Legal Education in India

Legal education in India hitherto has been notionally perceived as a domain integrally gelled with the judicial establishment associated with its 'colonial legacy’ tag though there has been a slow paradigmatic shift in the pedagogy in the last decade or two.

The post-47 Indian state’s obsession with 'modernity' and 'development' has unmistakably prioritized science, technology and medicine as the frontier areas of pedagogic discourse and the middle class in India has been largely hooked on this 'mantra'... Even though the Nehruvian phase witnessed innovative impetus for promotion of liberal ‘science’ and humanities given his ideological and professional background, his advocacy of ‘scientific temper’ unquestionably privileged science as ‘the’ area of study and research per se
Without going for sweeping generalization, it still can be argued that the trend has pitiably pushed study and research on philosophy, ethics, history, law and governance etc. almost to the margin, and the trend of peripherialisation perhaps reached its logical climax with the call of ‘end of ideology/history’ coinciding with the advent of globalization.
It is in this historical trajectory, one needs to think how academics in these domains continues to be seen with low priority in terms of career choices, popular appeal and an unfortunate lack of decisive state intervention ‘to remedy’ the structural anomalies visibly afflicting these areas. The reality is: India’s journey of ‘modernity’ will remain utterly hollow and sham in the absence of ‘empowerment’ of these intellectual enterprises.
The institutional legitimacy of law schools can really scale hegemonic heights when it gets transformed as a site not for learning the ‘black letters of law’ but instead becomes platforms to ‘cultivate critical thinkers, social reformers and creative leaders free to pursue an array of career options’. Here lies the undeniable justification for roping in legal academics proportionately in the regulatory body for legal education for policy prescriptions and norms on legal education, than mindlessly making it an outfit or a remote control of Bar Council of India (BCI).
Isn’t it that ‘babudom’ wherever they are, shouldn’t be an irritant on our often proclaimed march to match global excellence? Otherwise perhaps, one wonders, the fond conviction (?) of PM In branding National Law Universities (NLUs) “islands of excellence amidst a sea of institutionalized mediocrity” will remain a myth.

In this light, the ongoing hullabaloo over the Bar Council of India’s ongoing protest over divestiture of their control over legal education in India via the proposed Higher Education and Research Bill assumes widespread significance.

The proposed Bill is a radical departure from the existing, non-performing, multiple regulatory system to a decentralised, disclosure-based, self-regulating arrangement. The Bill envisages the legal academia to call the shots in administration of legal education in the country instead of the bureaucracy, in whose hands the power is vested presently. It lays greater emphasis on research promotion and innovation in higher education. It will enable the vice-chancellors of various law universities to lead and coordinate ample legal research in their institutions rather than scurrying around places in search of funds from different government sources. A standard setting for competitive excellence, a necessary component for any kind of global education services, is now often neglected and fragmented. Apart from facilitating a holistic hassle-free education, the Bill also provides for norm-based and performance-based distribution of grants, without distinction between Central and State Universities, which is a welcome thing in the context of globalisation and knowledge-based economy, now in place. The Bill seeks to promote autonomy of higher education institutions and universities for free pursuit of knowledge and innovation. It will promote and coordinate higher education and research through ensuring autonomy of universities, proposing an interdisciplinary framework for law students to have a wider variety of choices in the pursuit of learning, encouraging good practices in universities and promoting research and innovation in higher educational institutions.

The Bar Council of India has been constantly opposing the Ministry of Human Resources Development’s alleged attempt to usurp its regulation of legal education in the country through its proposed Bill. But has the BCI really done anything worth noticing in the sphere of legal education in about half a century, throughout which it has called all the shots?

As far as legal competence is concerned, the Advocates Act of 1961 lays down that the BCI will regulate legal education in consultation with the Universities in India regulating such education. History suggests that nothing of this sort has happened, which is backed by the fact that only one member of the BCI’s legal education committee is a full time academic.
That legal academicians have been constantly snubbed by BCI members and officers when it comes to critical inputs on the administration of legal education in the country is indeed unfortunate. It is denigratory to the role that legal academics have played and continue to play in legal education today. The stranglehold of the Bar Council on legal education is one of the many reasons why law schools in India have remained vocational institutions which churn out reasonably competent lawyers, however fail miserably when it comes to being places of genuine legal scholarship. The faculty at prominent national law schools, legal academicians that they are, in the true sense of the word, have a fairly good idea of the structural reforms that would be required to make law universities places of academic and co-curricular excellence.



As Shamnad Basheer in his column puts it,” the BCI would do well to keep in mind that the purpose of law schools is not to merely mass-produce technically competent lawyers ready to serve the bar. Rather, it is to cultivate critical thinkers, social reformers and creative leaders free to pursue an array of career options. Law schools must therefore be encouraged to experiment with their curricula and conceptualise courses that foster critical and creative thinking beyond the black letters of the law."

3 comments: (+add yours?)

charlylisle said...

According to Indian government, every student have same rights to get higher educations but some where people are unable to get more education because of higher fees and extermination charge. If any people have any problem then government also gives Scholarship.

Christopher Dorner

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