BCI is Destroying Legal Education

Suspension of classes at Faculty of Law, University of Delhi (DU), and the suicide of Sushant Rohilla, a student of Amity Law School (IP University)- should not be seen as two isolated incidents. They illustrate our failure, as a society, in understanding what education is, and based on what parameters should we judge the standards of those who pursue it.

PART I: The DU experience

Understanding the goal of legal education

In a country where partisan politics produces ideology-loaded ideas that lack pragmatism, and national conversations are often devoid of substance, and logic; one would think that an academic understanding of the law, would be helpful. In a society which has a long history of institutionalised discrimination, one would think that law would be seen as a tool for social empowerment. The recent example of a gang-rape victim from Haryana, joining law school, comes to mind. [1]

Our citizens, by and large, lack legal literacy. Many are not aware of their rights; others are not sure of their obligations. In such a scenario, should the goal not be, expanding the reach of legal education? Or is producing a few top-notch law schools, enough?

Institutes that offer accessibility, and affordability are just as necessary as the ones that boast about their quality

While there is nothing wrong in making the creation of a few top law schools a priority (which is what the National Law Schools, and a few private Universities are doing), such a myopic understanding of what the goal of legal education should be, is harmful. Controlling the number of Advocates enrolled in the Bar, by having an Examination is alright, but should others be denied the right to even study it? Not everyone who studies law, wishes to practice it. Some study it to have a sense of empowerment, others benefit from the domain knowledge in their professional careers. Many mid-career professionals add on to their expertise, and go on to do great things within their profession. Many who are interested in research and policy, skilfully use law as a tool for understanding, critiquing, and indeed drafting legislations.

Not everyone can invest a truckload of money in a college degree. People who cannot, usually do not become great professionals (such is the system). But should they be denied even the theoretical possibility of becoming a great lawyer, or academician? BCI is pitting DU’s Faculty of Law, against the top NLUs. In doing so, what the Bar forgets is that DU provides a law degree at affordable rates. The per-month tuition fee, when calculated, comes out to be 18 rupees only.[2] Is this not good investment on our human capital; for even an unemployed lawyer will have a basic understanding of the law? He will, at the very least, be a thinking citizen, who will contribute to the national conversation.  Therefore, the very idea of banning evening classes is a flawed one. It reeks of the archaic thought that a law degree must produce a practising lawyer.

The importance of evening classes.

Banning evening classes in DU, will set a dangerous precedent; for it will invite petitions for a closure of the same in countless other Universities of India. This will be unjust; for the country will lose many great to-be lawyers. Take, for instance, the case of celebrated whistle-blower Ashok Khemka, from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). He has topped the LLB Entrance Examination of Department of Laws, Punjab University.

When asked why he gave the exam, Mr. Khemka remarked:

“I always had an interest in law. I will do the evening course. I intend to take up this profession after my retirement. So, I have decided to pursue this course”[3]

Mr. Khemka is an IITian. It is not surprising that he did not decide to make a career in law; for in those times law was famously considered an option of the last resort. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Mr. Khemka carries forward the zeal with which he pursues the goal of justice? Without evening classes, he would be just another whining  (retired) babu– the kind Paresh Rawal imagined Anil Kapoor as, while delivering a convincing monologue in the Bollywood blockbuster ‘Nayak’ (2001). 😛

Ek Desh Mein Do Vidhaan?

BCI’s main problem with DU, is that it has three centres- all of which lack the requisite infrastructure. While the shoddy state of DU’s infrastructure cannot be excused, it is important to highlight how DU has been unfairly singled out. Punjab University has centres in different parts of Punjab. Their infrastructure is not better than that of DU. Apart from the Punjab University campus, there are 58 seats in regional centre- Muktsar, 72 seats in the evening session in regional centre- Ludhiana, and 60+3 seats in Swami Sarvanand Giri Regional Centre, Bajwara, Hoshiarpur.[4]

Amity University, Noida is one big campus (so is the whole of DU). However, that is deceptive; for the area allotted to law is minimal. It is running three full-fledged colleges, from that portion:

  1. Amity Law School (affiliated to IP University, Delhi)
  2. Amity Law School (affiliated to Amity University)
  3. Amity Law School Centre-II (affiliated to Amity University)

The story of many dubious law institutes in NCR is far worse. One cannot help but imagine why DU alone is facing the music.

