By M Afzal Wani
The present legal education system has its roots in the common law system as introduced in the 19th century in India with the establishment of a court system and legislative apparatus by rulers then. The lawyer then was a person only to tell the judge the law in its letter and help the system as a link between the people and the power. During the period, some universities came into existence giving legal education, more as an additional degree with Master’s degree in any subject, to enable a person to become a counsel/pleader in court. Some prominent persons got degrees of Bar at Law from abroad. Many from the latter contributed significantly to the freedom movement.
In the first half the twentieth century, some full-fledged law faculties were established in universities at Kolkata, Madras, Bombay, Delhi, Aligarh, Banaras and Lucknow. They produced another brand of law men who could conveniently be appointed as judges and enrolled as lawyers. On attaining freedom, evaluative committees/commissions were constituted for better understanding of the developmental activities. Then the Secondary Education commission in 1952-53, stressed for democratic citizenship, vocational efficiency and personal development, which needed an appropriate legal education. But, the Setalvad Committee, in 1958, observed, “the main purpose of university legal education seems hitherto, to have been not the teaching of law as a science or as a branch of learning, but mainly imparting the students a knowledge of certain principles and provisions of law to enable them to enter the legal profession.”
With the march of time, new demands emerged, which made the then existing system obsolete, requiring it to be replaced by a new one. The Education Commission of 1964-66, suggested modernisation of society through awakening of curiosity, which understandably cannot happen without an appropriate legal education system. The Review Committee of 1977, therefore, rightly called for efforts to mould the learner into a citizen as visualised by the constitution. Thus emerges the indispensability of quality legal education, after adopting the Constitution of India, with its goals for human development.
In 1961, the Advocates Act was enacted to regulate the legal profession to improve its quality through maintenance of standards and ethics. This made legal education comply with its requirements in terms of curriculum and introduction of procedural learning. The Education Policy of 1986, did also base on the values reflected in the Preamble of the Constitution, focussing on the needs of the coming up technological society. That was told to get together with spirituality, modernity and technological sophistication. It was the same time when National Law School of India University, Bangalore was established to introduce Five Year Integrated Legal Studies. Today there are 25 National Law Universities in the country, nurturing mainly the corporate sector, leaving the justice system as such starving for talent and quality advocacy.
The NEP 2020, thus, requires that “Legal education needs to be competitive globally, adopting best practices and embracing new technologies for wider access to and timely delivery of justice.” It duly stresses for spiriting the legal education with values of social, economic and political justice, in socio-cultural context, in understandable languages and practice of jurisprudence. The pattern of experiential learning should include actual court experiences and global standards of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. Mock exercises about each sphere of the legal profession must be an integral part of the curriculum. Producing public spirited lawyers for Indian society must be a prominent feature of the Indian legal education system. Venturing for all that as per the indices of NEP 2020 can make the justice system desirably satisfactory.
The author is pro-vice chancellor, IILM University, Greater Noida. Views are personal.