The Collapsing Standard of Legal Education in India
Written by: Aparna Chaki, Student, Heritage Law College (Calcutta University), Kolkata
The Law Commission of India has defined legal education to be a science that confers to its students the knowledge about various provisions and principles of law that facilitates them to enter the profession of law. The focal purpose of legal education is to generate lawyers into society with a social vision. Many scholars believe that law is a noble profession and is often regarded as the foundation of every society. Legal education has been in existence in our country since pre-independence years as a lot of freedom fighters from our country came with legal backgrounds. However, this stream of education gained its prominence only after our country got its independence. Undoubtedly, this sector has been flourishing immensely since past few years.
The Indian Advocates Act, 1961 was one of the first reforms made in the field of legal education. This Act was introduced with the purpose to consolidate legal education in our country with an unwavering standard that would be supervised by assorted Central and State Bar Councils. In regard to this, the course of law was introduced as a graduate programme for students in different universities and colleges. To advance the goal of ameliorating the quality of legal education for the students, the Bar Council of India decided to come up with a law school that would be granted university status to further explore the reforms. With this, there came the initiation of the first National Law University in India named the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bangalore, Karnataka in the year 1986.
Since then a lot more law schools/colleges (both deemed and autonomous) have been established. All these law colleges started out with the aim to impart legal education to students and help students develop notions and to better recognize the problems of society thereby working towards the eradication of those problems. Currently, there are 23 National Law Universities along with more than 1100 independent law colleges. However, it has been observed that in the last few years, there has been a considerable degradation in the quality of legal education in law schools and universities. There has been limited horizon for the students to explore themselves amidst the fixed and stipulated syllabi and curriculum.
Lack of flexibility in the evaluation method, lack of awareness regarding internships as well as the practical aspect of law and substandard infrastructure are some of the loopholes in the law college that have drastically lead the law schools to attain mediocrity. In our country, legal education is majorly supervised by the respective state and local governments and various other institutions like the Bar Council of India and Universities Grants Commission. Despite their supervision, law schools in India have failed to motivate their students to practice law. It has become an easily attainable degree so as to refine their earning dimensions in non-legal work. There has also been a significant decline in the standard of law faculties. Nevertheless, there have been exceptions to it.
The curriculum structure of the colleges is poorly designed. The main focus of the faculties has been in lectures and emphasis on memorization rather than internships and practical training. A lot of this occurs due to the poor pay scale among law teachers and the external examination system. Many law colleges lack library and even buildings and are seen conducting classes in buildings of other art colleges or institutions. The bright students are discouraged because of the lack of scholarships that cannot be afforded by the law schools. Another factor that results in the degradation of law colleges is the predominance of the autocratic administrative structure. A lot of functionality in such colleges are controlled by the principal/dean and the law faculty have little to no role in suggesting ways or methods to improve the stature of legal education.
However, the downfall of the standard of legal education can not only be condemned to the teachers and faculties solely. Certain students of various law schools are to be blamed equally. A lot of students are seen participating in robust students’ union politics and becoming aggravatingly disparaging therefore hampering not only the prospectus of the student themselves but also leads to the mortification of their respective colleges. It is true that certain students union are meant to voice the opinion of the students but the scale these days reveals that such unions are simply getting aggressive day by day with no proper propaganda to preach and simply create ruckus on their campus.
A recent trend has been observed of overcrowding in law colleges for their post-graduation. A lot of students amongst them are ones who have no interest in studying the subject further but join the institutions because of a lack of employment with no motive of practicing law in the future. It is also peremptory to take notice that proceedings in various High Courts and the Hon’ble Supreme Court are conducted in English. English is also considered as a predominant legal language. It has been interposed that a lot of law colleges/schools in northern parts of our country has been imparting education to the students in Hindi. There is also supposedly a vicious pressure from political groups to eliminate English as the medium of instruction. There have also been reported cases of violence imitated against students demanding their classes to be in held in English.
A major requirement of lawyers is to possess practical skills like that of the drafting of various contracts, strategize litigation, and manage court registries. There are very few colleges in India that acknowledge the importance of such skills and therefore recount it to the students. The majority of law schools teach such skills in the last semester when there is no scope left for students to explore and learn. Another flaw seen in law colleges is that they conciliate academic and professional infidelity. Submission of articles and law notes is an essential part of the curriculum in most law schools. However, plagiarized content is often overlooked and marks are granted simply on the basis of presentation. This travesty is further carried on by the students in their professional lives too.
It has been witnessed that National Law Universities often offer lucrative job opportunities to their students’ an impressive placement in various companies and law firms. A lot of private colleges charging massive fees from students also guarantee such claims. However, these criteria are flawed and simply obscure the major educational limitations that they have. No college or university can be evaluated by the mere fact that they are able to offer lucrative job opportunities to their students in the market. Mostly, the result of the colleges in various competitions determines the standard of that particular college which is erroneous. These elements are undeniably crucial but definitely not the basis to give them a certificate of the best college in the country.
The main specifications of the evaluation must be concentrated on the standard of legal education that is being administered to the students. Another factor that can be looked up to is the institution’s attributes of research output and their capacity to endow empathetically to decisiveness and public discourse in India. One cannot exclusively nib at the faculty or the students for the derogation of legal education standards in our country. The standard of teaching and evaluation is to be closely recognized with a major focus on course development, teaching strategies, and functional critique which can all be achieved with a congenial student-teacher ratio.
Law schools/colleges are in immediate need to determine the identity crisis that torments them. Legal education that is being imparted these days ought to contemplate the modernization and its recommendations on the legal domain at both international and national levels. The Central and State governments, the State Bar Councils, the Bar Council Of India and the University Grants Commission have an astounding role in amplifying the quality of legal education in our country. They should be functioning in a substantial way with no disputation. New and modern plans could be explored by these institutions for the scope of prospective employment of students in average law schools where placements opportunities are faint.
They should determine procedures and techniques to address the predicament and lay a uniform structure of research that could be followed by students of every law college irrespective of the National Law University tag. Various loopholes on the part of the institutions often lead to the failing career of students. The gravity of such an issue calls for momentous contemplation into the deficiency of the system and have a united proposition towards solving it. Advancement in legal education is complexly analogous with the Bar Council of India and its efforts.
It can be deduced that the entire legal system enveloping legal education is in urgent need of reconstruction and systematic modification of the teaching staff, the infrastructure, the curriculum, and the administration of law schools. To survive amidst the future legal stipulation in the legal platform it is principal to expedite the standard of legal education and norms making it easy for the students to conform and acquire proper knowledge of the subject. By having conventional and formal comprehension of law, the students can serve the community and the society in large in nurturing and concurrently promoting justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity as mentioned in the Indian Constitution.
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