This article is written by Neeraj Salodkar. The article has been edited by Khushi Sharma (Trainee Associate, Blog iPleaders).
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela. Education is the tool that can bring transformation not just in people and communities but in an entire nation and humanity’s fate. The education system of a country reflects the true index of the development of a country. The prevalence of a high standard of education fixes the intellectual standards and is a matter of national pride and prestige. In this parlance, the law is the mechanism to achieve an egalitarian social society where no one is deprived of their inherent rights, the importance of legal education cannot be denied. Legal education can be regarded as a primary instrument to bring about social revolution. It is a sine qua non for the very existence of a democratic state. However, the standard of legal education should be determined with the utmost diligence, as it paves the way for bright lawyers, magnificent judges, ambitious jurists and radiant academicians. The National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020 regarding legal education has explicitly stated that legal education in India requires to be competitive globally, quality assessment to be provided, and adoption of best practices to deliver justice within a reasonable time. Prescribing a standard syllabus that consists of an updated syllabus shall lay the first stone for future lawyers and judges. In today’s contemporary world, where rights are challenged every now and then, a dexterous lawyer or judge plays a key role in upholding those rights. It is the need of the hour that the syllabus is altered at regular intervals. However, many law schools in India, either Government or private, are found to have not included several subjects in their current curriculum, which are crucial in the context for lawyers. Pertinently, the curriculum of these law schools is still in the formative process wherein students are being imparted the outmoded syllabus. Various directives have been issued by the Supreme Court of India as well as various reports have been published which envisage the importance and need for a revised syllabus in the curriculum of legal education. In this regard, we shall peruse the reports of the statutory bodies and shall study how its non-adherence will degrade the legal education system.
How outmoded syllabus leads to the degradation of legal education?
In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench, the petitioner had brought into the notice of the court the lacuna and adversity in the administration of the Nagpur University and their ineffectiveness and lack of prompt action in matters relating to change of outdated syllabus of the BA.LL.B, LL.B, and LL.M which is being taught in law colleges affiliated to the Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University.
That the petitioners and other fellow students of the legal fraternity were aggrieved due to the lack of steps by the Nagpur University and Bar Council of India to update the syllabus in accordance with new amendments in the legislature and to update and amend the syllabus of law on a regular and continuous basis.
It is mentioned in the petition that the Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University has issued impugned direction no. 33 of 2019 (5 years LL.B) and Direction No. 34 of 2019 (3 years LL.B) for a change of syllabus of law. The petitioners pointed out that the new updated syllabus was being implemented for the students who were taking admission to the first year of both the above-mentioned courses from the academic year 2019-2020 and does not apply to the existing students of the course of law for both (3 years as well as 5 years course).
In the petition, the following points were highlighted.
- It is to be noted that the entire crux of the change in the syllabus is to teach amended laws as they are on this date to students irrespective of what direction any given university governs them.
- The petition states that the scheme to implement the new syllabus is very shoddy, improper, and slapdash and purports to breach the vested rights of the students to study the laws with the latest amendments and not old and obsolete laws which have been removed from the statute book in toto.
- The scheme of implementation of the new syllabus could have been rolled out in such a way that all the students, irrespective of which direction governs them, could study the amended laws.
However, when a university lacks the zeal to revise the syllabus appropriately from time to time, it fails to perform its basic function and thereby fails to achieve the purpose for which it was brought into existence.
The petitioner pointed out that the Bar Council of India and Nagpur University have completely deformed their statutory duties and functions. Such non-observance of their duties by the above-mentioned authorities had led to the dilapidation of the quality of legal education which is being imparted to the students, which is a contributory factor in reducing the quality of service of lawyers and judiciary.
Significantly, in the profession of law, dynamic laws are being passed and implemented and, in these circumstances, if the law students are taught the same obsolete laws at the college level, the future will not see young and bright advocates comprehending and applying new laws in practical life.
