“In a world divided by differences of nationality, race, colour, religion and wealth [the rule of law] is one of the greatest unifying factors, perhaps the greatest, the nearest we are likely to approach to a universal secular religion.”
These lines by the former chief justice of the United Kingdom require a significant look into from countries. What justice Bingham tends to evince here is that the foundation of any country relies on the rule of law and countries should be consigned to hold the majesty of the rule of law.[i] The legal education is also considered as ‘sine qua non’ for the rule of law in any democratic country where this sacrosanct rule worked as a driving course such as India.[ii] Therefore it becomes necessary in India that a proper and effective legal education should be in course.
However, it’s being claimed by the literature that in India legal education is a matter of concern due to many factors. The reason behind this current condition is also considered to be deep-rooted from British reign. It’s a matter of fact that the British era paid a gross ignorance in recognizing the unique nature of law as a profession. The perfect example of it is the negation of the recommendations made by Mr H.B.Grigg where he advised for the establishment of a council of legal education.[iii] The scholars consider such ignorance as the founding paves of current deplorable conditions of legal education in which is endlessly going on.
However, the fact can also be not denied that endeavours are incessantly continuing from the many regulatory bodies to overcome from this current situation. The author in this piece discusses the roles and responsibilities of such bodies. The author also assesses the practical applicability of their endeavours to assess the accurate progress of legal education in India in recent times.
Legal Education in India
Before delving into the discussion of regulatory bodies it is pertinent to understand the nature of legal education, its importance in this democratic country, its aims, and objects. Legal education has been defined as, “a human science which furnishes beyond techniques, skills, and competences the basic philosophies, ideologies, critiques, and instrumentalities all addressed to the creation and maintenance of a just society”.[iv]
Legal education aims to provide us with a way to articulate the theory of a free and fair society. It assists us in envisioning and accomplishing the object of our constitution which is to secure justice, liberty, and equality for everyone.[v] As it is legal education that imparts the knowledge of the country’s necessary culture in a learned professional who further holds the duty to uphold this view in the society[vi] as Lord Denning has defined, legal education points us the right road for prosperous future development.[vii] It also enhances the human sensibility and injects them a sense of protecting human liberty and equality before the law.[viii]
As per the doctrine “ignorantia juris non excusat” ignorance of the law is itself a sin and a person would not be absolved from his liability merely because he didn’t know the law.[ix] Thus, it is not wrong to say that a basic knowledge of the law is supposed to be maintained by everyone. This in turn ostensibly establishes the unique character of legal education as it not only necessary mandates to be possessed by the course endearing professionals but also by a common man.
However, despite its essentiality, legal education has become nothing but a subsidiary educational course. This can also be evident from the recently released QS world university rankings where no Indian law university was mentioned in the top 200 universities.[x] However, some other universities like IISc Banglore, IIT Bombay, and IIT Delhi were able to secure their place in the top 200.[xi] Even, in the exclusive law colleges’ index released by the QS law university rankings, no Indian law university could make its place in the top 100.
The top-ranking college was Jindal Global College (ranked 101-150), while the National Law School of Indian University placed second with the global ranking of 151-200.[xii] Pursuance to this, legal literacy rate of India is also very inadequate[xiii]since a competent legal education not only helps to produce good lawyers but also to create cultured law-abiding citizens, who are inculcated with concepts of human values, legal ethics, and human rights.[xiv]
In light of the above discussion, it becomes important to find out the root cause behind such deplorable conditions of legal education. The rules and standards pertaining to legal education are regulated by some regulatory bodies. In the next section, the author will discuss the roles and responsibilities of such regulatory bodies and will further analyze the existing lacunae of such bodies.
