Understanding law dynamics and a glimpse into the legal education scenario in India

Looking for guidance for a law career in India? The article is an insight into the understanding of law as a dynamic concept and the varying dimensions that law has. This is followed by a glimpse of the scenario of legal education in India following the advent of the National Law Universities (NLUs). The main aim of the article is to shed some light on the dynamics of law and provide basic guidance on going for legal education in India.

Legal scholars as well as jurists spanning centuries, have failed in their attempts to adopt a unanimous definition for the three-lettered word "law." Law, howsoever simple the word may sound, is capable of possessing varied definitions and interpretations and thus, law can never be as such defined. However, in the simplest of terms it is defined as a system of rules/regulations made to govern the society we live in, to ensure some order and avoid chaos. That is the notion of law, as understood by the layman. However, complexities abound the term.

Origin of law

The origin of law is also a matter of confusion. In modern societies, we follow the Positivist School of Jurisprudence, which propounds that law is what is made by the sovereign and this sovereign can be the Parliament (as is the case in India) or any other body/individual from whom the law of a nation emanates.

The Positivists believe that law is "what it is" in comparison to the class of naturalists who have their own idea of how law "ought to be" thus bringing in an element of morality and subjectivity in law. To simplify the same, it can be stated there are different schools that have different ideas of what law is. While some argue that law is what is drafted/made by the person authorized to make the law and some who propound that "this is how law should/ought to be".

Coming to the question of source, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, law can essentially be grouped into four basic categories based on its origin: divine law (laws are nothing but the edicts of God; much like the Ten Commandments given to Moses), man-made (law is a product of the human mind), eternal law ( identical to the mind of God as seen by God himself; this implies that God being the creator of the Universe rules it akin to the leader of a community) and natural law(law as can be deciphered from nature by applying human reason). However, modern societies attribute origins of law to things like customs, judge-made laws (precedents) and that made by the legislative body of the Government.

Thus, the idea of what is law and its origin has varying dimensions and understandings.

Dynamism of Law

Law also has different fields and they are countless in number. Law is an inevitable aspect in our daily lives. Many people are of the notion that law is all about arguing a case before a judge in a court room, dressed in black robes. Law is much diversified than that (the avenues of the same have been discussed below) and with the advancement in technology, newer avenues are opening up. For instance, space law was born with the launch of Sputnik I and cyber law was born towards the end of the last century with the commencement of Internet and is constantly developing because technology is making rapid strides and since law cannot afford to be static, it is changing accordingly.

The Constitution that we have is the basic legal document enumerating all the powers and functions of the different organs of the Government namely the legislature, executive and the judiciary. All the other laws in India are based on the principles outlined in the Constitution. No statute can afford to go against the ideals of the Constitution.

Our Constitution is based on the principle of constitutionalism i.e. the constitution is equated as an organic document because based on current circumstances and exigencies, it can be amended, as law can never afford to be static because law has dynamism, it is a tool/instrument that governs the society and as we know a society is always evolving; thus law also evolves accordingly. For instance, until a few decades ago, Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) rights was an unpopular topic of debate, however, recent developments (the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 wherein Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was criminalized) have necessitated the need to recognize the rights of the LGBT community and currently, a set of seven curative petitions (a new concept in the Indian legal system wherein a petitioner is entitled to file a petition against a final ruling of the Supreme Court in rare cases to prevent gross miscarriage of justice) are pending challenging the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code before a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court. These developments reflect the dynamism i.e. law.

Legal Education in India

Historical Background

Until a few decades ago, law was a course that people opted for if they could not secure a seat in any engineering or medical college. Law as a career was rarely preferred and more often than not was given a step-motherly treatment and engineering and medical were considered noble professions (and they still continue to be so).

Over the years, people's perception has undergone a rapid change. With the mushrooming of new law colleges, every now and then, in every nook and corner of the country, law, finally has managed to establish itself as a reputed profession.

Paradigm shift in Legal Education in India

Legal education in India is undergoing speedy transformation owing to the coming up of the National Law Universities (NLUs) in different states of the country. Law as a field of study received its due share of importance much lately. Prior to the inception of NLUs, the situation of legal education in India was dismal and law degrees were conferred in colleges alongside a host of other courses.

