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Problems of an ‘Average Law School’ in India

Written by: Insiya Kothari, student, Indore Institute of Law.

Any realm of knowledge requires an individual to display the utmost commitment towards learning and maintaining the pace of consequent learning to be more and more socially responsible as a human being towards the functioning of the larger system of justice. The education system of India has one basic underlying goal of producing more skillful and committed lawyers that are highly professionally inclined. They should be dedicated towards solving the problems within the law/overcome loopholes in the legal system to make it more efficient. Thus, the most useful asset a lawyer needs to have right now is a standard skill set including, inter alia, the ability to intellectually identify the problems and suggest for necessary reforms in the legal justice system itself. It is therefore important to note that the First Generation of Legal Reforms[1] let to the establishment of NLUs’ [National Law University] within the country. The Second Generation of Legal Reforms led to the formation of three guiding fundamental principles that should be at the core of every law institute in India that is responsible for maintaining the overall standards of legal education. These include:

· Expansion;

· Inclusion; and

· Excellence.


However, education being a part of the Concurrent List is the responsibility of both the State and the Centre. But from a specific point of view, there is no particular entry relating to ‘legal education’ in the List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. Following the case of Bar Council of U.P. vs. State of U.P., that deals with the standards of legal education, professional ethics, admission/practice (of lawyers) and overall improvement of the whole justice system, SC has held that,


“…that the Advocates Act, 1961, under Section 4 of which the Bar Council of India (hereinafter referred to as ‘BCI’) has been constituted, is an enactment made pursuant to Entries 77 and 78 of Schedule VII i.e. it is with respect to the subject matter of ‘…persons entitled to practice…’”


For the provisions under Entry 77 and 78, of establishing the lawful entitlement of such persons (advocates) that were able to practice law in the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, the advocates Act 1961 which is the fundamental Law behind the establishment of the whole system of legal education laid down the presently most responsible authority in regard of Legal profession, i.e., the Bar Council of India. Thus indirectly, due to no specific provision in the Indian Constitution exclusively dealing with legal education, we are down to the closest form of the most authoritative body of work relating to legal education. Thus, from the subsequent reports/documents/minutes of the meeting and other material available from the Bar Council of India (committees under BCI), this article derives the problems primarily as well as provides suggestions to overcome them.

For the purpose of determining problems faced by an average law school, we need to understand the true meaning of the above stated principles that an institute must not only follow but inculcate in all its corners. Expansion principle relates to the growth of National Law Universities in terms of their state wise establishment and improvement in the faculty standards. Law schools in India that is not NLU still belong to the legal educational scheme and thus it is pertinent for them to realize these principles of legal reforms within their own conduct. The second principle of legal reforms, i.e., ‘Inclusion’ refers to the ability to identify those sections of the society where access to legal education is either not affordable or it is not feasible considering their economic, cultural, social backdrop. Such students must be given the rightful access to legal education by making provisions for the same through the efforts of the institute of providing opportunities to the ignored classes of people due to factors such as poverty, geographical limitations, physical restraints, cultural restraints etc. The third principle of legal reforms must be the obligation of the universities to provide ‘Excellence’ in the field of legal education to realize the basic underlying goal of education in India certainly without any personal profits or gains being the secondary reason in the path of excellence. Furthermore, if universities and institutes themselves make their own conduct better in accordance with these reform principles laid down, such ideologies will not remain an order of the higher authorities or visions of certain dedicated members of the society, they need to be reflected in the reality and it can happen only if we are aware of our responsibilities as the key agents of the judicial mechanism. Now these principles are inclusive of Private Law schools as well. It takes into account all institutions registered as institutes of law under the BCI. As it would follow, a strong/weak threshold on these principles would lead us to believe that the institutions of legal education herewith, fall under the scope of ‘The rules for accreditation’ [provided under Rule 31 of the Rules of Legal Education, 2008][2]:


….vi) In so far as the academic part is concerned the following data would form basis of study: a) faculty student ratio (b) system of detail curriculum development and teaching practice sessions (c) number of working days annually (d) number of working days lost with reasons (e) qualification of the faculty (f) class performances of the students and class records (g) system of clinical program and internship (h) evaluation system and record keeping (ix) student-computer ratio (i) on line library facility (j) capital investment of the institution per student (k) library investment per student (l) residential facility (m) outside the class hour of the faculty advice and interaction per student (n) career counseling opportunities (o) quality of the body of alumni (p) publication by faculty and students in journals (q) laboratory and moot court room exercise facilities (r) per student procurement of books and journals (s) class room environment (t) status of Free Legal Aid centre and legal literacy program run by the Centre of Legal Education and (u) any other information needed by the committee