Roles and Responsibilities
University Grant Commission
University Grant Commission (Hereinafter as ‘The UGC’) was established on the recommendations of the education committee headed by the S. Radhakrishnan. The UGC came into existence on 28 August 1953 under the chairmanship of first education minister Maulana Abdul Azad.[xv]
However, it was established as a statuary body only in 1956 after the passing of the University Grant Commission act, 1956(Hereinafter as ‘The Act’) under Section 4 of the Act.[xvi] The object behind the introduction of UGC was to bring uniformity and stability in the education sector. Consequently, UGC was given certain roles and responsibilities along with the power to make them effectively implemented. Here are some prominent working functions of UGC-
The UGC is the only grant-giving agency in the country. It has the responsibility to provide the funds to the educational institute; maintaining the uniform standards in institutions of higher education; promoting and coordinating the university education; measuring the proper method of teaching, examination and research in institutions; drafting minimum standard education regulations;[xvii] advising centre and state governments on any measurements that need to be taken for the sake of educational developments in the country; it also works as the bridge of communication between government and universities; the UGC also conducts inquiries if the question of dispute or breach of code conduct arises in any educational institutions. In addition to this UGC can also recommend some necessary reforms to universities for the improvement of legal education standards.[xviii] Such recommendations as the Apex Court held in Prem Chand Jain v R.K. Chabbra will mandatorily be followed by the Universities.[xix]
However, there are some practicability loopholes regarding the roles and responsibilities of the UGC. So, for example, one of the greatest adversities that legal education facing today is the absence of trained teaching staff. This was also noticed by the law commission of India in its 184th report where it recommended the establishment of at least four training colleges around the four corners of the country. However, it hasn’t been implemented till yet.[xx]
In addition to this, the law commission in its 14the report recognizing the practical impossibility of the UGC communicating with every college suggested the formation of the ‘legal education committee’ which should also include academicians, however, barring few instances no academicians have been included ever in the UGC.[xxi] Furthermore, while there is no provision to include the member in commission from every branch it is quite unfortunate that since the inception of the UGC no legal academicians have joined the member board.
Further, though few commendable steps have been taken up by the UGC to standardize the legal education in the country. The results of such endeavours never came as per the expectations. Examples of such failure steps are the establishment of a panel headed by retired Supreme Court justice to reform the legal education[xxii]; special assistance scheme; introduction of advanced studies in law, and many more.[xxiii]
Bar Council Of India
After the Independence, a uniform judicial system was opted for through the constitution. However, soon the concerns were raised regarding the norms of different – different qualifications criterion prescribed by the different High courts for enrollment as a lawyer. In addition to this, there was also non-uniformity in the required criterion of qualifications prescribed by the colleges for admission.[xxiv]
Since such norms were going against the concept of; ‘a uniform judicial system’ an All India Bar Committee was established under the chairmanship of the Supreme Court judge to look into the matter. The Committee in its report recommended the formation of a national apex body to deal with all the issues about legal education and profession. It also recommended the formation of such a body at the state level, for better implementation of rules and regulations.[xxv] To implement the recommendations of the committee the then government passed the Advocates act, 1961 which formerly introduced the Bar Council of India.
Bar Council of India (Hereinafter as ‘The BCI’) was introduced under section 4 of the advocates act 1961.[xxvi] It was established to provide a sole authority that would deal with all concerns of the legal profession and legal education in India. Thus, improving the standard of both. The BCI was empowered to promote legal education and lay down ‘standards’ of such education in consultation with the Universities imparting such education.[xxvii] It also lays down the minimum qualifications required to enrol in any universities or colleges.[xxviii]
The BCI is also the responsible body to decide the qualification required for enrollment as an advocate.[xxix] Further, as per the Directorate of Legal Education introduced in 2010, the BCI is also responsible to organize a legal event, trained the teacher, specialized professional courses, conducting the student exchange programs, Publication of standard textbooks in all branches of law as well as law-related subjects, train young law graduates, Establishing clinical education in law colleges for which a scheme of legal aid clinics in law colleges have to be introduced.[xxx]
Moreover, the BCI in 1974 created a public charitable organization named, ‘Bar council of India Trust’. The object behind the introduction of the trust was to maintain the professional standard, improvements in the standard of legal education with the establishment of new law schools, uplifting the standard of legal researches. The establishment of the National Law School, Bangalore is also an endeavour of it.[xxxi]
However, there are several procedural loopholes in the functioning of the BCI which are going unnoticed. This in turn keeping the legal education behind the line of inadequacy. While for all other professional education there is a separate body in the country i.e. for engineering – All India Council for Technical Education for legal education there is no such body exists.
The BCI is not this sort of body since it also has the responsibility to perceive the legal practitioners as well. Further, it also doesn’t carry the power to instruct the universities as suggestions made by them don’t carry mandatory provision as held by the judiciary in Apoorv Yadav v. The University of Delhi. [xxxii]
In addition to this, some other procedural failures in the functioning of the BCI also exist, for example, the law commission in its 14th report suggested including at least five academicians in its twelve member’s legal education committee.[xxxiii] However, till yet the BCI has never followed this instruction with maximum including only three members at a time.
Furthermore, despite being termed as ‘the guardian’ of the legal education in India the BCI was able to introduce the Curriculum Development Committee only in 2010, since 49 years of its inception. Consequently, today legal education in India is suffering from poor infrastructure; and the unsound number of learners in classrooms; lack of teachers; outdated syllabus; worn-out methodology; ill-equipped colleges and many more.
