Incorporating Legal Aid Into Law School Curriculum: Desire or Liability?

This paper seeks to bring out the procedure which the researcher has applied to review the present scenario regarding incorporation of Legal Aid Into Law School Curriculum. The Legal Services Authorities 1987 defines " legal aid as providing free an proper legal services to the wanting section of the society for ensuring equality before the law thereby securing the right to a fair trial."

Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to poor and wanting section of the society through incorporation of Article 39-A in the Directive Principles of State Policies in the year 1976, prescribing upon the state to assure justice on the basis of equal opportunity by assuring free legal aid to deserved ones. Other Articles like Article 14 and 22(1) also prescribes the State to promulgate free legal aid to the weaker section of society by giving a right of legal consulting for ensuring before law. The Bar Council Rules for Legal Education, 2008 mandates every affiliated centre of legal education to establish and run a legal aid clinic under the supervision of a senior faculty member.However, in the light of establishing and incorporating legal aid center's and Legal Aid into Law School curriculum there exists a wide gap between theory and practice. When compared on paper it seems that there are more than sufficient provisions for ensuring the fact the legal aid is a part of Law school curriculum but in reality the situation of Legal Aid being a part of Law school curriculum is really miserable. Every law school has a Legal Aid clinic to show but only a few really function like a legal aid clinic. Establishing a Legal Aid Clinic is a more a burden for all law schools rather than a desire as legal aid clinics are established but they rarely function. The researcher would like to review all the related cases, articles and data's of various law schools to draw an inference about the present situation of this issue.

In light of above stated research methods researcher would like to attain a conclusion that now is the high time for the concerned authorities, law schools and general public to discuss about it and come out with solutions which is most probably new legislation or better enforcement of existing provisions for ensuring the fact that legal aid becomes a part of Law school curriculum because it can reduce the burden of the already over burdened judiciary to a great extent and lead the way to legal literacy.

1:-Introduction

Legal Aid through law students is based on a pedagogy called “Clinical Legal Education”, often explained as ‘learning through doing’[1], is a method for law teachers and students to learn, as well as empower others, from researching and explaining the law’s requirements and mechanisms for securing entitlements to basic necessities. The Indian Constitution according to its constitutional theory described as its basic structure theory directs that every citizen should be provided reasonable access to justice. But this constitutional right in practice has wide gap from theory. The purpose behind writing this paper was, to check whether the luxury guaranteed by the Constitution is really enjoyed by the needy ones or not?

The Legal Services Authorities 1987 defines “legal aid as providing free a proper legal services to the wanting section of the society for ensuring equality before the law thereby securing the right to a fair trial."

Constitution of India provides for free legal aid to poor and wanting section of the society through incorporation of Article 39-A in the Directive Principles of State Policies in the year 1976, prescribing upon the state to assure justice on the basis of equal opportunity by assuring free legal aid to deserved ones. Other Articles like Article 14 and 22(1) also prescribes the State to promulgate free legal aid to the weaker section of society by giving a right of legal consulting for ensuring before law. The Bar Council Rules for Legal Education, 2008 mandates every affiliated centre of legal education to establish and run a legal aid clinic under the supervision of a senior faculty member. [2]

Thus the law schools are expected to play a vital role in the proper administration of justice. Legal Education Centers are the budding grounds for upcoming legal professionals, so law schools are the most appropriate place to engage law students in legal aid so that they become socially relevant, learn basic skills of justice and in doing so they will protect the constitutional right of legal aid.

Earlier providing legal aid by involving law students to the needy section of the society was not considered ideal by educational reformers till the Bar Council of India in 1997 made Legal Aid a compulsory component of law school curriculum i.e., legal aid was required to be taught compulsorily by all legal education Centres across India. This decision of the Bar Council of India came as a new ray of Hope for the poor and weaker section of the society.

2:-Obejectives

The researcher through this paper wants to assess

1) The state of Legal Service Clinics across legal education centers across India?

2) The quality of services provided by such Legal Aid Clinics?

3) To find out the population that participates in such activities and to see that whether there is an interaction with the community outside?

3-:Research Methodology

Being a law student I have friends in other law colleges and contacts with other legal professionals. Helped by this fact I have collected information about Legal Aid Clinics of various law schools and compared it with top legal aid clinics of India and other countries to find out whether Legal Aid Clinics of law schools really function or they are there only because they have been made mandatory by the Bar Council of India. The researcher has gone through many articles and surveys conducted by many organizations related to topic to gain basic idea of 'role played by law schools across India in providing free Legal Aid'.