NLUs, as the National Law Universities are commonly called are viewed as equivalent to IITs in case of legal studies. Also, the special feature of NLUs are that they are colleges focusing exclusively on law as an integrated course spanning five years that includes the social science subjects like political science, sociology, history including legal history, economics for the first three years along with lighter law subjects like the law of contracts, law of torts and constitutional law and then moving on to the core law subjects in the next two years unlike traditional universities prior to 1987 that imparted a three-years course on law post graduation; 1987 being the year of the establishment of the premier law institute in India: National Law School of India University(NLSIU) in Bangalore, also referred to as the "Harvard of the East" owing to the fact that the college ever since its inception has produced many legal stalwarts.

Such was the model of NLSIU that the Central Government through a Special Act sought the establishment of NLSIU-like colleges in all the states of India thus making it almost mandatory that every state must have an NLU and today, there are a total of 17 NLUs with a new one being established each year.

Securing Process

The all-India entrance test for law, called as Common Law Aptitude Test (CLAT) helps one to secure admissions to these elite law schools excluding National Law University, Delhi that conducts its own entrance test called AILET that expands to All India Law Entrance Test. CLAT as an all-India exam conducted collectively for all the NLUs as was directed by the Apex Court of India on the filing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by a concerned citizen in 2006 regarding the matter that holding of separate entrance test for each university cast an unnecessary burden on students when dates of different entrance tests clash.

The requisite subjects in CLAT are: elementary mathematics, legal aptitude (that mainly include the basics of contract law and law of torts), current affairs, English and logical reasoning. The duration of the exam is two hours and since 2013, negative marking of 0.25, per wrong answer, has been introduced with total number of questions being 200.

To aid and facilitate students in their preparation for the test, various coaching centers have opened up in different parts of the country providing crash courses or courses lasting 8-10 months.

It is generally suggested that a student aspiring a seat in the top NLUs must start preparing for the same right after matriculation examinations and towards the last few months, before the exam, are advised to appear for as many mock tests as possible with strict time schedules. Also, most of the CLAT toppers have emphasized on the regularity and consistency in the preparation and subscribing to national newspapers like The Hindu, The Economic Times along with magazines like Pratiyogita Darpan, Competition Success Review etc. to keep their knowledge of current affairs abreast.

CLAT, since 2014, has gone online.

Options post LL.B. degree

Students opting for law today have a number of options to choose from after their graduation. They can join the courts of law i.e. choose litigation as a career (arguing cases in a court of law), join a law firm, become a legal advisor of a multi-national company, join Non-Governmental Organizations, appear for the judicial services examination held in every state or go for higher studies in the form of LL.M, the duration of which has been reduced to a year recently.

It is the Bar Council of India that oversees the standards of legal education in India and accords recognition to colleges so that students can later join the bar.

One interesting aspect of law is that students in this field are always in demand and are seldom sitting jobless. Law is a necessity in every activity we undertake today; any bank activity, online transactions, securing the copyright over a book, sound recording, creating a design, starting an NGO, opening a business, etc. It is imperative that the ABCs of law must be known to all for infusing in us a sense of awareness because an old adage goes, "Ignorance of Law is not an Excuse."

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Author: Kailash Kumar12 Aug 2016 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

The Bar Council of India in consultation with the universities and the State Bar Councils has framed Rules of Legal
Education, 2008 regarding standards of legal education and recognition of degrees in law for the purpose of
enrollment as advocate and inspection of Universities for recognizing its degree in law. According to the set norms, a law college must be affiliated to a recognized university and should have adequate library facilities having AIR manual, Central Acts, Local Acts, Criminal Law Journal, AIR, SCC, Company Cases, subscription to online database, at least 10 internet access points with desktop facilities, reading room and qualified library staff.
It also requires that the full-time members of the faculty should have at least Master of Laws(LLM) degree or as prescribed by the UGC besides visiting faculty from the profession, judiciary or academia with a minimum experience of 10 years.

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