The discussion on the judiciary becomes necessary because all the bodies discussed here are regulated by the judiciary itself. This means to say the Indian judiciary works like the supreme guardian for ensuring the betterment of legal education and like the guardian the judiciary has always come in support of it by regulating all such bodies appropriately.
The courts have several times interfered in the proceedings of the BCI and UGC to protect the rights of citizens. For example in V. Sudeer v. the State of Punjab[xxxiv], the court struck down the order of the BCI where it notified mandatory one-year training before enrolling as an advocate considering it again the fundamental rights of an individual.
In, Indian council of legal aid and advice v. Bar Council of India[xxxv] the Supreme Court struck down the instructions directed by the BCI where it directed that a person aged more than forty-five years would be no entitled to enrol as an advocate.
Further, in the State of Maharashtra v. Manubhai Pragaji Vashi[xxxvi], the apex court struck down the decision of Maharashtra government where it denied the grant-in-aid to recognized private law colleges by considering it violative of Article 21[xxxvii] and 39A[xxxviii] of the constitution of India. In addition to this, the courts have also strengthened the functioning of the BCI and the UGC.
For Example, In the Bar council of India v. Aparna Basu Mallick,[xxxix] the top court held that the bar council of India has the authority to prescribe the standards of legal education requirements to be implemented by the university. These standards can be about attendants, moot courts, research papers, lectures, etc.
Further, the courts have also encouraged the promotion of legal education in the country as in Deepak Sibal v Punjab University[xl] the court said that “study of law should be encouraged as far as possible without any unreasonable intervention with more legal education development in the country.”
However, the judgment of the courts in cases like Sobhana Kumar v Mangalore[xli], Apoorv Yadav v. The University of Delhi[xlii], where it stated that “BCI can only prescribe minimum standards for entry into bar whereas the universities or the law colleges can prescribe higher standards”, have restricted the functioning of the BCI as such holding by the judiciary has made the BCI a powerless body which consequently has demerited the legal education in India.
It goes without saying that the legislative body plays invariably a major role in reforming the education of any country. Ostensibly the introduction of the UGC and BCI are the results of such legislative endeavours. However, the legislative response towards bringing the reforms in legal education is conspicuously slow. As in its 184th report, the law commission figured out the dire need of amendment in the UGC and BCI. However, the legislation has failed to respond to it even till now.[xliii]
In addition to it, the legislatures also have failed to bring innovative ideas by inspiring from other countries. For example, many countries like New Zealand, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh have established a completely separate body to improve legal education in their country bypassing appropriates acts.[xliv] Whereas our legislatures have failed to borrow such ideas this consequently has resulted in the ongoing pathetic condition of legal education in India.
Other Regulatory Bodies
Many other regulatory bodies also contribute to the reformation of legal education few of them are National legal services authority (Hereinafter as ‘NALSA’), National Assessment and Accreditation Council (Hereinafter as ‘NAAC’), Law Commission, etc.
The NAAC is a rating giving agency it was introduced in 2012 and was implemented from 2015 by the UGC. Since the inception of this UGC provides funds only to those universities and colleges who scores well in the NAAC credit agency.[xlv]
In India, there are approx. 1200 law colleges; however, the credit rating assessment happens only in 50 law colleges of India. Further, while assessing the other universities, the NAAC evolves and changes its parameter of assessments according to the prescription of the profession. However, for law colleges, a general procedure is being followed.
This consequently reduced the ratings of law colleges this further deprived them of the advantages that the top university of India gets. Additionally, it’s also lower down the perceived value of law colleges and consequently makes legal education nothing but a supplementary course.[xlvi] NALSA which is also supposed to educate people about law failing immensely since most of its initiations work only onto the papers.[xlvii] While the lack of implementation of its decades ago recommendations are itself a gross failure for the law commission.
“Law is the consent of society and an essential medium of change” as the dimension of legal education is not limited only to imparting learning alone but also encouraging the other members of the society for a collective change in the society and in the past, we have already experienced it. From our father of the nation to the biggest contributor in the making of the constitution most of the leaders who fought for our independence were lawyers by the profession. Even in this current time, many front leaders of the country have studied law. This again highlights the dynamical nature of law as to how it carries societal change objects at its core.
