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The Changes India’s Legal Education Needs Right Now

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Many members of the Constituent Assembly were from the field of law, which was looked at as a bad thing by some since representation from others sections of society was needed to give a balanced view to the framing of the Constitution. The end result was a Constitution guaranteeing equality, freedom and right against exploitation, among other things. Although not a perfect Constitution, with a lack of right to privacy, which could have shortened the Aadhaar Supreme Court case to a few seconds and no codification of parliamentary privileges to prevent abuse by the legislators, but on the whole, a superbly written Constitution which has imbibed the best parts from a lot of other constitutions around the world, starting with that of the United States of America.

Legal education to nurture the new generation of lawyers must be in accordance with today’s societal needs and in this hyper-competitive global environment, must also be of top quality. Unfortunately, the present state of legal education in India is not.

Our law schools are only affiliated with the Bar Council of India (BCI) which carries out regular inspections. However, unfortunately, there is no extra credit given to specific law schools. No accreditation system is given to law schools around the country. This was recommended by the 16th Law Commission as well but has not been implemented as of now. An accreditation system works to generate instant competition and makes visible the recognition of the best law schools. This is needed. The Advocate Act of 1961 would need to be amended so that the BCI is granted the power of accreditation.

A question also arises out of uniformity. In our legal education system, there exist 3-year undergraduate degrees which run with the 5-year undergraduate degrees. In 2015, the Madras High Court recommended abolishing the 3-year LLB degree. The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in their 86th report concurred with this and mentioned the inclusion of the part-time law degree and law correspondence degrees on the chopping block. A basic sense of uniformity and standardisation is an obvious addition to our legal education as discrepancies in the type of education creates a wider gap than necessary for lawyers.

Inside the legal education framework, the most important human resource are our heroic teachers. Here, the deficiency is that full-time law teachers who teach for more than three hours are not allowed to practise law. They are also not allowed to take the higher judicial services exam. This makes the teaching too abstract and theoretical. The way to make our law professors and teachers be able to practise law and give exams is to amend the Advocate Act, 1961.

Much like the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Medical Council of India (MCI) regulate their respective fields and are established statutory bodies, in the Standing Committee report, a separate body altogether for legal education was suggested. Even a name was proposed – Indian Council of Legal Research (ICLR). The problem with the current setup is that the BCI is restricted to just the LLB undergraduate degree and the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulates the higher legal education as well as the overall quality of legal education in the whole country, in addition to all other educational fields such as political science and medicine.

Clearly, the BCI should stick to monitoring the quality of undergraduate education as an LLB is mandatory to enrol in the bar, whilst, the UGC is too broad-based and handles too much in terms of educational fields already. It should make the planning of courses for higher education in law as well as research in the field of law to the universities themselves. It should stick to providing recognition to legal institutes and regulating only the quality of legal education. The overall regulation, perhaps, requires a statutory body under the UGC Act, 1956.

Modernisation is a constant need. For law, doubly so. The Committee strongly recommended that arbitration, conciliation, mediation, etc. should be given special focus in legal education as well as looked at to be incorporated in schools. It is clear that in all aspects of life, a common citizen has some degree of interaction with the law and compliance costs for businesses as well as recognising the laws of a nation is important to live.

Even in the much-coveted national law universities, a majority of them are established by the states who have stopped funding them and since the Centre cannot fund them, they have to resort to funding themselves by raising student fees. The committee suggested that the UGC needs to frame rules under Section 25 to provide financial support. This is important as the national law universities were also recommended to be given ‘national eminence’ like the AIIMs and the IITs. You cannot have underfunded national universities. The UGC must immediately pick up the burden that the states have left and urge them to pick it up themselves. The need for a standard bearer for Indian law, like the IITs for engineering is great for optics as well as a benchmark to aspire to. Right now, the 17 NLUs are the top-tier in law. They need to be given eminent status and lessen the burden on students by getting funding from the Centre. To go further, they also need to start granting the equivalent of a Juris Doctorate (JD). Perhaps scrapping the post-graduate degree and replacing it with a JD which also includes the comprehensive nature of a JD would go a long way in doing that.

International law, which is largely neglected by our government itself is necessary as a subject and needs to be emphasised since treaty obligations affect every citizen and get incorporated into law if there is an absence of domestic legislation.

Sidenote – The Committee noted that The Bar Council of India (BCI) had overstepped its legislative competence under the Advocate Act 1961 through subordinate legislation. Under its Resolutions, Rules and Regulations, the BCI has taken over all aspects of legal education which was not the intention of the Advocate Act. It also noted that the Legal Education Committee (LEC) of Bar Council of India had more members than mandated under Section 10(2)(b) of the Advocate Act, 1961. Even the 5 lakh fee for affiliation paid to the BCI by law colleges is very high.

Our Constitution was made largely by lawyers. The system we have now is perhaps not the best to bring out another generation of extremely distinguished lawyers who can create something of that level. Modern machines are not what is needed and the booming of legal institutions must be looked at cautiously as overgrowth might mean a downgrade in quality. Our legal education must be setup to support the huge wave of students coming into the field of law and must change immediately to be the best platform for those students.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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