Reports by statutory bodies
Report by the Supreme Court
A report was formed by the committee constituted by the Hon’ble Supreme court on the subject matter of legal education in India. The report highlights the importance of a revised curriculum time and again. The report states the following: – “The Inspection and Monitoring Committee is to be constituted under the Rules of the BCI. As per the provisions of Rule 20, it shall comprise at least two members of the BCI to conduct an inspection of newly established or existing Universities. According to the provisions of Rule 22, the Inspection and Monitoring Committee shall inspect the University, examine the documents and reports, visit the institution to assess the infrastructure, curriculum design etc. It can be inferred clearly that if the Bar Council had properly done the inspection and monitoring, the problems of the syllabus would have been clearly visible.
The report talks about accreditation and performance rating systems. It states as follows;
“Rules 28 to 32 of the 2008 Rules contain provisions regarding an accreditation and performance rating system for institutions imparting legal education. Out of the many criteria, “system of detail curriculum development and teaching practice session” is one. It explicitly signifies that curriculum is an extremely important factor of accreditation.
The matter of syllabus, training, period of practice etc. were taken up in a Conference of Chief Justices held in December 1993. The report states that “the Bar exam and apprenticeship requirements are extremely pivotal in ensuring high standards of the legal profession. It must be noted that the introduction of such a requirement would (1) prevent law schools from escaping the high standards imposed by the governing legal education body; (2) promote curriculum reform thus increasing the quality of lawyers. Again, the Bar exam has been introduced but the university is still not promoting its curriculum reform. However, it is noted that though the Bar examination has been brought, the standardization and the constant innovation in the standards of the curriculum are still missing, which was the main objective and spirit of introducing the Bar exam.
Reform of legal education in India
“The Reform of Legal Education in India,” a report published by the Bar Council of India, reveals that legal education quality has been degraded. One of the recommendations of this report is that the curriculum must be revised continuously. On the first page of the report, it is stated that Indian legal education is struggling in comparison to its counterparts across the world, which belies the tremendous potential that the Indian legal profession can unleash in the years to come. Further, it also states that legal education cannot be value creation only for “top of the pyramid” law graduates but must have stringent minimum standards so that it is transformational for all law students, irrespective of the law school they choose to graduate from. In the report, a vision statement was published in the year 2010, which identified two reasons for affecting the image of the legal profession in India. The two reasons were inadequate legal education and infrastructure and lack of relevant skills training to meet the ever-changing demands of the modern world. The report has suggested several measures for the improvement of legal education. One of the measures suggested is a revised curriculum.
Design of syllabus as per the report by the BCI
As per the report, there is an urgent and imperative need to evolve the curriculum prescribed to law students. As the law is continuously evolving and organic, the curriculum must also be made as an evolving subject, never stagnant. Just as the law develops itself according to the situation, the curriculum must also be developed accordingly. The syllabus should be equipped, comprehensively and systematically, to cater to the complexities of different as well as changing scenarios and situations. Legal education has to adapt and transform according to the situations. Legal education must aim at preparing legal professionals who will play decisive leadership roles, not only as advocates practising in courts but also as academicians, legislators, judges, policymakers, public officials, civil society activists as well as legal counsel in the private sector, maintaining highest standards of professional ethics and a spirit of public service.
The syllabus of legal education should be as such to prepare professionals equipped to meet the new challenges and dimensions of internationalization, where the nature and organization of law and legal practice are undergoing a paradigm shift.
Words of the then Chief Justice of India A.M. Ahmadi on legal education
While speaking at, “All India Conference of Lawyers on Legal Education and Training” held in New Delhi on 18.11.1994, the then Chief justice of India A. M. Ahmadi had expressed his opinion while referring to a report of the Law Commission Legal Education, “If the standard of legal education in law schools is poor and if enrolment of such ‘half-baked’ untrained graduates is automatic, as is the position today, the burden has to be borne by the judiciary at all levels since they are, to use the expression of Shri Setalved, ‘let loose’ on the judiciary. The unbecoming scenes which are witnessed in courts are largely on account of lack of proper training in law and ethical values and the desire to make a fast buck. The justice delivery system depends on the quality of the Bar and, therefore, the judiciary is vitally interested in the improvement of legal education in the country. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the Bar, the judiciary and the UGC must join hands to raise the standard of legal education in the country.”