Aiding to this fact, the Supreme Court has laid down in BCI v. Bonnie FOI Law College and Ors[3], the various problems pertaining to areas of inspection, recognition and accreditation of the legal institutions in India. The Legal Education Committee[4] [LEC] that is established under the Bar Council of India is the authority that recognizes various university law schools, affiliated law schools, private law institutes, public/government-run institutions that impart legal education (either of unitary or double nature of degrees or both} as per Sections 7(1)(h) and (i), 24(1)(c)(iii), and [iii(a)], [49(1)(af), (ag),and (d)] of the Advocates Act, 1961, for honoring a degree in law. Further, this committee is the sole authority responsible for making its recommendations to the Council for laying down the standards of legal education for the Universities. It is also required for this committee to visit and inspect the Universities to compare the required standards of legal education to the ones pertaining to the current times. The most rightful technique in that regard for any law student would be to analyze the reports submitted by/to the Legal Education Committee [authority under BCI] for the purpose of studying the various problems within the legal education system. These inspection/accreditation reports are prepared by the LEC constituted Inspection and Accreditation Committee as per Section 20 of the Rules of Legal Education, 2008.[5] These reports are analyzed with regard to the Average Law Schools in India to arrive at the problems that have been prevailing persistently since the year 2010 (that witnessed a large-scale de-recognition of Legal Institutes not abiding to the rules). The problems identified are as follows:


a. Low student-faculty ratio;

b. Inadequate purchase of library books [less than the standard requirement of Rs. 1,00,000/- investment (dual streams) into purchasing law journals, law books, AIR manual, Central Acts and Local Acts, Criminal law journal, SCC, Company cases, Indian Bar Review and selected Judgments on Professional Ethics.]

c. Sub-standard teaching processes leading to sub-standard law graduates;

d. Syllabus of a course designed by the college is not up to the required standard;

e. Inadequacy of funds to run as per set BCI norms;

f. Payment of less salary to faculty and academic staff.

g. Non compliance to the faculty qualification standards as set by BCI

h. Unfair/biased/rigged evaluation system

i. Lack of State Govt. provided sufficient funds to run the colleges and

j. Non-adherence to the norms established by the Bar Council of India.


There is no particular entry relating to legal education in the List I of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. Following the case of Bar Council of U.P. vs. State of U.P., that deals with the standards of legal education, professional ethics, admission/practice (of lawyers) and overall improvement of the whole justice system, SC has held that,

“…that the Advocates Act, 1961, under Section 4 of which the Bar Council of India (hereinafter referred to as ‘BCI’) has been constituted, is an enactment made pursuant to Entries 77 and 78 of Schedule VII i.e. it is with respect to the subject matter of ‘…persons entitled to practice…’”


For the provisions under Entry 77 and 78, of establishing the lawful entitlement of such persons (advocates) that were able to practice law in the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, the advocates Act 1961 which is the fundamental Law behind the establishment of the whole system of legal education laid down the presently most responsible authority in regard of Legal profession, i.e., the Bar Council of India. Indirectly, due to no specific provision in the Indian Constitution exclusively dealing with legal education, we are down to the closest form of the most authoritative body of work relating to legal education. Thus, from the subsequent reports/documents/minutes of the meeting and other material available from the Bar Council of India (committees under BCI), this article primarily derives the ‘problems’ as well as provides ‘suggestions’ to overcome them. BCI Chief, Mr. Subramanian in one of his interviews outlined an inherent need to ‘assess’ certain law schools which have continuously not been able to mark their standard as per UGC guidelines and that such schools shall be “restructured” if necessary.


Generally, the suggestion could be an analysis of the kind of “restructuring” required for average law schools considering the problems previously identified. If we consider the inherent nature of incompetency at different levels of management, administration, staff, committees etc along with the student-faculty ratio being too low along with the qualification of employees being a falsely projected task. As per Rule[6] 50 of the Rules of Legal Education (First Amendment) Rules, 2016[7], there should be only one faculty post per subject(s) either compulsory or extras. This means that no faculty can teach more than one subject only to the same batch of students. However, what happens in colleges that have a low student to faculty ratio such that they face huge problems in allocating different faculty for each subject. Since, assistant professors can be appointed for a short duration of time based on a contract and they usually leave the institution in less time pursuant to some higher post in another institution as well as further studies. This so often happens as I have observed, that the staff always remains low and to add to this problem the college then adapts the extremes of employing various applicants for the job post that have no prior initial level experience in the field of even teaching as such. As a result, most of the education provided turns out to be sub-standard in quality. This further causes the effect of producing sub-standard students not close to excellence.