4:-Findings

According to a report given by UNDP in India (United Nations Development Programme) 82% of the colleges have Legal Aid Clinics which are under the control of a senior designated faculty member.[3] But only a few of them actually provide services that a Legal Aid Clinic should provide. There are no marks or academic recognition attached for being a part of Legal Aid for students, thus the students are not really enthusiastic about being a part of Legal Aid Society because there are no rewards attached for being an active member of the Legal Aid Society. They think of legal aid being an extra burden over the already overburdened curriculum they face, like studying Civil Procedure Code within a semester of six months. In most of the law schools the faculties are also much burdened as they face a very tight schedule thus having no time for conducting legal aid programmes and trainings that would dearly like to do. There are few students and faculty only who are really interested in Legal Aid but because they being very few in number generally their demands are also overlooked by the College Management. Top level management of generally all law schools across India think of Legal Aid as being a liability on them and perform only that much of activities which will be sufficient enough to meet the directions of Bar Council of India and other affiliation bodies, because not doing so can lead to cancellation of licenses and affiliations. There are programmes like Nukkad Nataks and Jail Visits but they are very few in number, which are not enough to render quality legal aid services on regular basis. The objective of incorporating compulsory legal aid into law school curriculum was to provide free legal Aid to needy and weak section of the society consistently, which the Legal Aid Clinics across India have failed to achieve because of negative attitude towards having a active legal aid society.

Law Schools across India have failed to inform the existence of their Legal Aid Clinics because of their limited efforts in doing so, thus leaving community unknown about their existence and availability of services. This wide lack of communication has dampened down the impact of Legal Aid Clinics to a great extent.

There are legal literacy programmes taken up by law schools across India where they try to make the community near them more aware about their legal rights through various methods like Nukkad Nataks, stage plays and also conducting awareness campaigns with help of some lawyers. But these Literacy Campaigns also fail because there are no follow up services once the initial campaign is over. Many promises are made in the Initial campaign but as there are minimal efforts made later to full fill such promises this programmes are also discarded by the community.

In India our Judiciary is already overburdened with huge number of pending cases, in such situations providing Alternative Dispute Resolutions through Legal Aid Clinics of Law schools can be a great help to the overall legal system. ADR's like Lok Aadalat's, Mediation and Arbitration are of great help in solving cases of minimal causes and family matters. But due the lack of facilites and skills only a few Legal Aid Clinics of Law Schools have been able to do so. Very few law schools really focus on practical aspects of legal services and thus lack skills amongst the students and faculty members for conducting such ADR's method's. There is also a lack of initiative in doing so and there is almost a huge lack of resources like funds, equipment and existence of trained individuals for running such clinics in every law school.

The problem of lack of funds has been recognized not only by many scholars and research organizations but also in the reports of Sub-Committee on Community Engagement[4] and Committee constituted by the Government of India to Review the Functioning of ICSSR (2011).[5] For research and creation of knowledge in the sectors addressing the issues of disadvantaged communities, there are several existing resources. First of all, law schools should allocate resources for legal aid clinics since they are required to create such clinics in order to obtain Bar Council of India recognition, as mentioned above Secondly, NGOs and law schools can compete to conduct state funded research related to implementation of government schemes to alleviate poverty.[6] The Report on ICSSR also contemplated more scholarships, awards[7] and collaborations with Universities Grants Commission and affiliated universities to ensure encourage and attract social scientists and other research scholars.

Based on the above discussion one can say that incorporation of legal aid into law curriculum faces problems like

· No academic credits for students taking active part in Legal Aid Society.

· Lack of Financial Resources for Legal Aid Clinics

· Lack of Infrastructure

· Lack of Trained Individuals for smooth functioning of Legal Aid Clinics

· Lack of Practical Skills amongst Faculty members.

· Lack of Practical Skills amongst Students.

· Lack of Involment of Top Level Management of Colleges

· Lack of Interest shown by the Judiciary

· No proper check by the Bar Council of India kept on Legal Aid Clinics of law schools.

