It must not be denied that law forms the backbone of society and no civilisation without a strong legal system remains worthy of being called one. The Law Commission of India realised, as early as, in 1958, that the legal education and the legal profession should undergo reforms to serve the country better. After years of deliberations and discussions, the first National Law School (NLS) was established in 1987 in Bangalore at the initiative of one of the most visionary academicians in the country, Dr. Madhav Menon.
Later, other NLSs were established in cities like Hyderabad, Bhopal, Kolkata and others. The concept of law schools was founded in America where law schools are not controlled by the government and thus are autonomous and the NLSs are modelled on those lines; however, American law schools receive private endowments and are not solely dependent upon the fees earned.
NLSs in India are established under State Legislations, thus giving them the status of statutory institutions; however enacting legislation and funding the institutions for a few initial years (if at all it is done), is all that the State Governments do for these NLSs.
The very reason that the State governments do not fund them has resulted in fee hike in all these NLSs without exception and the fee has reached an exorbitant amount of almost 1.8 lakh per annum (almost 9 lakh for a five-year study of law) owing to the Sixth Pay Commission. Thus, it goes without saying that there were many students who withdrew from the recently concluded admission process only because they could not afford the high fee.
Paucity of funds
The academic fee is not the only expenditure that the student has to make during his law school life.
Internships, moot courts and other co-curricular activities are required if one dreams of a getting a job, especially in times of recession. Sometimes for these internships and competitions, students have to travel abroad - which means an additional substantive expenditure. Because the NLSs are so hard-pressed in terms of financial affordability, they sometimes even fail to pay the registration fee for the competition in which the students participate, leave alone meeting the travel and other expenses.
Barring the NLSs in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Bhopal, most of them have not completed a decade of their establishment and therefore have not yet really experienced the paucity of financial resources because of some support from their State governments in their initial years; thus the worst is yet to come.
Another reality is that except some of the older NLSs, most of them have failed to make a substantial mark for themselves. They face problems ranging from a lack of adequate infrastructure to a lack of quality teaching methods and, in some cases, even to a lack of experienced faculty members and financial mismanagement. The truth is that establishing NLSs in almost all States would not ensure a robust legal system. What needs to be done is ensuring that quality legal education is imparted and, importantly, at an affordable cost.
All students at these NLSs, including me, wish to ask the government why it leaves us out and funds other statutory institutions when it claims to have reformed the legal system by merely establishing the ill-funded institutions we study in, leaving up to the administration and, worse, the students to manage the running costs of these institutions. We wish to request the Central government to put all the NLSs under the umbrella of Indian Institute of Law (IILs), something that was once in contemplation.
Mushrooming NLSs in many States has resulted in dilution of the quality of legal education and, consequently, of the quality of lawyers we produce. No wonder that although India produces the most number of lawyers, second only to the United States, it has failed miserably in improving the legal system and the reasons are quite conspicuous.
The question pertains to the larger issue - the neglect of social sciences in India.