In its latest report (read: sermon), sent to DU on 6th August, BCI has declared that there can only be a total of eight sections with 60 students, in each of the three centres. The Bar did not hold back from showing how ‘compassionate’ it is, when it announced that it does not allow more than five sections, and even eight was an exception. Isn’t fixing the number of sections, over-regulation? This would mean that only 1,440 students will be admitted, as against the 2,310 seats declared by DU, this year. This is inclusive of the 49.5% reservation quota. Given that DU does not have permanent affiliation, and classes are suspended, it will have no choice but to implement this ‘directive’, if the same stands in the Court, later this month. For the uninitiated- the Law Faculty ran without affiliation for three years between 2011 and 2014, before Bar gave it provisional affiliation in 2014 The Report has also declared that no classes would be conducted after ‘7 PM’. This will lead to the closure of classes presently being conducted from 5:30- 8:30/9:30. Since this directly affects the present batches, a writ was filed in the High Court, challenging this. Following this, the Bar came out with its solution, which only reinstates what it wants. It has advised that students already enrolled be provided special tutorials of 5.5 hours each. [5]

An anonymous DU official has claimed that in 2014, when the evening classes were first inspected at the ARSD College in South Campus, BCI had said that it was the best location. What has changed now, is a mystery. [6]

PART II: The Amity experience

Sushant Rohilla’s mail, to the Amity Administration[7]

One would think that practising lawyers of BCI would be aware of how incomplete classroom education is. Even if degrees were to go on for 10 years, law will not be taught completely. To be taking an example, there are more than eighty laws on environment, in India. Then, there are dozens of international conventions, and various other publications. To think that all of it can be taught is a mistake. Students of law would know that even completing half a legislation in one semester, is an achievement!

Therefore, the job of a law school, is not just to teach the law; but to impart skills that would make one a good lawyer. The study of law is a life-long experience, which every practising lawyer continues to engage in, with due regard to specialisation. And the reality is that most of this learning takes place outside the classroom! The succinct paper work that makes one a good lawyer, is done only in moot courts. It is not that the Bar is not aware of this; for it has clearly made the moots, a part of its Inspection Manual.[8] The problem is that despite of this, it fails to understand that attendance in classroom lectures is not the sole criteria for judging a student’s worth. Sushant Rohilla was the President of debating/mooting societies. The fact that the pressure of being present in book reciting contests that some call lectures, made him consider giving up extra-curricular activities, is sad.

Sushant’s messages, to a friend. [9]

Drafting of briefs, arguing before a judge when less than desired time is alloted, and writing notices is unfortunately not taught in classrooms. These are things you only learn from internships. And yet, Bar Council has banned them, during the course of the semester. Students, all over the world, undertake part-time internships, wherein they reach the office straight from the law school. It is only on very busy days that classes are skipped. Given the intense competition between law students, how does the Bar expect all of them to find internships during the summer holidays? It is an easy-to-understand demand-supply logic.  And if students study during the semester, and work during the holidays, when exactly are they supposed to get a ‘break’? And what about the fact that the lawyers themselves are saturated with interns during the summer break, and are otherwise in need of help?

When this was announced, a certain Mr. J.R. Sharma, of the BCI, said:

“There would be no exception to this rule, even for students who meet the university attendance requirements despite interning during the semester. If out of 60 in a class, 20 people are interning how will the class be filled? We cannot regulate this way.” [10]

This makes me ask what the job of Bar Council is. Is the goal, filling classrooms, or filling courtrooms, with good lawyers? All of BCI’s policies seem to indicate the former.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] https://www.scoopwhoop.com/This-Haryana-Man-Married-A-Gang-Rape-Victim/
[2] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Bar-council-report-suggests-seat-cut-LLB-aspirants-worried/articleshow/53606957.cms
[3] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/Khemka-wants-to-be-lawyer-tops-entrance/articleshow/53219058.cms
[4] http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/chandigarh/education/ashok-khemka-tops-llb-entrance-of-pu/265772.html
[5] http://www.hindustantimes.com/education/bar-council-comes-down-on-du-s-evening-law-classes-poor-facilities/story-lcVhPiyVnD16FyIyg5Bj7K.html
[6] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Bar-council-report-suggests-seat-cut-LLB-aspirants-worried/articleshow/53606957.cms
[7] http://beingindian.com/my-opinion/sushant-rohilla-suicide-college/
[8] http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Inspection-Manual.pdf
[9] https://www.thequint.com/india/2016/08/19/sushant-rohilla-amity-law-school-ip-university-bp-sehgal-isheeta-rutabhasini-reportedly-resign-justice
[10] http://www.legallyindia.com/201409165055/Law-schools/bci-bans-out-of-vacation-law-student-internships-to-check-growing-empty-classrooms

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7 comments

  1. It’s conspiracy against DU by inferior private universities and BCI is working as an agent of these inferior private universities. I would say Govt’s non intervention in this matter clearly shows Govt’s ministers have stake in those private universities n therefore they want to take it down so that they can earn by selling law degrees. Every law student or legal fraternity in India knows that DU law faculty is the best law school in India, providing law education at most economical rates, even a poor man can get law education from DU law faculty.

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  2. BCI treating graduates from Open University System as untouchables to study law is discrimination.

    I have exposure to legal proceedings since 2003,I appear in person in all my litigations.

    Most of the advocates experiment with our matters and gain experience in the name of ‘practice’.

    The fresh college pass outs are on amassive ego trip after acquiring their degree,they have hardly any practicle knowledge or maturity.

    Hoping BCI will allow open university educated candidates to study law atleast on a case to case basis.

    Not allowing evening classes is simply unfair.

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