5:-Legal Services Rendered by Various Law Schools across India

Statutes establishing some of the premier law schools in the country explicitly state their objectives as to include the generation and dissemination of knowledge and to develop in students a ‘sense of responsibility to serve society.[8]These also aim at achieving the broader goal of ‘social and economic justice’ and ‘social development’ by spreading legal awareness and developing in students the skills to analyze and present contemporary social issues[9]

When we talk about Legal services provided by some active Legal Aid Clinics across India, there is lot to be admired, and lot be learnt. There are various Law Schools Legal Aid Clinics which engage themselves in variety of Legal Aid activities. The top National Law Universities like NLSIU, WBNUJS, NALSAR and private law colleges like Jindal Law School and Symbiosis Pune have an active Legal Aid Clinics performing various functions.

The Legal Services Clinic at National Law School of India University (NLSIU) undertakes several activities, including the unique Participatory Law Making (PLM) Project “to bridge the gap between common man and the law-making process”.[10]

Similarly, NALSAR too has a Legal Aid Cell[11]through which the students become involved in several community projects like conciliation centers and prison reform centers.

Also, the NUJS Legal Aid Society (LAS) [12]has a joint venture with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) called Shadhinota in which prison inmates are legally empowered by Legal Aid Camps and weekly clinics.

The National Law Institute University, Bhopal Legal Aid Committee[13] has also engaged with the community through good governance initiatives. It has tie-ups with international and domestic NGOs including UNICEF, UNHCR, Helpage India, Amnesty International, WWF, and CRY. It also has entered into partnerships with the District Courts in Bhopal to organize Lok Adalats in which students help settle disputes. These projects pursue proper implementation of government policies and judicial decisions and encourage community-university engagement.

Such efforts of community engagement have also been made by the Gujarat National Law University Legal Services Committee [14] and National Law University, Jodhpur’s Legal Aid and Awareness Centre.

6:-Situation in India Compared with Foreign Countries

Providing free legal services to the poor through legal aid clinics was incorporated in both India and USA at almost the same time in 1960's, but when we compare the legal aid clinics of both countries today, USA is miles ahead. All law schools across USA receive Federal Grants and thus most of the Legal Aid Clinics across USA have well maintained centralized clinics rendering various legal aid services to the needy section of the society. Similar is the situation in other top countries like member countries of the European Union, Australia and South Africa.

The main difference between these successful legal aid clinics across the world and the one's in India are as followed-:

· Legal Aid Clinics outside India have full time dedicated faculty members towards the smooth functioning of Legal Aid Clinics, the situation in India being the complete opposite.

· Students are helped by trained practicing lawyers for rendering legal aid services in Foreign countries, but in India this is not the case, students face a lot of problem due to the fact that they lack skills and support of expert's.

· Academic credits are provided to the students involved in Legal Aid Clinics in Foreign countries, but this is not the case in India.

· There is a lack of spirit and enthusiasm amongst students in India when compared to foreign law students who seem to be really serious for providing quality free legal aid services to the weak sections of the society.

7-: Recommendations and Suggestions

To achieve the main purpose of incorporation of Legal Aid as a part of law school curriculum i.e., to “serve mutually agreed interests of both communities and institutions”[15] law schools and universities must ensure that there are incentives for the students, the faculty and the community members. Students should have academic credit for their involvement in legal aid and other research activities. This can be done through modifications in the marking scheme of the existing courses.[16]

To the extent that legal aid clinics do conduct community- based research in India, the efforts are minimal and led by particular individuals, rather than being institutionalized systematically across the country. This lack of institutionalization of community-based research is a common problem globally.[17] To build capacity in legal aid clinics -based research, support and resources are necessary. The faculty needs exposure to models of and skills required for community- based research, time to undertake it and students motivated to carry it forward. In view of the field work and legal aid services through Lok Aadalat's the colleges can work in collaboration with NGO's for doing so.

In addition to publicly funded research, law schools and universities may seek partnerships with private institutions active in policy research.[18]

There are success stories of Legal Aid Clinics of different law schools across India which are beacon of hope for achieving the main objective behind incorporating legal aid as a part of law school curriculum.

