By Bipasha Nath:
In 2014, the Bar Council of India revoked its affiliation to the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi as the institution did not file the application for the inspection and affiliation by the BCI, mandatory under the Legal Education Rules of 2008. This meant that the students who passed out from the college in 2014 would be denied enrolment as advocates. According to the rules, when a college applies for renewal of affiliation, the college has to undergo a rigorous inspection after which BCI decides whether the college is fit to function as a law college or not. When the inspection happened at DU Faculty of Law later, its administrative irregularities such as the disproportionate teacher-student ratio, infrastructural problems among others came to the fore. The college was given a one year notice to abide by all of BCI’s rules and was granted temporary affiliation.
This year, things escalated when BCI stood firm on DU complying with its rule regarding the number of seats to be allotted and the shutting down of evening classes. DU had already given admission to 2310 students. According to BCI norms, it could only admit 1440. As a result, admission counselling was delayed. Students who were waiting to be admitted were left hanging by the administration as they had no information as to whether they would get admission or not. As a result, DU Law Faculty’s student community along with the students who were to be admitted started an indefinite hunger strike to appeal to the BCI to revoke their decision about cutting down the number of seats. Finally, on August 21, the Bar Council of India released a notice that allowed Delhi University to enrol 2310 students into Faculty of Law for the Academic Session 2016-2017 and continue to hold evening classes for second and third-year students.
Despite repeated warnings, it was only during this year that the Faculty of Law made some definite plans to change the existing scenario, by promising to lessen the student-teacher ratio and holding classes in the new academic block. According to Stuti Bhandari, a final year student of the college, inaction on part of the authorities occurred due to frequent changes made to the position of Dean of College because of which concrete decisions could not be made in time to avoid last minute complications in the admission process. The admissions committee, as well as the college faculty, remained unavailable for comment.
Korai Raichand* is a literature graduate who had been preparing for DU Law Faculty’s entrance exam quite extensively and had planned to pursue law before even starting with his undergraduate programme in Ramjas College. He says, “The syllabus for DU LLB Entrance is no walk in the park. It deals with general knowledge, current affairs, Mathematics, English, Logical and Legal Aptitude. It was hard for me to temporarily sideline sports and photography to prepare for the exam.” Voicing concern over the affiliation, he says, “Students graduating from DU LLB will have a LLB degree but won’t be registered as lawyers. They won’t be allowed to practice law in any court – no institution, be it national or international, will recognise the degree if affiliation is absent.”
The issue was eventually taken up by student political parties such as ABVP and NSUI. The admission fiasco created problems for party members as well because it was necessary to get admission to any college in the University to be eligible for contesting in the elections. Stuti shared how this affected students in the second and third year as well. She told Campus Watch, “Classes had been suspended for both second as well as third-year students and we will have to arrange for extra classes to cover up for the loss.” Many students had a common complaint that classes were not being held in quick succession. There were long gaps between lectures, which made it difficult for students to engage in other activities at a stretch. Starting a new academic session on such an unstable note undoubtedly weighed heavily on the minds of students.
However, there were many who saw the setback as a stepping stone to better times. Neha Mehta*, a final year student, believes that the decision to bring down the number of seats was a great move since they were accommodating too many students, with no infrastructure or faculty to support them. The overall image of Delhi University’s Law Faculty has been declining steadily as they are following a rather redundant system and due to all the ruckus with BCI. Yet, she voices confidence and pride in the quality of lawyers produced by the law school. She feels that even though the current situation is very tricky, the long-term benefits of change will be worth it.
*Names have been changed.