A short scrutiny of a rare Scholar – A combination of the “Bar, Bench and Academics”

NB: This is a guest post from a Law Student who wishes to keep his identity confidential.

Looking back it appears not a long-gone time when the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, reckoned his views on the mushrooming of law schools in the country. According to him, besides a few “islands of excellence”, law colleges in India were “a sea of institutionalized mediocrity.”

As is unfamiliar to none, the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, was conceptualized and brought into existence under the dynamic leadership of Professor Madhav Menon, on having received a missive from the then Chairman of BCI, Mr. Ram Jethmalani, requesting him to bring about a change in the system of legal education in the country. Since its inception, the law school has done exceedingly well for itself; in terms of both academics and alumni record. Further, a review of the recent Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) preferences of the high-scoring candidates indicates that NLSIU is still the top school of choice for prospective law students. To this date, there exists as much as 15 National Law Schools in India, in toto.

The National Law Schools, inter alia, have been highly acclaimed for its rich repository of some of the best brains of the country. Even otherwise, to begin with the lucrative placements at the end of the 5-year course, to the academic exposure, everything about a N-tag Law School has always been a constant buzz of attraction for the law students. Law schools of the non-national stature have also maintained a reputable position for themselves with similar contribution to the legal field; having given a few of the most polished minds of times. However, boiling down to the main point- there has always been an apparent higher footage, in the sense of choice/preference, for the National Law Schools over other Law Schools of the country.

Having said that, it is pertinent to draw the attention to those impulsive individuals, under whose intense leadership these Institutions are generally necessitated and maneuvered. They give voice to the curriculums and co-ordinate the system to exist and operate in such a way so as to benefit hundreds in the best manner possible. Luminaries from higher judiciary, dignitaries holding immense and enriching experience in academics, and scholars with astounding credentials are among the ones upholding the position to run these ‘islands of excellence’. At the outset, a reasonable standard of expectation dwells with these individuals for the betterment and maintenance of brilliancy in such Universities. Under such pools of expectations, lies the responsibility to uphold the status quo and look forward for a decent and apt projection of their credentials.

And here we arrive at the unfortunate part. As much as it is a matter of concern, it’s a matter of disgrace at the same decibel for all of us that one such eminent personality in the legal fraternity has failed us in this aspect. A person upholding the position of a Vice-Chancellor in one of the most reputed National Law University is seen to have taken the minimal interest in projecting the most appropriate of his credentials to the public. And what more; such a scene is conspicuously maintained in the official website of the University! The curriculum vitae which talks of the “Martial Status” of the Vice-Chancellor, instead of “Marital Status”, which claims of his position as the “standing council” for educational institutions and which revolves around his “unique combination of bar, bench and academics” is certainly not an appealing gesture to be appreciated by any graduate, or otherwise, for inspiration or reference.

However, this is not a point of debate challenging the originality or credentials of the Vice-Chancellor, or questioning the veracity of his academic excellence and experience. Instead, it should drill a reasonable doubt in our minds as to whether we should actually look up to such persons when it comes to preceding hundreds of students when they themselves take no heed in suitable projection and consort to such harum-scarum profiles! It is nothing but a conscious measure to highlight the fact that persons of such stature and eminence are expected to at least mete out to the acknowledged norms.

And now we head towards another heated debate of the year, i.e., the pandemonium caused by CLAT 2012, which, inter alia, concerns the involvement of the aforesaid luminary. This year saw the hue and commotion questioning the potentialities of the organizing University when it came to the preparation and management of one of the biggest entrance examinations of our country. Doubts arose as to the credibility of the University to indulge in a fair and prudent procedure of conducting an exam which was undertaken by more than twenty thousand aspirants. What appeared to be the case, prima facie, was that the CLAT committee failed to give the right instructions to the "expert committee" that the concerned Vice-Chancellor speaks of. Needless to say, the expert committee would not have committed this blunder had they been told that they were not supposed to be asking the non-essentials as per the prescribed syllabus. And then of course the inevitable; why was the "expert committee" not informed about the syllabus? And to this there can be only two possible reasonable explanations. Either it could be an oversight, or it could be intentional.

But then, shouldn’t there be safeguards put into place to avoid oversight, mistakes, or corruption? Evidently, these questions are relevant not only for this year's CLAT, but to all future CLATs which are going to be held. Unfortunately the answers all seem to be negative from the outcome. Prima facie the concerned University and the CLAT committee did not put into place any process that ensures a mistake-free, good quality question paper.

Under the blanket of such discussions, apropos the powers and limitations enshrined upon this dignitary and the manner and extent to which they are executed, settles the reiterated distrust for such a person. Like they say, a mistake committed by one person may not necessarily affect him, but in turn affects others either directly or indirectly associated with him. The write-up was just an attempted approach in bringing about the tiniest hinge of disbelieve on such a person who, apart from being derelict as regards his own recognitions, has also been conspicuously framed as a delinquent leader.

In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. So why not as the future of tomorrow, we expect our present to be led and maneuvered by persons beyond any scope of doubt? In any case, isn’t that the way it is supposed to be? After all, this is what we are taught at our law schools- the case at hand is innocent unless proven beyond any scope of reasonable doubt!

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