UGC set to ring in the one-year PG course in Law in varsities

Students planning a career in the field of legal research and teaching have some reasons to cheer. Very soon, they can pursue a one-year postgraduate (PG) course in law (LL.M.) in Indian universities too.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has recently approved a proposal to reduce the duration of the LL.M. course to one year. It places the Indian LL.M. degree on par with those offered by the foreign universities where it is of one-year duration. The restructured course with revised syllabus is likely to be a reality from the next academic year.

The UGC’s decision is termed as a major step towards reforms in legal education in the country. All these years, LL.M. was a two-year course like other master’s degree courses. There was a demand by the legal faculty, students as well as experts to reduce the tenure to one year. This saves one precious year for the students. It may also help check the flight of students to universities in the U.K., the U.S., Australia and other countries that offer the one-year course, they argued.

The UGC had been actively considering the proposal for the last two years. In May 2011 it had in principle agreed to restructure the two-year programme into a one-year affair. The expert committee had recently submitted its report to the UGC, which was accepted.

The trend

The Karnataka State Law University (KSLU) Vice-Chancellor, J.S. Patil, told The Hindu that LL.M. is a one-year programme in about 80 per cent of universities across the globe. It is the only postgraduate programme which is done after obtaining two degree programmes B.A. (law) and LL.B. A lot of inputs would have already gone in the degree level. Hence, a majority of the universities in the west have restructured it into a one-year programme. In India too, the UGC decided to follow suit.

Prof. Patil said a meeting of the Vice-Chancellors of law universities held on November 6 in New Delhi discussed the matter and debated over the syllabus to be followed for the one-year course. Accordingly, it was decided that the course wiould be restructured into a full 12-month course with three trimesters of four months each. The curriculum will be covered intensively.

The schedule

The first trimester includes studying three core subjects, including social and legal research methodology and teaching, comparative constitutional law comprising the comparative study of the 10 important constitutions of the world, and aspects of justice viz., various theories and components of justice and related matters. The semester will also contain the study of one optional subject.

Specialisation will be a key feature of the course. A total of 12 clusters on various subjects have been identified for specialised study. The students have to choose any six subjects from one cluster.

Of these six subjects, one will be the optional subject in the first trimester, four subjects are optional in the second trimester and the remaining one subject will be studied along with dissertation in the third trimester. The candidates will be awarded degrees in a particular cluster of specialisation, say LL.M. in Human Rights, Intellectual Properties and the like.

P. D. Sebastian, Reader, SDM Law College, Mangalore, said in recent times many Indian students opted to study LL.M. in the U.K. Shortening the course duration may increase the inflow of the students here too, he said.

Different settings

However, Prof. Sebastian noted that in the U.K. the one-year LL.M course is strictly regulated and a full-time affair and there was no provision to do it on part-time basis.

The students have to struggle hard to achieve academic excellence. But here, many institutes offering LL.M. run it virtually on part-time basis either as an evening course or hold the classes three to four days a week. Under such circumstances, the two-year LL.M. course of India would be equivalent to the one-year course of foreign countries. Strict regulatory steps have to be initiated to ensure quality and there should be a professional agency to regulate things, Prof. Sebastian said.

Circular

Henceforth, candidates opting to pursue LL.M. under the distance education mode will have to be cautious. For, the LL.M. degree obtained through the distance education mode may not fetch them jobs in teaching.

Prof. Patil said the Bar Council of India had recently issued a circular asking the law universities to recognise only the LL.M. degrees received through regular courses and not those offered through distance education mode.

Legal experts have reservations over such courses. Even the LL.M. degree offered by the Indira Gandhi National Open University and the Karnataka State Open University will not be recognised by the law universities, Prof. Patil said.