However, as the above discussion suggests, the legal education currently suffering from many backlogs which consequently resulting in the deprivation of the object it tends to achieve. Therefore, it is the dire need of time to shift the focus towards the development of legal education profoundly. The author based on the existing lacunae (discussed above in light of organizational loopholes) has provided few suggestions which are as follows-
Since the discussion was around organizational loopholes the given suggestions are also around to it. One of the major changes that required today is the formation of a “Council of legal education” which would deal with all the standards and regulations about legal education exclusively. It will help to emphasize more on legal education. As currently, there are no such institutions exist however for other streams education there are such institutions. The establishment of such council has been advocated frequently however, unfortunately, it failed to implement.
Initially, it was recommended long back in 1855 by H.B.Grigg. Dr B.R. Ambedkar in 1936 had also verified the need for such a council.[xlviii] Further, The Bombay Legal education committee formed in 1935 to make reforms in legal education also supported the need of a separate council for legal education.[xlix] In recent days also the demand for such council has been vocalized as the National Knowledge commission formed in 2007 had unequivocally supported this view and demanded the formation of the “Council of legal education”. However, nothing has been done in this direction till yet.[l]
Furthermore, there should also be the establishment of a ‘National Institute of Legal Education’ to train the teachers. Prof. Upendra Baxi has also recommended the same.[li] In addition to this the law commission also in its 184th report emphasized this aspect.[lii] Moreover, there is also the need for a separate accredited agency for law schools. In the above discussion, we learned how this common accredited agency is failing to recognize the parameters of measurement for a law college which consequently degrading the real value and reputation of the law colleges. An exclusive agency for this purpose will serve two major benefits to our legal education.
Firstly, it will enhance the reach of such agencies over other universities/ colleges also (currently, NAAC took only a few universities in its consideration) which will consequently raise the possibility of getting grant-in-aid by the UGC for small colleges which in light of the major colleges are going unnoticed.
This, in turn, needless to say, will improve the legal education status not only at the higher level (in so-called, “National Law Universities”) but also at ground level through small colleges. Further, such ratings will vouch for the true picture of law colleges (as now parameters will be according to their scope) this, in turn, would help them to take their place in the top universities of India (a place dominated by the other professionals’ college) as well as globally.
However, as of writing this note the picture of the legal education in the current time is still very gloomy and the above-discussed suggestions, needless to say, will require significant time for implementation. Therefore, till then both UGC and BCI must work together extensively with the more emphasis on the betterment of legal education.
New ways, for this reason, should be established especially in this time of PC applications and information advancement in the lawful fields and expected businesses of the web in the act of law and legitimate training. They should find the ways and means to address the new challenges and give better mechanical assemblies of exploration and methodology of learning for the ages to come. In addition to this, the apex court also has to be more conscious while pronouncing its judgment about legal education. While other contributors such as legislators and NALSA also need to play a more active role.
[i] M/S Bhandari Engineers & Builders v. M/S Maharia Raj Joint Venture & Ors; Correspondent, Judges, lawyers must work together to uphold the majesty of law, Business Standard (October 28, 2018),
[ii] Prof RAJA MUTTHIRULANDI, Indian Council For Legal Education (ICLE) & National Accreditation Agency For Legal Education (Naale): For Development Of Legal Education In India And For Amelioration Of Prevailing Afflictions In The Field, SSRN (March 19, 2016), https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=191017121025029007088077087094121117118011008021008010118087104004104067108068067105024021120009040036108010078121113121122080110055007050032007066066111075122016094000075000095118125110011092116113001025115016078064095125069122005004071007086073026124&EXT=pdf
[iii] University Of Madras 1857-1957, History of Higher ·Education in South India Vol. II University of Madras 1857-1957 Affiliated Institutions, P.220-21, http://188.8.131.52/bitstream/1/2040310/1/TNV-22.pdf.
[v] Bharti, ―Legal Education-Some Critical Issues‖, 1999, p.122 as observed at http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/article/legal-education-&-its-aims-126-1.html.
[vi] Agarwal, S.K.,‖A Report on Legal Education in India-Problems and Perspectives‖,1972.
[vii] Mishra, D.N. ―Legal Education in India: Present Status and Prospects‖ in the book, ―Legal Education in India in 21st Century‖, Jan.1999, p.19.
[viii] Agarwal, S.K., ―A Report on Legal Education in India-Problems and Perspectives‖, 1972, as observed in supra note 12.
[ix] R. L. Narasimham and R.L. Narasimhan, Journal of the Indian Law Institute, Vol. 13, No. 1 (JANUARY-MARCH 1971), pp. 70-78, “IGNORANTIA JURIS NON EXCUSAT: Ignorance of Law is no Excuse”.
