Legal Education in Indian Perspective
Spiritually, it is believed that the life on the earth is regulated by the laws of the Lord or the Divinity. It is 'rule of law', that draws the essential difference between human society and animal world. It is the legal education that plays an important role in promoting social justice. Law professionals are characterised as 'Social engineers'. Law as a profession and legal education as a discipline was not a popular choice of the students in India prior to the introduction of five year law course, most of the students who performed well in their Intermediate Education aspired to study medicine, engineering, computers, business management and accounting. Unlike India, the situation prevalent in England, America and in many other developed countries is convincingly different. The admissions to law schools in these parts of the world are highly competitive. In the present era of information capitalism, economic liberalization and WTO, legal profession in India has to cater to the needs of a new brand of legal consumer/client namely the foreign companies or collaborations. In the changed scenario, the additional roles by law professionals to play are that of policy planner, business advisor, negotiator among interest groups, experts in articulation and communication of ideas, mediator, lobbyist, law reformer etc. Due to expanding role of law professionals our curriculum should be enriched with all interdisciplinary courses which are must to produce the competent law professionals of 4th generation.
An Overview: Spiritually, it is believed that the life on the earth is regulated by the laws of the Lord or the Divinity. It is 'rule of law', that draws the essential difference between human society and animal world. It is the legal education that plays an important role in promoting social justice. Education or awareness of laws, characterize the lawyers as 'Social engineers'.
"….man is inwardly a soul and a conscious power of the Divine and that the evolution of this real man within is the right object of education and indeed of all human life." -Sri Aurobindo
Imparting of legal education has always been considered as one to the noblest profession. Today, legal education derives its impetus from the economic, social and political set up of the society. Legal profession is objectively in the position of producing Statesmen. This is due to two reasons (1) Lawyers belong to an independent profession. They are not subordinate to the government or to anyone else, and (2) They are directly in contact with society in its entirety as they have to deal with all kinds of problems of people from all sections of society, unlike say, doctors who are confined to technical problems. Hence lawyers are the people who are most conversant with the problems of society as a whole.
Importance and regulation of Legal Education
Legal study promotes accuracy of the expression, facility in arguments and skill in interpreting the written words, as well as some understanding of social values. So 'Law act as the cementing material of society and an essential medium of social change. A well administered and socially relevant legal education is a sine qua non for a proper dispensation of justice. Giving legal education a human face would create cultured law abiding citizens who are able to serve as professionals and not merely as business men.
The quality and standard of legal education acquired at the law school is reflected through the standard of Bar and Bench and consequently affects the legal system. The primary focus of law schools should be to identify the various skills that define a lawyer and then train and equip its students with requirements of the fast growing field of law. It is pivotal duty of everyone to know the law. Ignorance of law is not innocence but a sin which cannot be excused. Thus, legal education is imperative not only to produce good lawyers but also to create cultured law abiding citizens, who are inculcated with concepts of human values, legal ethics and human rights.
The Constitution of India basically laid down the duty of imparting education on the states by putting the matter pertaining to education in List II of the Seventh Schedule. But it now forms part of List III, giving concurrent legislative powers to the Union and the States. Legal profession along with the medical and other professions also falls under List III (Entry 26). However, the Union is empowered to co-ordinate and determines standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions besides having exclusive power, inter alia, pertaining to educational institutions of national importance, professional, vocational or technical training and promotion of special studies or research.
Empowered by the Constitution to legislate in respect of legal profession, Parliament enacted the Advocates Act, 1961, which brought uniformity in the system of legal practitioners in the form of Advocates and provided for setting up of the Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils in the States. Under clause (h) of sub-sec (1) of Sec.7 of the Advocates Act, 1961 the Bar Council of India has power to fix a minimum academic standard as a pre-condition for commencement of a studies in law . Under clause (i) of sub-sec (1) of Sec. 7, the Bar Council of India is also empowered "to recognize Universities whose degree in law shall be taken as a qualification for enrolment as an advocate and for that purpose to visit and inspect Universities" . The Act thus confers on the Bar Council power to prescribe standards of legal education and recognition of law degrees for enrolment of persons as Advocates. However, for promoting legal education and for laying down standards of legal education, the Universities and State Bar Councils must be effectively consulted. The University Grants Commission has in the course of time evinced interest in improving legal education and has taken various steps towards that end, through adequate funding, creation of senior posts and other means.
