23 Jan 2008

Knowledge Commission of India: Pioneering Legal Education Reform

If asked to mention one of the achievements of Manmohan Singh’s government at the centre which truly defy the test of times and come at par with other eccentric moves towards development of the country, I would be quick to point out the establishment of the ‘National Knowledge Commission of India’. It has really been a boon under the wide powers vested under the Constitution with which the executive governments in India have come out with such commissions on regular basis, which have led defining movements in Indian history and I am sure that the Knowledge Commission would only further the trend. Taking cue from its predecessor (the ‘Planning Commission’, which again is only an executive body and not envisaged under the original Constitution), the Knowledge Commission has already set to task the efforts required to attain its objectives, which interestingly are very wide worded and if given their full effect, would lead India nothing short of a super-brain-power.

Defining its objectives, the website of the Commission sets out the following;

The overarching aim of the National Knowledge Commission is to enable the development of a vibrant knowledge based society. This entails both a radical improvement in existing systems of knowledge, and creating avenues for generating new forms of knowledge.

Greater participation and more equitable access to knowledge across all sections of society are of vital importance in achieving these goals.

In view of the above, the NKC seeks to develop appropriate institutional frameworks to:

  • Strengthen the education system, promote domestic research and innovation, facilitate knowledge application in sectors like health, agriculture, and industry.
  • Leverage information and communication technologies to enhance governance and improve connectivity.
  • Devise mechanisms for exchange and interaction between knowledge systems in the global arena.

And amongst this what I like is that in this incredibly short period of two years (yes, it is short compared to the time the various inquiry commissions etc. take to come out with reports which by the time are published are already obsolete), the Commission has already submitted five major reports on equally critical and important areas of concern for the country and has given its recommendations on a whole lot of areas, all of which are promising and require a careful handling in order to translate them into harbingers of growth for the country.

But then again (as I always believe in the justification approach) what is it in terms for law that I mention the Knowledge Commission on this blog? Well, it is for the Recommendations given by the Commission on ‘Legal Education’ in the country. [click here for full report] And that I really look forward for the recommendations to be implemented, I might as well go on to mention a few of them, which I think are really pivotal to bring out the best in the already intellectually sound legal fraternity in India.

The first key recommendation is the setting up of an ‘Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education’ or simply IRAHE. I really admire the reason for various reasons. First and foremost is the fact that this comes from top legal luminaries of India. Engaged for the preparation of the report were seven top legal academicians and luminaries of India all of whom have a laudable history of devotion and commitment to the profession. So the suggestion is worthwhile to pursue. Second of all, the experience of handling of legal education by Bar Council of India (BCI) in conjunction (but really this has not been of any meaning at all) with the State Bar Councils. The BCI has already got its hands full with more work that it can do, which ranges right from the regulation of professionals at the bar but also ensuring the standards of legal ethics being maintained in the courts (something which I am yet to hear of about in a positive tone). And then also for the fact that the second generation reform of law education, which began with the setting up of a lone law-dedicated school at Bangalore, have also yet seen its logical end and require a major thrust of centralized planning in this field or else the numbers (with which the law schools are coming up in the country) would surely grow out of proportion and it the focus may shift from rising of professional standards to divergent paths, something which is already coming up with the law schools offering novel degrees and experimenting with the legal education all by themselves.

The next recommendation is ensuing a ‘rating system’ for institutions catering to legal education; a suggestion which I think might turn out to be meaningfully meaningless unless implemented in its spirit. Meaningless because without any such ratings being given by a governmental agency, the IITs and IIMs and the medical colleges in the country are already performing well and in fact have worked hard to achieve a prestige and reputation to earn the rating points they deserve and the same might not be forthcoming if there exists an agency to rate the institutions for it would rate even the undeserving ones and might even malfunction unlike rating by market forces which simply is based on strengths and prospects alone and not by influential contacts in an agency.

But then I am a personal fan of the Knowledge Commission not without a reason. The recommendations relating to ‘curriculum development’, ‘examination system’ and ‘measures to attract and retain talented faculty’ are few of those which are think are not only worthwhile but also the need of the hour for this profession which is facing change at a rapid pace. [In fact I had an occasion to write about the falling standards of teaching profession in India. click here for the post] Then there are other recommendations as well such as; catering to the need for ensuring proper insistence of research standards and creation of Centers for Advanced Legal Studies And Research (CALSAR); making arrangements with financial of legal education (which would really do a world of good to the law schools which are able to work at break-even alone because of the un-forthcoming donations and sponsorships); bringing a sense of internationalization in the way things take place; using technology for dissemination of legal education; etc. are also not just worth pondering over but to be given full effect to right from now.

I felt heartily well to have read the report. This reminded me the words of Prof. N.L. Mitra who spoke to us on our first day at law school (that being 15th July, 2002) that what we had seen in our limited experience with law was set to change and change in a big way; with technology pioneering the way and an all-rounder and dedicated approach required for law, there was no place for mediocres in the profession. I am sure that his vision of legal profession in the country would be done a lot of good with the adoption and proper implementation of these recommendations.


Veda Informatics said...

Legal education needs a big change in India... read this... thttp://www.lawisgreek.com/time-to-change/

smith said...

This is a very interesting proposal. Two questions occur to me. First, how would this impact, if at all, the issue of cost of legal education ? Second, while I see how it would produce graduates with more immediately useful skills, it is not clear whether it would address the issue of the excess supply of lawyers currently being produced by the law schools.