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Interview Of The Month  

This month, ILJ’s Vishwam Jindal spoke to Prof. (Dr.) Ranbir Singh, Vice-Chancellor, National Law University, Delhi on various challenges that lie before the Indian legal sector.

Ques: What according you are the challenges for imparting good legal education in India?

Ans: Legal education in India is at three levels. The first is where students are taught in 900 law colleges in India. This forms the base of legal education as most students are educated here. Then there are 150 law faculties and 14 states universities at the second and the third level. The facilities available to these colleges and schools are varying and inadequate in most places. The same need to upgraded, starting from the bottom of the pyramid i.e. at the level of 900 law colleges. A bottom up approach needs to be followed where special focus in given to infrastructure, faculty and research oriented programmes.

Ques: Can you suggest some curriculum development reforms that are required in the present legal education system?

Ans: : The Bar Council of India (BCI) has been revising the curriculum annually. In addition of the BCI, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has come out with 2 curriculum reports, which seek to reform the curriculum of the law schools. The BCI has also recently looked into the demands of emerging areas of law like Competition Law, International Commercial Arbitration, WTO Law, International Taxation, etc and has come out with optional schemes which should be implemented in all law colleges. Then, it is the option of law schools to choose which courses they offer, for instance a law school can choose between B.A, LL.B; B.Com, LL.B; B.Sc, LLB , etc. I also think that the students should have a strong background of certain subjects which form the core of the legal education like Civil and Criminal Procedural Laws, Transfer of Property Act, Indian Penal Code, etc. These are vital reforms, the time for which has been long overdue.

Ques: The law ministry had some time back proposed to make the LLM programme in India a one year programme from the present two year programme. Can you tell us your views in this regard?

Ans: The HRD Ministry had proposed to make the LLM programme in India a one year programme after various Universities demanded so. Following which, a committee was set up under Dr. V.B. Coutinho, which recommended for an year long LLM programme. The ministry then sent the proposal to UGC which set up a committee, of which I was a member. The committee suggested that such a programme is feasible and has sent a blueprint for its implementation. This was forwarded to the Ministry of HRD. The ministry then set up a committee under Prof. N.R.Madhav Menon, which also recommended in its favour. This was then referred back to UGC which is finalising the proposal. I think it will be a reality very soon. Essentially, we propose the LLM programme to be strong on two areas. It will be Research oriented and will include a Teachers training programme. The goal of this programme will be to produce good teachers.

Ques: What do you feel could be a road map for an institutional approach to ensuring world class legal education in India?

Ans: India can produce the best of world class legal institutions only if we have the requisite infrastructure and the determination to go the long way. We require a robust infrastructure along with a talented faculty. Institutions should mandatorily have a good library stocked with the latest books, research softwares and journals; a good faculty which motivates the students, Internship programmes that are research oriented and gives the students practical experience of working in institutions connected with Law like Courts, NGO’s, Law firms, Corporate Houses, Commissions (Competition Commission of India, Law Commission of India, Parliamentary Commissions), etc.

Ques: Can you give us your opinion on the entry of foreign law firms in India?

Ans: I support the proposition that allows foreign law firms to practise in India. When Indian doctors and managers can compete with the best in the world, why is it different for lawyers? The legal professionals are well equipped to face competition from foreign law firms. Furthermore, the competition will only seek to improve the quality of institutions and in turn law students.

In any case, the trade in “Services” has to open up sooner or later. For India, the sooner it opens, the better it is.

Ques: Don’t you feel that the creation of the much awaited Indian Judicial Service (IJS) and the Indian Legal Service (ILS) will assist in responding to the huge backlog of cases and to meet the demand for services of legal professionals from various departments of the Union and state governments?

Ans: I believe that the Indian Judicial Service (IJS) should for formed as soon as possible. The Supreme Court recommended the formation of IJS thirty years back in the Advocates-on-record case. This was further reemphasized upon by the Shetty Commission. The formation of IJS will surely address in solving the problem of huge backlog of cases and arrears. I believe that the quality of judges is determined by the quality of bar which is in turn determined by the quality of law schools. Till the time we don’t have good law schools, we will not be able to have a good bar and consequently produce good judges. We should also prepare legal professionals in the art of Court Management which is very necessary to address the problem of arrears. Lawyers and Managers should together efficiently manage the Court hearings and case files. In this regard, I have started a Post Graduate diploma programme in Court Management at National Law University Delhi which will train lawyers in the art of professional court management. It will also be great if institutions could start common courses of Law and Management.

The Indian Legal Service (ILS) is already present and there are legal professionals working within the ministries. However, these professionals are half baked and come from ordinary law schools where the quality of legal education is still poor. In such a situation, the right and deserving candidate is not selected to office. I think that the selection of IJS and ILS should be through a common entrance, where candidates can be asked for their preference and accordingly be divided in IJS and ILS. This will improve the quality of quality of both services and prove to be extremely efficient. This will also take care of the whole range to expert posts that are available in ministries but are either vacant or occupied by undeserving candidates.

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