Kapil Sibal on Reforms in Legal Education

Newspapers today are reporting a speech by the HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal, calling for sweeping reforms in legal education. From the reported accounts it appears that Sibal is making two main points:

1. Bar Council should have a limited role in Legal Education. This point has been repeatedly made earlier by others, including the National Knowledge Commission. This blog has also discussed this issue in several posts, available here. The central issue involved in this debate over the role of the Bar Council, is the very purpose of legal education. Bar Council’s control over the process seems to be premised to a large extent on the understanding that (a) the purpose of legal education, and of law schools, is to produce litigating lawyers,and (b) that practising lawyers are best equipped to guide in this process. Even if we were to accept the first contention (which is itself problematic-see here CJI’s recent lament on the dearth of law graduates opting for judicial services, and “most importantly”, law teaching), the second does not necessarily follow, simply because practicing lawyers are not necessarily trained in education policy.

2. Legal education should be broad-based, and an undergraduate paper on B.A. Law should be introduced as part of other undergraduate curricula. This appears to be in recognition of the role that law plays in daily life, as well as its interface with different professions and vocations.

Sibal himself recognizes the “vested interests”- I guess he is referring to sections of the Bar Council here – who want to stall reforms. Last week, the Bar Council had responded sharply to Sibal’s proposal, particularly his efforts to set up a Round-Table on Legal Education. However, even if the government decides to expend political capital on overcoming this hurdle, we do need to take a look at available alternatives to the present regulatory structure. If the alternative is that regulation of legal education should be left to legal academics, the larger question remains: is the Indian legal academia equipped and robust enough to do not only a relatively better, but an absolutely good, job of regulating legal education, and of taking on the onerous responsibility of guiding the future of legal knowledge?

Written by
Aparna Chandra
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  • Would removing legal education from the BCI's control lead necessarily to some sort of bar examination system in the country? This might be the point that would most concretely affect future Indian law students.

  • Aparna, thanks for the post. Personally, I have deep reservations against the introduction of an undergraduate paper in law. I think there are strong reasons for pursuing the study of law in an interdisciplinary context and the current requirement of an undergraduate degree in the social sciences before/in tandem with a degree in law provides some kind of interdisciplinary framework for the study of law, however imperfect it may be. To get rid of the requirement of an undergraduate degree in social sciences altogether is clearly problematic and would result in continuation of the study of law as body of rules and dogma divorced from their historical, socio-political and economic context.

  • Thanks for the comment Namita. My understanding of Sibal's proposal was that he is not advocating the intriduction of an undergraduate paper only in law (leading to a law degree). From what I gathered, the idea was to have one paper in law- which will give a broad overview of the basic tenets and institutional structure of the legal system.
    If the proposal is as you suggest, I share all your concerns.

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