Effective discharging of responsibility needs sensitivity
Prof. Ved Kumari, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, speaking to Pritha Roy Choudhury stresses on the importance of using the case method of teaching...
Q. Could you share the methodology adopted for teaching at your institution?
A. The quality of teaching and the method of teaching in Delhi university is very different and much higher than the other places I have visited and I am saying so because if you look at the teaching method, in the 1970s we introduced the case method system, which is teaching law through the cases decided by the Supreme Court and high courts. Lots of universities across the country use the lecture method. Now, of course, it has become very common for teachers to use participatory method of teaching. But case method still remains unique to the Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Teaching law through cases means the understanding of the students is much wider. So, by teaching that way there is a lot more learning beyond just the basic normative law. We have also added a lot more.
Q. Can you please elaborate on the functioning of Legal Services Clinic?
A. The term is coming from medical clinics which are attached to hospitals. Medical students do internship before they qualify for the degrees. In case of law, it is called Legal Aid Centres. Here our approach is that we are aiding somebody, so we are the givers and they are the receivers. We very consciously named it as Legal Services Clinic and it has got two components. One component is that our students go out in the community and conduct outreach programmes in which they inform and bring about awareness among the deprived sections of the society about their rights and various welfare schemes. Then they find out who all are eligible for the scheme but have not yet been benefited. Having identified, we invite them to come to the clinic on Saturdays where one lawyer from the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) also comes and our students and teachers are also there for helping them fill up the necessary forms.
If some of them have proper legal cases to deal with, we also look into that. Our students do not make any representations in the court. If needed, we refer the cases to DSLSA whose legal aid lawyer makes the actual legal representations in the courts. The students learn a lot of practical skills like a lawyer; not only when it comes to learning professional skills but also learn about empathy.
The fact that lawyers are not only empowering themselves but are also working in areas which requires sensitivity. Sensitizing themselves through the programs that create a human being in themselves who wants to discharge their responsibilities in whatever positions they take up later in their lives with a lot more sensitivity to social responsibility. So we believe that we not only help out the community but we also create very sensitive lawyers, judges, lawmakers, bureaucrats etc.
Q. What are the specialized courses offered at Faculty of Law?
A. At one level, every course is specialized. I would like to clarify that what we call as specialization streams, Delhi University only offers courses on specialized subjects. Students are free to choose any paper they want which is available to be opted. We offer 30 courses at the moment, of which 24 are compulsory as prescribed by the Bar Council. The students are free to take other six papers out of a total of 28 papers. We encourage diversity in knowledge rather than focusing on a narrow subject.
Q. What is the status of your collaborations with different institutions?
A. We have done collaborations with many institutions within the country and outside as well. Within the country, very regular collaboration has been with DSLSA with whom we have been running our Legal Services Clinic since 2012 and it has been constant, and at the national level, we also initiated the first moot court in human rights in collaboration with National Human Rights Commission. The first four moot courts were held in Delhi at the Law Faculty. But now the commission has decided to move the competition around the country so that students from other parts of the country can participate.
The idea was initiated by Law Centre 1 in the Faculty of Law. We also have been working in collaboration with the National Commission for Women. We have done a number of programmes on gender issue. We have also been working with the Competition Commission of India. Outside the country we have many, many universities with whom we are collaborating. In the recent past, we have added four more universities within this group.
Q. What about your involvement with child rights?
A. My work has been primarily on children committing offences, even though I look at children in need of protection. I would say that my work was that of a pioneer in the country because there was no book when I was doing my PhD on the subject. I had to write my first book in order to determine the scope of the legislation because in my PhD I was looking at the functioning and implementation of the law. Then ILI had commissioned the book on Juvenile Justice Act and that was my first book in 1993. And on the basis of that I did my PhD and then my second book is the conversion of my PhD work. The final version is on the 2015 legislation which is a critic of the current law. I am very critical of the current law and complained against the present bill but did not succeed. So, now we are trying to find the best spaces for child protection within the language of the law and that’s what the third book is about.