"The students have to bring you their standards, our standards are different and let us not start comparing our standards with others and say that we are lagging behind. The Bar Council should check the institutions admitting students just to earn money. Then only can we do better "
Dr Justice Arijit Pasayat, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India & Chairman, Academic Council, Indian Law Institute
As the world turns a global village, computer and Internet play a major role and foreign investments, mergers and acquisitions, insurances etc., become the order of the day. While new technologies come up to help the mankind, new problems at individual as well as social levels too crop up. Novel methods of frauds and crimes, including cyber crimes surface on a daily basis.
These developments require enactment of new laws and rules in various fields, including intellectual property rights, information technology, investments, banking, taxation, arbitration, environment, consumer protection etc. Thus there is a huge demand for experts in law drafting as well as lawyers and judges for these fields. Legal education in India is today facing numerous challenges to meet these needs and also to keep pace with the latest developments. Are we ready for this?
Indian and global standards
In India the Bar Council of India (BCI) in 1967 introduced the three-year Law Course (LLB), and five-year Law course in 1982. In the case of five-year integrated Law course, a student is admitted to the course only at the end of twelve years of schooling.
The legal education system in the West has been mostly successful in running programmes that increase the proficiency of practicing lawyers with continuous evaluation of the syllabus being taught and a deeper involvement of the industry in designing the pedagogy and curriculum. But this has been lacking in the Indian context.
Justice S.P. Mehrotra in his article, Re-Inventing Legal Education: Challenges & Opportunities, writes that the students, who pass 10+2 in Science subjects, face difficulty in coping with the vast syllabus of Arts subjects prescribed in the Pre-Law Course. Lack of proper staff and guidance in various institutions coupled with the time-limitation of semesters make the task cumbersome for the students.
Dr Justice Arijit Pasayat, former judge, Supreme Court of India and Chairman, Academic Council Indian Law Institute (ILI) says there is no point in comparing law institutes in India with their foreign counterparts. “If you talk of global standards, there is no set standard globally; it depends upon the capabilities of our students. The students have to bring you their standards, our standards are different and let us not start comparing our standards with others and say that we are lagging behind. The Bar Council should check the institutions admitting students just to earn money. Then only can we do better.”
Advocate, Supreme Court of India
The students have skills but they lack in procedural aspects like CrPC, CPC, Evidence Act, which are necessary for becoming good lawyers, so without knowledge of procedural aspects they are a bit handicapped
Problems of Indian system
BCI has listed 21 compulsory papers (30 under 2008 rules), and about 85 optional subjects. But the syllabus is not framed by BCI, it is done by the universities and this accounts for the different syllabi for the same subject throughout India. Prof A K Koul, Former Vice Chancellor, NLU Jodhpur & NUSRL, Ranchi says, “You have to change the whole texture, simply opening these National Law Universities have not brought substantial improvement. The situation is typically odd, in the sense that we had conceptualized to develop these NLUs to be centres of higher learning, but they have been now reduced to ordinary colleges. One of the most important reasons is that we do not have good quality teachers.”
The other problem with NLUs, as stated by Prof Koul, is that the input of research in Indian context is virtually zero; the little amount of research that is done is too philosophical. The third problem is that nobody touches Indian law in the universities, the judgments of the SC, HCs, executive, legislature and the way legal system functions in India.
There is also the need to segregate students who desire to take up legal practice and others who are interested in liberal education in Law. The lack of initiatives in this direction has been largely responsible for dilution of standards in professional legal education.
Are our lawyers unskilled?
Senior advocates complain that law professionals coming out of mediocre colleges are unskilled and bring bad name to the profession and there is an urgent need to check these institutions. Ravinder Yadav, a Supreme Court advocate said, “Those who are coming out of good institutions are intelligent and good students, well-versed in law.”
Talking about the right skill sets, Yadav said, “The students have skills but they lack in procedural aspects like CrPC, CPC, Evidence Act, which are necessary for becoming good lawyers, so without knowledge of procedural aspects they are a bit handicapped.”
A ray of hope
The past decade has seen various developments in legal education with change in curriculum, integrated degrees in law, establishment of the National Law Universities and private players coming up with good schools.
A major development was Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) introduced in 2008, which brought the statutory National Law Schools together and also improved the quality of students. The All India Bar Examination mooted by the BCI in 2010 as a qualifying examination for lawyers to practice in courts has enhanced the quality of those entering the profession. Law Schools have also inked agreements with their foreign counterparts for students and teachers’ exchange and research. There has also been substantial improvement in infrastructural development, with access to numerous legal databases.
It is seen that legal education in India is focused on preparing future lawyers while there are huge opportunities for students in corporate sector, judiciary, teaching and NGOs, which has been ignored somewhat. Prof Koul says, “There is no academic leadership as far as legal education in India is concerned. If you look at the way the syllabus is being talked and taught at NLUs, it is worse than a Law college. If you don’t control the mushrooming of Law colleges the situation is going to get worse.”
Future of Indian legal education
The Law Schools of the future ought to provide enough academic space for teaching and cutting-edge research on issues of global significance. The institutions must constantly reinvent themselves to face the challenges of globalization through exchange and collaborative programmes. This has different implications for faculty, students, and for the development of teaching and research programmes. Law Schools clearly have a duty to ensure that all their students receive a legal education, which will prepare them to cope effectively with the challenges of legal practice in the 21st century.
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