State of Maharashtra v. Manubhai Pragaji Vashi and Ors
In the instant matter, it was held by the Supreme Court of India that, ‘The explosion in population, the vast changes brought about by scientific, technological and other developments, and the all-round enlarged field of human activity reflected in modern society, and the consequent increase in litigation in courts and other forums demand that the service of competent persons with expertise in law is required in many stages and at different forums or levels and should be made available. The need for a continuing and well organised legal education, is absolutely essential reckoning the new trends in the world order, to meet the ever-growing challenges. The legal education should be to meet the ever-growing demands of the society and should be thoroughly equipped to cater to the complexities of the different situations’.
M. Santhosh Antony Vareed v. The Registrar
The Apex Court had observed and suggested a few measures in the present case, in the following words, “The legal education has to be made meaningful. William Wordsworth wrote: “Child is the Father of Man”. Likewise, the law student is the future of the Legal profession, Judiciary and Rule of Law. Hence utmost care has to be given to legal education which was hitherto neglected. Legal education requires it to be made on par with the other professional courses. The following suggestions are made regarding quality law education and the Government and Bar Council of India may take note of the suggestions:
h) Standardizing legal education, in keeping pace with globalization and new trends and challenges in the field by updating the syllabus is essential.
Significance of updating the syllabus
With the advent of globalization, the framework of legal education in India requires profound changes to meet the emerging demands of the consumers of legal services. This requires a thorough revamp of the present curricula crafted to stay in sync with the country’s evolving needs. The law students need to be taught and equipped with such tools and techniques of the trade which render them to face the new globalized world order effectively, to which they are exposed. This requires a paradigm shift and transformation of our present curricula taught in law schools. Students passing out from legal institutions need to be taught and trained in newer disciplines that hitherto remained at the periphery or outside the present framework. It requires the cooperative and collaborative effort which involves the academics, the Bar, the universities.
National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020
A framework has been provided by the National Education policy of 2020, which is required to be adopted by all centres of legal education, which has been stated below:
- Legal education needs to be competitive globally, adopting best practices.
- Legal education must be embraced with new technologies for wider access to and timely delivery of justice.
- Legal education must be informed and illuminated with constitutional values of justice; social, economic, and political.
- Legal education must direct towards national reconstruction through democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.
- The legal education curriculum must reflect socio-cultural contexts emphasizing the history of legal thinking, principles of justice, and jurisprudence practices.
- Legal education in State institutions must consider offering bilingual education for future lawyers and judges in English and in the State language where the legal institution is established.
In today’s contemporary world, the quality of legal education should be a benchmark to meet the requisites of the Bar and the needs of trade, commerce, and industry. In addition to this, with the inception of globalization, the standard of legal education should be able to meet its challenges. It is to be noted that Law Schools play a pivotal role in creating and disseminating legal education.
It is to be highlighted that the Bar Council of India (BCI) is a statutory body constituted under Section 4 of the Advocates Act 1961. It is the duty of the Bar Council of India under Section 7(h) of the above-mentioned act to promote legal education and to lay down standards of such education in consultation with the Universities in India imparting such education and the State Bar Councils. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Bar Council of India to regularly inspect the teaching standards and the syllabus of the Law course and should pass appropriate directions to the Universities to change the outdated syllabus yearly. Also, the report presented by the BCI mentions the need to have an updated curriculum as Indian Legal education is already far behind its peers in terms of imparting quality legal education. Therefore, it can be said that the BCI has failed miserably to perform its duty towards promoting quality legal education, thereby failing the very purpose for which it was brought into existence and given the form of a statutory body.
Thus, the various reports and judgments elucidate in a very comprehensible manner the significance of the revised syllabus in the field of legal education. Also, the Bar Council of India (BCI), University Grant Commission (UGC), Law Schools and Universities must understand their duty to promote quality legal education so that the knowledge of future lawyers and judges is not compromised. Further, the various Law schools and Universities should adopt the NEP 2020 and should act in consonance with the measures and suggestions given by the Committees on Legal Education.
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