Report No. 14
25. Legal Education
1. Previous enquiries.-
The question of legal education which is one of the matters specifically referred to us has been examined from time to time by a large number of Commissions and Committees. Amongst these may be mentioned the Calcutta University Commission of 1917-19, the University Education Commission of 1948-49, the Bombay Legal Education Committee of 1949, the All-India Bar Committee of 1953 and the Rajasthan Legal Education Committee of 1955. Naturally, much of the ground covered by us has been the subject-matter of consideration by these bodies from whose reports we have derived considerable assistance.
2. The need for reforms.-
The need for reform in the system of legal education in our country was felt as far back as 1885. Speaking in Madras in that year. Mr. Justice Muthuswami Iyer said:
"Law is hitherto studies in this Presidency more as an art founded on certain arbitrary and technical rules than as a science which consists of principles laid down for protecting human interests in various life relations. A College, therefore, where legal education is to be imparted on a scientific basis, will be of great value to the country, and exercise a very beneficial influence on the practice of law as an art."1
1. Cited in the Bombay Legal Education Committee Report, 1949, p. 17, para. 34.
The situation had not appreciably altered fifty years later. In 1935, the Unemployment Committee appointed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh, presided over by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, observed in its report:
"Our own view is that so far as Universities in these provinces are concerned legal education has not occupied the place to which its importance entitled it; and we are not prepared to say that the standard of legal education has risen to the extent to which it has risen in certain other departments."1
1. Report of Uttar Pradesh Unemployment Committee, 1935, para. 158.
3. Original object of law teaching in India.-
It has been said that 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 merely imparting to students a knowledge of certain principles and provisions of law to enable them to enter the legal profession. With the passing of the governance of India directly under the Crown in 1858, the needs of a new and expanding judicial system called for an increasing number of professional men of law to fill the roles of legal practitioners, judges and administrators.
The legal curricula were, therefore, it is said, framed mainly with an eye to the professional needs of such practitioners and judicial and other officers. The system, said to have been designed to meet this need has, by and large, continued unchanged for over a hundred years. Law has not been looked upon by the Universities as an educational or cultural subject. Speaking of the University of Bombay, the Bombay University Reforms Committee stated in 1925 that " the course of this University seems to have too much in view the practice of the lawyer and case law, and too little the science and principles of law."1
1. Cited in the Bombay Legal Education Committee Report, p. 17, para. 35.
4. Character of Law Colleges (Part-time institutions).-
Thus, the objective which the Universities seem to have kept before themselves all these years has been the professional training of the future lawyer. Part-time institutions have been regarded as sufficient for this purpose. Those institutions seemed to have suited both the teacher and the taught. Most of the students who attended the morning and evening classes conducted by those institutions were in employment somewhere or prosecuted some other post-graduate study while the teachers in law were generally practising lawyers who had to attend to their professional business during office hours.
5. The results (Absence of Jurists).-
The results of the working of this system have been contrasted with those of the advanced systems of legal education adopted in Europe and America by the Radhakrishnan Commission in the following words:
"In Europe and America, legal education has long occupied a high niche among the learned curricula. Products of the study of law have frequently risen to positions of distinction in public service or have amassed fortunes in the private practice of law or have acquired wide reputation as scholars even without entering practice. Legal education is on an elevated plane and teachers of law enjoy a high respect, perhaps as high or higher than those of any other field of instruction. * * * * In our country, we have eminent practitioners and excellent judges. * * * * The law has also given us great leaders and men consecrated to public service.
Most conspicuous of these is Gandhiji. Here the comparison ends. We have no internationally known expounders of jurisprudence and legal studies. Our colleges of law do not hold a place of high esteem either at home or abroad, nor has law become an area of profound scholarship and enlightened research."1
1. Report of the University Education Commission, Vol. I, p. 257.
Legal education defective.- The absence of juristic thought and publications in our country is no doubt due, in part, to our defective system of legal education which fails to recognize the study of law as a branch of learning and as a science.
Nor is the education in law imparted at the Universities such as to fit the law-graduate for the profession notwithstanding its supposed bias in favour of a professional career. The inadequacy of our legal training to equip men for the profession can be easily realised if one compares the education and training imparted in our law schools with the intensive and scientific training given in some of the American schools of law. It is true that our country has produced eminent practitioners in law and learned judges. But have they owed their eminence and learning to the education received by them in the Universities? Their achievements probably arise from their own intellectual brilliance and capacity rather than to the education received by them at the Universities.