[x] Roshni Chakrabarty, No Indian institute among top 100 in QS World University Rankings 2021: What is India doing wrong? India Today (June 11, 2020) https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/news/story/qs-world-university-rankings-2021-no-indian-institute-among-top-100-1687870-2020-06-11.
[xi] Heeba Hameed, QS World Ranking 2021: Three Indian universities in top 200, Times of India (June, 10, 2020) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/qs-world-ranking-2020-three-indian-universities-in-top-200/articleshow/76295989.cms.
[xii] Shihabudeen Kunju S, Two Indian Law Schools Among Top 200 Of QS World Subject Rankings, NDTV (May 4, 2020) https://www.ndtv.com/education/qs-world-university-subject-rankings-2020-jindal-global-law-school-national-law-school-of-india-univ-2189836.
[xiii] Nirmalya Chaudhary, Towards complete legal literacy, The Hindu (January 5, 2020), https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/towards-complete-legal-literacy/article30479979.ece
[xiv] Correspondent, Scenario of Legal Education in India, Shobhganga, https://sg.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/68186/13/13_chapter%204.pdf.
[xvi] University Grants Act, 1956, Section 4(1)- With effect from such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint, there shall be established a Commission by the name of the University Grants Commission.
[xvii] Section 12, University Grants Act, 1956.
[xviii] Section 12(d), University Grants Act 1956.
[xix] Prem Chand Jain v. R.K. Chabbra, 1984 SCR (2) 883.
[xx] 184th Law Commission report, http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/184threport-PartI.pdf.
[xxi] Supra note 2.
[xxii] N.L.Mitra, Legal education in India, Conference of International Legal Educators, Florence, Italy (2000) http://www.aals.org/2000international/english/India.htm%5D
[xxiii] Supra note 2.
[xxiv] In February – March 1950 the Inter-University Board at its annual meeting held in Madras passed a resolution emphasizing the desirability of having uniformly high standards for the law examinations in the different Universities of the country in view of the fact, that under the new Constitution a Supreme Court of India had been established and stressing the need for an all India Bar.
[xxvi] Section 4, Advocates Act 1961.
[xxvii] Section 7(1) (h), Advocates Act, 1961.
[xxviii] Section 49 (a) (f), Advocates Act, 1961.
[xxix] Section 49(a) (b), Advocates Act, 1961.
[xxx] Legal Education in India status and problems‖, Bar Council of India Trust, 1st Edition, 1983.
[xxxi] Supra note 14.
[xxxii]Apoorv Yadav v. The University of Delhi, The High Court of DelhiW.P.(C) 256/2014.
[xxxiii] 14th Report of the Law Commission of India, 1958 P 520: All- India Bar Council which was to consist of representatives of the various State Bar Councils should have a Legal Education Committee of twelve persons. The Committee was to consist of two judges, five persons to be elected by the All-India Bar Council and five other persons from the Universities co-opted by these seven members, 14th Law Commission Report, http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/1-50/report14vol1.pdf
[xxxiv] V. Sudeer v. the State of Punjab (1999) 3 SCC 176.
[xxxv] Indian council of legal aid and advice v. Bar Council of India AIR 1995 SC 691.
[xxxvi] State of Maharashtra v. Manubhai Pragaji Vashi 1995 SCC (5) 730
[xxxvii] Article 21, the Constitution of India 1950.
[xxxviii] Article 39A, the Constitution of India 1950.
[xxxix] Bar council of India v. Aparna Basu Mallick 1994 SCC (2) 102.
[xl] Deepak Sibal v Punjab University AIR 1989 SC 493.
[xli] Sobhana Kumar v Mangalore AIR 1985 Karnataka 223.
[xlii]Apoorv Yadav v. The University of Delhi, The High Court of DelhiW.P.(C) 256/2014.
[xliii] Supra note 20.
[xliv] Supra note 2.
[xlvi] Supra note 2.
[xlvii] U.Sarathchandran, Bringing legal aid a step closer home, The Hindu ( November 09, 2011), https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/bringing-legal-aid-a-step-closer-home/article2609718.ece
[xlviii] In an article in a Magazine of Law College (Bombay) 1936, [P 15] as quoted in Law Commission Report 1958.
[xlix] The Bombay Legal Education Committee[ Report P 48]
[l] National Knowledge Commission in its report 2007, has suggested that the new body shall be one comprising eminent lawyers, BCI members, judges, academicians, representatives from trade, commerce and industry, economists, social workers, students and others, http://184.108.40.206/inputprogram/lecturefiles/sampitroda.pdf
[li] Lovely Dasgupta, Reforming Indian Legal Education: Linking Research and Teaching.
[lii] Supra note 20.