Another major problem relates to the domain of maintaining obsolete laws in courses, non updated syllabus with the current times. The faculty standards clearly don’t care if the syllabus is updated or not. Because they are just a few years older than us and everything written in the law before us is a matter of discussion but with limited knowledge of advanced academic studies which leads to injustice on the part of academics itself.


The third problem of insufficiency of funds to make nominal salary payments to employees(teaching staff) as well as inadequate help from the state government in managing and raising funds to run the institution as per BCI norms leads to faculties resigning from the university to get better paid jobs, We should hold the overall institutional climate that sets amidst all these other problems as the primary factor that causes the most honorable experienced faculties to leave the institution for good.


The forth major issue lies in the university evaluation system itself. Many government run universities are extremely rigged and biased towards qualitative evaluation. The focus of the exam pattern is on quantity of sheets one student can fill in the given time period. The pattern of exam papers itself is the evidence of total disregard towards any advancement in the field of education. One way to overcome the problem with unfair evaluation system is to go for revaluation of the written exam paper. In this system of revaluation, the university provides the required marks to pass for the students based on an application containing your issue with the checking and this whole process is conducted under such environments where no surety of fairness can be judged at any point. The learning is that the students will have to upgrade their standards of learning themselves. They are put in a position to self-learn, which is good in a way for personal growth but everything else about education remains un-rendered through education itself.


The committees responsible to ensure justice in education have several times in the past 10 years demanded an explanation to the persistent nature of remaining sub-standard through a show cause noticed served to the institute(s) under inspection for that time period. To such a notice, the college must provide correct details and reasons as to WHY they should not be closed down by the BCI. As a result, in the last 10 years, many law colleges were shut down permanently. This was done for the good of the society.


Present views of the BCI (members) hold that more stringent measures shall be taken to eliminate those institutes that proved “condemnable” in the overall legal education landscape. Keeping that on its agenda the committee’s further actions will be helpful to improve present conditions of education. And institutes that are coping to achieve the required standards of education and excellence will be ‘restructured’ by the BCI to function better. The need is to promote advanced legal studies through learning them first. In concluding this article, I would simply go by the fact of what was stated by Law Minister, Mr. Veerappa Moily[8], “lawyers are the link between the citizen and system of justice”, Therefore, in order to meet the ends of justice, a lawyer must be well aware of his own responsibilities first as a lawyer and in the bigger picture, an ‘integral part’ of the whole legal system of education.


References:


In-text References

[1] Law Minister announces vision for legal education reforms, BCI. [2] Rules of Legal Education, 2008, CHAPTER III - Inspection, Recognition and Accreditation, Rule 31. [3] [S.L.P. (C) No. 22337 of 2008] [4] Section 9, 9A, 10 and 15 (2)(i) and (j) of the Bar Council of India Rules, 1975- Constitution, functions and procedure of committees of the Bar Council of India. [5] Rules on standards of legal education and recognition of degrees in law, ‘Act’ in the Rules refer to The Advocates Act, 1961. [6] CHAPTER VIII, Rule 50 - Core & Total Faculty strength. [7] Rules of Legal Education(First Amendment)Rules, 2016 are inserted as Chapter VII to XI as notified under Section 7(1)(h) and Section 49 (1)(d) of the Advocates Act, 1961, to stipulate minimum standard qualification of the faculty to be appointed by any Centre for Legal Education comprising University Law Schools, Affiliated Law Schools, others. [8]Conference of National Consultation for Second Generation Reforms in Legal Education, held at the Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on 1 and 2 May, 2010.


Other References

1. The Bar Council of India, Law Minister announces vision for legal education reforms.

2. Bar Council of India, Part –IV, Rules of Legal Education, Rules on standards of legal education and recognition of degrees in law

3. A Study To Create Evidence-Based Proposals For Reform Of Legal Education In India - Suggestions For Reforms At The National Law Universities Set-Up Through State Legislations (Draft Of Final Report), NALSAR University of Law.

4. Experimental Legal Education in a Globalized World: The Middle East and Beyond, edited by Mutaz Qafisheh, page 365 – The Present – Bar Council of India.

5. Professional Legal Education in India: Challenges and the Way Forward, Amit K Kashyap, Head, Centre for Corporate Law Studies.

6. BAR COUNCIL OF INDIA - Rules of Legal Education (First Amendment) Rules, 2016

7. Bar Council of India Rules, 1975.

8. Final Report of the 3-Member Committee on Reform of Legal Education.

9. Bar Council of India, 3-member committee reports posted on the official site.

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