Legal Aid Committee of National Law University, Delhi was able to free a person, who was imprisoned in Tihar Jail for last four years for the theft of a wallet which had Rs. 1000 inside it. Students argued before the magistrate and were successful in persuading the magistrate. It has been informed by them that they visited Jail four times in a month in order to make prisoners aware of legal aid and related activities.[19]

Another success of a law school in this matter can be attributed to the Legal Aid Clinic of NLSIU, Bangalore, which recently won a consumer forum action against Pepsi Co. for charging differential minimum retail prices (MRPs) on beverages.[20]

But the matter of the fact is that active Legal Aid clinics should not remain confined to certain places like Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore etc. where top National Law Universities and big private colleges are active enough to render free legal aid services which is necessary both statutory and morally for development of both community and institution. For the already active legal aid clinics what they can do is that they should try to increase the frequency of their legal services being rendered. There are thousands of people who become victim because of their poor legal knowledge, and they are not economic sound to get the justice and if every law school across India become active like some of active Legal Aid Clinics in India equality before can become a reality because of the facts there are a large number of law schools present in India.

There is huge lack of interest shown by the State and authorities concerned for ensuring the fact that quality legal aid services are rendered by the law schools. Only legislating rules and acts is of no use if it's compliance cannot be assured of. Even though incorporation of Legal Aid Clinics as a part of law school curriculum is mandatory only a very few law schools are doing so and they are not being caught by the Bar Council of India or other concerned authorities for not incorporating legal aid as a part of their curriculum on an active basis.

In light of above stated research methods researcher would like to attain a conclusion that now is the high time for the concerned authorities, law schools and general public to discuss about it and come out with solutions which is most probably new legislation or better enforcement of existing provisions for ensuring the fact that legal aid becomes a part of Law school curriculum because it can reduce the burden of the already over burdened judiciary to a great extent and lead the way to legal literacy.

The State shall ensure the fact that legal aid services are rendered consistently by law across India and they can do so in the following ways-:

· They should set up expert committee's to assess the loopholes in the presently existing system of Legal Aid Clinics across India.

· Based on the findings of the Expert Committee new legislation or better enforcement of the rules and policies should be ensured by the State to improve the present structure of Legal Aid Clinics across different law schools in India.

· The State should order the concerned authorities like Bar Council of India and others to keep a strict vigilance on the law schools so that they perform legal aid activities on a regular basis rather than just for the sake of affiliations and promotions.

· The State should start lucrative programmes for free legal aid services through law colleges so that there is a greater sense of enthusiasm amongst students and colleges to render quality free legal aid services.

· The students or colleges who perform well in rendering free legal aid services should be recognized and awarded duley so that there is a greater competition between students and colleges to work with greater efforts to achieve similar feet's too that of students who are awarded.

· The top performing legal aid clinics of all different States should be recognized and they should be funded to increase their frequency of legal aid services and to monitor Legal Aid Clinics which are not performing well.

· There should be ties between colleges and NGO's for doing quality legal aid services within the community and State should ensure that these ties are established.

· The Judiciary should also show more interested in promoting legal aid services by encouraging final year law students to represent clients in matters of small causes.

Law students are considered social engineer's of the nation and India has a huge number of such social engineer's and the fact that there are already many success stories present of substantial work done by Legal Aid Clinics across the country, if taken together show the path for ensuring great legal services being rendered free of cost thereby increasing justice ratio of our country, ensuring faster justice and taking the legal literacy of our nation to different heights. Law Schools across India have shown great potential for providing quality legal aid services but the fact not all schools have been able to do so has to be looked into. There are many reasons for such non- performance out of which the fact that education is becoming more a form of business now a days, and colleges and universities are no more concerned about their moral duties and responsibilities is ruining the fact to a very large extend. All these non performance factors should be mutually analyzed by the State, law schools and community together to come out with policies which are more effective then the already existing one in assuring the Stautory and Constitutional luxury of providing quality free legal aid services to the needy and the weaker section of the society thereby ensuring the main objective of incorporating legal aid services as part of law school curriculum.

[1] N. R. MADHAVA MENON, A HANDBOOK ON CLINICAL LEGAL EDUCATION 10 (1998).


[2] Bar Council of India Legal Education Rules, 2008, rule 18(1) (iii).


[3] Government of India and United Nations Development Programme, Access to Justice for Marginalized People: A Study of Law School-Based Legal Service Clinics (2011), http://www.in.undp.org/content/dam/india/docs/a_study_of_law_school_based_legal_services_clinics.pdf. (Last visited July 12, 2017).


[4] See generally, Committee Report, Review of the Functioning of ICSSR, http:// mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload files/mhrd/files/Final-Report-ICSSR.pdf (last visited Sep 3, 2012)(The later of the two observes that ICSSR gets grants equal to only 2.3 % of those allotted to Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and 11% of Indian Council of Medical Research. Thus, highlighting the fact that social sciences research has received lesser attention of the government authorities).