Historical Development of Legal Education in India
The concept of dharma, in the Vedic period, can be seen as the concept of the legal education in India. The guiding force for the King or his appointee was the upholding of the dharma. For almost a century from 1857 to 1957 a stereotyped system of teaching compulsory subjects under a straight lecture method and the two year course continued. The need for upgrading legal education has been felt for long. Numerous committees were set up periodically to consider and propose reforms in legal education. The University Education Commission, was set up in 1948-49, in the year 1949 the Bombay Legal Education Committee was set up to promote legal education. The All India Bar Committee made certain recommendations in 1951. In 1954, XIVth Report the Law Commission (Setalvad Commission) of India discussed the status of legal education and recognized the need for reform in the system of legal education. It depicted a very dismal picture of legal education. It was only from 1958 that many universities switched over to three year law degree courses. It was only by 1967, that it became onerous task for the three year law colleges to include procedural subjects into the curriculum of their law school.
The dichotomy between the two courses 3 year LLB course after graduation and 5 year integrated course after 10+2, based on various factors such as professional legal education, mental faculties of students, multi-disciplinary and clinical legal approach to legal education still continues.
Modernization of legal education in India
Law as a profession and legal education as a discipline was not a popular choice of the students in India prior to the introduction of five year law course, most of the students who performed well in their Intermediate Education aspired to study medicine, engineering, computers, business management and accounting. Unlike India, the situation prevalent in England, America and in many other developed countries is convincingly different. The admissions to law schools in these parts of the world are highly competitive. In the changed scenario, the additional roles by law professionals envisaged are that of policy planner, business advisor, negotiator among interest groups, experts in articulation and communication of ideas, mediator, lobbyist, law reformer etc. In this the era of information capitalism, economic liberalization and WTO, legal profession in India has to cater to the needs of a new brand of legal consumer/client namely the foreign companies or collaborations.
Necessary modification required by law Schools
The law schools are required to make strategic plans that set out a clear vision of justice delivery and also address the emerging realities of the market. Goal of the law schools should be to build a 'system of legal education' that:
a. Promote an inter-disciplinary approach of law with other social sciences: A person who studies law must have some proficiency in country's history, political theory, economics and philosophy, to enable him/her in becoming agents that participate in institutional changes.
b. Encourage proficiency in languages: Command over spoken and written language, effective oral skills, diction and extensive reading are pre-requisites that go without saying. Knowledge of a foreign language is important to be a lawyer in the global economy. Law students should be provided with the opportunity to learn a foreign language of their choice.
c. Personal Characteristics: Lawyers, solicitors, legal executives all need good intellectual ability, the ability to assimilate and analyse facts quickly. Law students hence need to develop their ability to distinguish the relevant form the irrelevant, screen evidence, and apply the law to the situation under scrutiny.
The law students are further required to enhance the ability to argue, explain and convince points of law. They need to maintain their complete integrity of character and need mental and physical stamina in order to cope with the long hours, travelling and stress.
d. Develop a critical outlook: Law teachers should switch over to what is called as 'comparative method of teaching'. The law students should be mobilised to evaluate the existing or prospective draconian laws, participate in discussions on the latest developments and required amendments.
e. Encourage Clinical training: 'Justice' must become central to the law curriculum and community-based learning must give the desired value orientation in the making of a lawyer. This concept of justice education in the field of legal education means that the law school curriculum should entail certain programs like Lok Adalats, Legal Aid & Legal Literacy and para-legal training.
The complementary teaching methodology of learning by doing and the conventional classroom teaching, through the law school clinics , help in developing the advocacy skills in the law students. 'Mock' trials and Moot court competitions, structured as court trial; client interviewing and counseling sessions; legal research; editing of law journals; legal drafting and conveyancing; court visits etc. in the curriculum is one of the ideal ways to facilitate performance based education. It is a means of improving in students the basic skills such as the skills of critical thinking, presentation skills, participation skills, the skills to work as a team, the leadership quality, in addition to the boost in students knowledge of law.
Promotes acquaintance with new technological means: Law schools and universities should be able to provide e-courses on the shelves. The teachers should put course materials on the Web, conduct on-line tests/assignments and grade students. Web-sites can lead learners to virtual class-rooms. Teachers and students should be oriented to look at the Web as an information provider.
Legal education is a good investment which if wisely made will produce most beneficial results for the nation and catalyse the speed of development. Of late the role of a lawyer in a common law system is more than a skilled legal mechanic; he acts as a social engineer, social reformer, harmonizer and a reconciler. The legal education provided at the law schools must be transformed to the conventional and contemporary needs of the legal profession and society.