, other interest areas are Women Studies, Intellectual Property Laws, and Health laws. Being a student of Science, I feel more connected to IP Laws and Health Laws.
How should one go about choosing a PhD thesis guide? Also, please do share how was your LL.M. journey and what are your future plans.
There is no such trick or step to be followed while choosing a PhD guide, it depends upon your area of study, the university where you chose to pursue your PhD and the available research guides in that university. However, in case you get a chance to choose your guide, then always give priority to the similarity of your area of research with that of your guide’s.
My journey of Post Graduate studies was very fruitful and enriching. I learnt a lot and met new people from across the globe. I stayed in the United Kingdom for over 4 years and during that period, my life was enriched in every little way. My thought process broadened because of this visit and this period has taught me to see life from a new and positive perspective altogether.
Regarding my future plans, I just want to give something back to society in the form of my research and my academic writings and remain a people’s person forever. I hope to make my parents feel proud of me.
All the best to everyone for all their future endeavours!