The legal fraternity’s loss was broadcast journalism’s gain. A little-known fact about Mr. Sanjay Pinto, a well-known television journalist who covers news from South India for N.D.T.V., is that he holds a degree in law and is extremely passionate about the subject.
It is not very often that the interviewer is stumped into silence by the interviewee. This is what happened when I called Mr. Sanjay Pinto to schedule an interview. “Why don’t we just begin the interview now?” he asked. I scrambled to the nearest book and thankfully managed to find a pen that worked (when you need it the most, you will never find it) “Let me begin by telling you a little about myself and how I got interested in law,” he said.
“My father had always wanted to be a lawyer. He was so passionate about law, that despite not being one, he took up various causes and ensured that he fought for them legally. I remember many trips to the Madras High Court as a schoolboy with my heavy school-bag on my back. Breakfast, lunch, tea and even dinner table conversations were about the law.” All the love for law evidently rubbed off on a young Sanjay as he recollected a time when he would drape a thick blanket around his shoulders and stand before a mirror enacting a court scene. He believes it was engrained in him to be a lawyer.
He studied History and Politics at the Loyola College in Chennai. “ I was an outstanding student, both in the literal as well as academic sense. I still hold the record for taking part and winning the maximum number of inter-collegiate debates while I was studying at Loyola College and then Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College” ( a mind boggling 106 debates). There came a time in Sanjay’s life where after graduating from Loyola when there were no more debates to attend and he started having withdrawal symptoms. “ There were times when my friend Joydeep Mazumdar and I would travel to far-off unheard of places just because there would a debate happening there. We have travelled to places where the prize for winning the debate was a plastic mug. Debating is in my blood,” he said. Many a time I would be better dressed than the person who came to judge the debates. “The thrill of wearing that suit, getting ready for the debate is something else.”
The obvious next step after graduating from Loyola College was to get admitted into Dr. Ambedkar Government College of Law in Chennai. Sanjay believes that the Government Law College, Chennai has one of the most well-structured law courses anywhere in the country. He wears the badge of being an alumnus of this college very proudly. As a student of law, Sanjay found himself ahead of the rest. He had read Kelkar even before formally beginning his training at the Government Law College. “It also helped having my sister’s notes all ready. She is also a lawyer who studied at the Government Law College. She was a sincere and meticulous student,” he said. “We also had some very proficient professors” he said – Professor Robin who taught Labour law, Professor Narayanaswami for Indian Penal Code, and Sreedev for Jurisprudence were few of the people who left an indelible mark on him.He graduated from the Government Law College in the year 1997 and back then the Bar Council had imposed a mandatory one-year apprenticeship on all graduating students before they could enrol at the Bar. Sanjay had also bagged an offer from N.D.T.V. by then, and decided to take it up, instead of the apprenticeship.
“I am often asked why I made the switch to journalism”, he said and went on to answer it as well, “Politics in South India has an intrinsic connect to law. Understanding basic fundamentals of law has helped me stay ahead of my peers in the South. Law gives you an analytical mind. Understanding the nuances like the difference between a summons case and warrants case; chargesheet and charge have certainly helped my case,” he said.
Being a journalist, one is always in the thick of things. “We live in interesting times.” He also mentioned a criminal defamation suit that is pending hearing before the Madras High Court. “Being trained in law helps me deal with such cases. There was a case in the High Court which was contemplating the manner in which live shows are telecasted. A live show is a live show; there is no scope of editing in that. Imagine a P.S.L.V. that is launched, one cannot be held responsible for what happens after its launch. You can only be held responsible for it as long as it is stationary. A live show is similar. What is said once the show starts is not staged or editable.”
When I asked him what the future holds for him, he said, “I am now at a stage where I can experiment and am thinking of entering the legal field. I am flirting with the idea now. I have started drafting and preparing opinions for various matters. I am now a consultant with Kochhar & Co. It is the gestational period for a lawyer which is a killer – then and now.”
The only regret Sanjay carries with him is not being able to successfully complete the civil service exam. He secretly harbours the dream of being an I.P.S. officer. Though not a believer in re-incarnation he said, “ Maybe in my next birth I will be a cop.”
(Vidya Raja is a senior editor at myLaw.net.)