UPSC Civil Services 2013 All India Rank 6 Sakshi Sawhney, who cracked the most coveted competitive exam in her second attempt, had a vivid experience during her interview.
Sharing with Careers360 a detailed account of her UPSC interview, Sakshi says the 5-member UPSC interview board bombarded her with more than 20 questions from her area of study, hobbies, interests and general knowledge. The questions in UPSC civil services exam interview included naming members of Cat family and sharing names of her preferred books to describing special status of J&K and Women’s Representation Bill.
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She gets candid while sharing the uneasy moment she faced during the interview. She talks on the awkward moments which made her fumble while answering. Still, she remained composed and took all questions smartly. Sakshi speaks to Careers360 on interview details in questions-answer format.
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Detailed account of her interview with UPSC board:
Sakshi Sawhney: Ma’am may I come in.
Chairperson: Yes. Please do.
Sakshi Sawhney: Good morning Ma’am, sirs (with a big smile). May I take a seat?
Chairperson: Yes. Please be seated.
Chairperson: Is this you (showing photo)? Tell me your roll number.
Sakshi Sawhney: Answered
Chairperson: Name members of the Cat family?
Sakshi Sawhney: Cat family? Lion, Tiger, Leopard, Panther, Cat itself. Ma’am, I can’t recall any more.
Chairperson: Come on. There are many more. Sounds like a car, shoes?
Sakshi Sawhney: Oh sorry Ma’am. Jaguar, Puma.
Chairperson: You are forgetting Cheetah, the poor fellow.
Sakshi Sawhney: Right Ma’am. Cheetah as well.
Chairperson: What book have you read last? Tell me about it.
Sakshi Sawhney: Ma’am the last book I read was ‘Khaled Hosseni’s And the Mountains Echoed’. (told about the book)
Member 1: Can you tell us the Latin Maxim for no man can be a judge in his own cause?
Sakshi Sawhney: Answered.
Member 1: How did you choose law?
Sakshi Sawhney: Sir I used to read a lot of books where young lawyers armed with a sense of justice and fairness were able to take on seemingly undefeatable perpetrators of injustice. I also noticed how many persons in public life had in fact been lawyers. I realized it would help me empower myself and through me others and therefore I chose law.
Member 1: What books did you read? Perry Mason.
Sakshi Sawhney:No sir, (Member 1 said I thought you were a reading enthusiast). I read John Grisham and Jeffery Archer.
Member 1: Tell me as a lawyer and not as a woman, how do you see the justice system operating with respect to women?
Sakshi Sawhney:Sir, there are two things. First, law does not have to be emotional but has to be sensitive to women and thus many changes are being introduced to make justice more accessible to women. For example, women do not go through the same victimization while giving their testimony. Secondly, however, Courts have at times taken decisions that may not be in the spirit of the law, for example – The Shakti Mills death sentence.
Member 1: But then are there no ethics in law? (referring to my opposition to the Shakti Mills decision)
Sakshi Sawhney: Sir, certainly there are. But law cannot be emotional. Ethics automatically mean fairness and justice and not emotions. Sensitivity of course is good.
Member 2: You have been an editor of a magazine, what articles have you published recently. Or else what interesting articles from the field of IPR will you recommend to the board?
Sakshi Sawhney: Sir, I held the position of editor while I was in University so I have not published anything of late. However, there have been many interesting articles appearing in the newspaper with respect to India’s patent regime and how it is a friction point for Indo- US relations.
Member 3: How many years is patent given for? What is patent?
Sakshi Sawhney: Answered.
Member 3: What is this special status of J&K?
Sakshi Sawhney: Answered.
Member 3: From legal view point do you believe this has helped Kashmir?
Sakshi Sawhney: Certainly sir, first of all it is the link between the Accession Terms and the Constitution of India. Secondly, it has given more autonomy to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and they have their own Constitution, Criminal Code, etc. this has kept the unique position of J&K in mind.
Member 3: Okay. Have you heard of Women’s Representation Bill. Are you in its favour?
Sakshi Sawhney: Yes sir. I am certainly in favour of reservation for women in Parliament considering we have amongst the lowest number of women in the Parliament.
Member 3: Yes. So, why has it not been passed?
Sakshi Sawhney: Sir, I believe there are differences of opinion with the provisions of the Act. I understand there are concerns with respect to the rotation of constituency. But there are many solutions, for example – Dual Member Constituency. The Bill should at least be debated.
Member 3: Do you think in the near future this is possible?
Sakshi Sawhney: Yes sir, I am very hopeful and optimistic. As a woman voter I have voted keeping this issue in mind. Women have even sent a ‘womanifesto’ which included this as an essential requirement of all political parties and a widespread consensus was seen. SO I am very optimistic.
Member 4: ‘Law is an Ass’, what does it mean?
Sakshi Sawhney: Sir, Charles Dickens had written that Law is an Ass if it does not operate on the basis of ground reality but rather creates its own legal fiction. If law does this, then it is not being sensitive to what actually exists and may not be a sensible proposition. However, sir I feel we can even look at it in the positive sense that law is an ass because law works hard to keep up with society just like an ass works very hard (Laughter from all).
Member 4: You have done many treks. Can you describe your last trek?
Sakshi Sawhney: Yes sir, we went on a family trek to Snow View Peak in Nainital last February. It’s called Snow view but even that doesn’t prepare you for the gorgeous sight that appears before you. It was about 3- 4 Kms of a relatively easy trek and thereafter a slightly hard but rewarding climb. Once you reached the top of the peak you could see a vista of beautiful snow clad mountains. It was stunning (Everyone nodding etc).
Member 4: Today a Court decision comes, tomorrow another bench decides something else. So, where is the law?
Sakshi Sawhney: Sir, precedent is indeed very important. But sometimes if it is blindly followed then it can lead to injustice. For example, there was a case called Mathura rape case wherein Supreme Court gave benefit of immunity to a police officer who had raped a young girl because he was under employment at the time of the incident and Government servants were said to enjoy immunity from prosecution when working in their official capacity. However, sir, this decision was not followed as precedent as it would have led to grave injustice.
At the same time sir I do believe that the Supreme Court specially should strictly follow the rule that only Constitutional benches (5 judge bench and above) can hear questions of public importance, rather than the current practice wherein even 2 judge benches are deciding issues. This will lead to the doctrine of precedent being followed even in the lower Courts.
Member 4: Is retrospective law a good thing?
Sakshi Sawhney: Sir, it depends. For instance criminal law should not be retrospectively applied but it can be done in civil law. Even in civil law however, for instances such as taxation if applied retrospectively it may not be correct if it greatly prejudices the tax planning. Thereafter there was a discussion between me and M4 on the difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance; the Vodafone case and finally Chairperson stepped in and said okay thank you.
Sakshi Sawhney: Ma’am, is the interview over?
Chairperson: Yes you can go before this debate continues endlessly (everyone was laughing- maybe Member 4 was a tax expert).
Sakshi Sawhney: Right Ma’am, thank you Ma’am and thank you sirs.
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