[5] See, e.g., An assessment of Convergence of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan with Select Central and Stat Government Schemes, National Resource Centre for Women(May2012)availabeathttp://www.smsfoundation.org/pdf/Assessment%20of%20Convergence%20of%20Sarva%20Shiksha%20Abhiyaan%20with%20Selected%20Central%20and%20State%20Government%20Schemes-12th%20Sept,%202012.pdf.


[6] Ten annual Amartya Sen Awards have been announced by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to honor social scientists and their research works. This would act as an incentive for many scholars to invest time and effort in research work in different social sciences.


[7] See Report of the Committee Constituted by the Government of to Review the Functioning of ICSSR (NEW DELHI, Jun 28, 2011), 48-49 http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/Final-Report-ICSSR.pdf.


[8] See, e.g., The National Law School of India Act, 1986, Act of 22 of 1986, §§4(1) and 5(ii) (The Objects of the School shall be to advance and disseminate learning and knowledge of law and legal processes and their role in national development, to develop in the student and research scholar a sense of responsibility to serve society in the field of law by developing skills in regard to advocacy, legal services, legislation, law reforms and the like, to organize lectures, seminars, symposia and conferences to promote legal knowledge and to make law and legal processes efficient instruments of social development, to hold examinations and confer degrees and other academic distinctions and to do all such things as are incidental, necessary or conducive to the attainment of alt or any of the objects of the School.” And “to provide for instruction in such branches of knowledge or learning pertaining to law, as the School may think fit and to make provision for research and -for the advancement and dissemination of knowledge of law); see also Gujarat National Law University Act, 2003, Gujarat Act No. 9 of 2003, National Law University, 2007, Delhi Act no. 1 of 2008, § 5; National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi Act, Act 27 of 2005, § 4; and Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law Punjab Act, Punjab Act No. 12 of 2006, § 4


[9] The National Academy of Legal Studies and Research University Act, 1998, Andhra Pradesh Act no. 34 of 1998 (It states “Objects of the University…(v) to improve the ability to analyze and present for the benefit of the public contemporary issues of public concern and their legal implications;… (ix) to promote legal awareness in the community for achieving social and economic justice); see also West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences Act, 1999, West Bengal Act no. 9 of 1999, § 4, (Similar objectives have been set under this act which include “to advance and disseminate learning and knowledge of law and legal processes and their role in national development; to develop in the student and research scholar a sense of responsibility to serve society in the field of law by developing skills with regard to advocacy, legal service, legislation, law reforms and the like;… to promote legal knowledge and to make law and the legal process efficient instruments of social development; to promote inter-disciplinary study of law in relation to management, technology, international cooperation and development.)


[10] About Us, Legal Services Clinic, NLSIU, http://www.nls-lsc.org/about_us.php.


[11] Details of programs carried out by NALSAR Legal Aid Cell http://www.nalsar.ac.in/Legal%20Aid%20Cell/programs.htm


[12] IDIA Scholar files writ at Gujarat HC- gets interim stay order for a seat at GNLU, IDIA (Jun 11, 2012), http://www.idially.blogspot.in/; The Legal Aid Society –NUJS, http://www.nujs.edu/nujs-legal-aid-society.html (last visited July 14, 2017)


[13] See Association, The National Law Institute University, http://www.nliu.ac.in/ html/association.html (last visited July 14, 2017).


[14] See Legal Service Committee, Gujarat National Law University, http:// www.gnlu.ac.in/legalservicecommittee.htm (last visited July 14, 2017).


[15] Rajesh Tandon, Policy Note on Strengthen Community Engagement of Higher Education Institutions, Submitted for the first meeting of the Sub-Committee on September 23, 2011 (On file with Authors) (The author highlights the lack of incentives for students, teachers and the community.)


[16] Tandon, supra note 15.


[17] See generally, Jie Qi and Ben Levin, Research Knowledge Mobilization in Education,http://www.intlalliance.org/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/ Conference_2011/4_IALEI_2011_Synthesis_Report.pdf (last visited July 16, 2017).


[18] See generally, Qi & Levin, supra note 17.


[19] See Legal Services Committee, National Law University Delhi, http://nludelhi.ac.in/stu-legal-ser.aspx (Last viewed on 15 July, 2017).


[20] About Us, Legal Services Clinic, NLSIU, http://www.nls-lsc.org/about_us.php.

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