6. Deterioration in standards (Part-time teachers and students).-
In the period of about ten years which has elapsed since the publication of the Report of the Radhakrishnan Commission, the position in regard to legal education in the country has, it appears, definitely deteriorated. Excepting in certain centres like Bombay and Madras where full-time law colleges exist, education is imparted in part-time classes held in the mornings or in the evenings. The teachers are mainly legal practitioners who give tuition outside court hours. Some of these institutions are run exclusively by part-time teachers. Many of these institutions have no buildings or libraries of their own and classes are held in buildings belonging to arts colleges and other institutions.
Large numbers of the pupils serve in Government offices or elsewhere while attending the institutions and take the law course with a view to better their prospects in service by obtaining a law degree. Some are post-graduate students who, in addition to the post-graduate courses which they have taken and which are their main objective, wish to add to their qualifications a degree in law. Most of the students who crowd these institutions are young men who have not been able to secure employment; they take a course in law while waiting for a job with no intention of practising law as a profession.
7. Over-crowding in law colleges.-
Owing to the growth of unemployment in the educated youth of the country, some of these institutions are so overcrowded that classes are held in shifts and there are on the rolls of each class a large number of pupils, sometimes exceeding hundred. It is to these crowded classes that the part-time lecturer imparts his instruction, and the attendance he commands is only due to the anxiety of the pupil to have his attendance marked when the lecturer calls the roll. It is not surprising that in this chaotic state of affairs in a number of these institutions, there is hardly a pretence at teaching and that the holding of tutorials or seminars would be unthinkable. A senior lawyer characterised these institutions as "a profit-making industry".
8. Arts colleges running law classes (Instruction unnecessary).-
The Gorakhpur University which has recently come into existence and the Agra University, do not have law colleges affiliated to them nor a law department but, nevertheless, confer law degrees on students who seem to receive instruction in law in arts colleges. The Head of the Law College affiliated to the Utkal University informed us that the University had recently decided that permission be granted to persons of over thirty years of age to appear at the law examinations held by the University without submitting themselves to a course of teaching.
The so-called teaching imparted at institutions of this character is followed by law examinations held by the Universities, many of which are mere tests of memory and poor ones at that-which the students manage to pass by cramming short summaries or catechisms published by enterprising publishers. The results of such a system of education and its products were graphically described by a law teacher of experience and a former member of the Union Public Service Commission:
"There are already a plethora of LL.B's half-baked lawyers, who do not know even the elements of law and who are let loose upon society as drones and parasites in different parts of the country. As a member of the Union Public Service Commission, I have had occasions to interview several first class graduates of law from different Universities. Several of them did not know what subjects were prescribed either in the first or second LL.B; did not know the names of the books prescribed; did not know the sight of the books, because they had not seen them and asserted cheerfully that all they had done was to cram the lecturer's notes.
I can produce the names of the candidates who have given these answers to me, and the date and the time of the answers. This is a shocking thing, this kind of answer from a candidate who has obtained a first class in both parts of the LL.B. is indeed a sad state of affairs and must be corrected at an early date." This is what may truly be described as mass production of law graduates. What would one have thought of doctors or engineers or other technical men being trained in such a manner and let loose upon society?
9. Number of law colleges and their particulars.-
We annex a Statement at the end of this chapter showing the various institutions in the country imparting legal education and such particulars about them as we have been able to gather.
Role of lawyers in modern India.- It is unfortunate that we should have to present so dismal a picture of the character of the legal education imparted in the majority of institutions in our country. Apart from other considerations, the changes that have occurred and are occurring in the political, economic, and social life of the nation since the emergence of India as a sovereign democratic State require a radical alteration in the patterns of legal education, its objectives, scope and technique. In the India of today, men of law are bound to be called upon to play many and varies roles.
"If society is to be adapted to the profound changes in the basis of social and economic life, resulting from changes in world conditions after the war, and in India, particularly after 1947, we feel that is mainly the lawyers that India must look to. The legal profession is called upon to take stock of this situation and to contribute to wide social adjustments. If it fails to do it, it will ultimately be eliminated from the revolutionary scene. We feel that lawyers cannot remain aloof from these processes of evolution and legal education cannot wait until all other problems of the nation are solved. On the contrary, lawyers will be called upon to play an important part in these evolutionary processes. Their education, therefore, is of vital importance. This, therefore, is the right time for setting legal education on a sound basis."1
The Radhakrishnan Commission also expressed similar views.2
1. Report of the Bombay Legal Education Committee, 1949, p. 5.
2. Report of the University Education Commission, Vol. I, p. 258.
10. Re-orientation of legal education imperative.-
We express our entire agreement with these views. The conditions in India to-day make a complete reorientation of the outlook on legal education imperative. Before we consider specific problems relating to legal education, it is necessary to deal with some fundamental questions.