Dr. Anand Pawar is a Professor of Law at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab. He has been officiating Registrar and officiating Vice-Chancellor at National Law University, Raipur. In this interview he spoke to us about his early life, pursuing law as a career, experiences at HNLU & RGNUL, Teaching Methodologies, High Fees in NLUs, Global Ranking of Universities and More
How would you like to introduce yourself to the students across India? Please tell us about your professional career?
I come from a middle-class family and I’m native to Madhya Pradesh. I have done most of my schooling from Harda, MP. I did my BSc. in Mathematics from Degree College Harda, after that I did my LLB and CA simultaneously. So, I had two choices- either to pursue law or to go for Chartered Accountancy. Since my father was interested in the legal profession, I went for an LLM degree. Immediately after completing LLM, I got an opportunity to teach in the same college.
Then I moved to Barkatullah University, where I taught for sometime before moving to Hidayatullah National Law University in 2005. In 2007 I became an assistant professor and in 2009, I became an associate professor. I was the controller of examination for around 2 years, . followed by registrar (officiating) for around two years. I was officiating vice-chancellor there for more than a year. For a while, I was Dean-academics as well. Then I moved to RGNUL in 2011, initially on deputation and later I became a permanent faculty.
You attended the Teaching Methodology Workshop for Law Teachers in 2016. What kind of teaching methodology is used in India in imparting legal knowledge? Is there any alteration required?
The bar council of India has given freedom to universities to decide their own courses. In India, there are various universities and colleges imparting legal education and unfortunately, not all the colleges are equipped with necessary facilities to impart quality legal education, sometimes due to lack of funds or due to inefficient teaching faculty. But when it comes to NLUs, the scenario is different, because they are not only equipped to offer traditional subjects, they also offer subjects like Aviation Law, Maritime Law, Air, and Space Law, IPR, Taxation Law etc, which are not available in traditional universities.
When it comes to teaching methodology, there is a difference of opinion as to which approach is to be used to impart legal knowledge. For example in Delhi University, Case Law method is being used to teach law, in this approach they take few important cases of all the subjects, they discuss the relevant legal provisions and then analyze the cases accordingly, this way, the students are also able to understand the practical aspects of the case. Another approach is where teachers give practical problems and the students are asked to solve those by applying the relevant laws. There are various other approaches, it depends on the teachers, however, the ultimate objective of choosing any method is to develop a clear understanding of the subject among the students. Unfortunately, in India the number of students are much more as compared to foreign universities, so we have to follow a method which is more inclusive. In foreign universities the number of students is hardly, 10 to 12 or 20 at max., so there they can also use group discussion method and conference method, there are many foreign universities which also allow take-home examinations. However, in India, due to more number of students, the interaction between teachers and students is to some extent restricted.
How was your experience at HNLU?
I had a very good experience in HNLU, because the students were very sharp there and it being my first institution, I learned a lot. It had, at that time very eminent professors like Prof. Mathur, I.P. Messey and Prof. VK Dixit, so I used to consult them on how to become a good teacher. I taught Contracts to my first 1st batch at HNLU, and the students really pushed to study more and more because they were very curious. So there used to be a lot of interaction and discussion in the class and the best thing about this is that sometimes you go beyond conventional syllabus and explore new areas. The students there were so inquisitive and interactive that some times even I couldn’t answer many of their questions, so I used to say that I would answer them later after reading about it- it was a very good teaching as well as learning experience for me. Even in RGNUL, the students are very interactive.
If you were to suggest 5 books to the students of law, which would those be?
I would suggest- ‘The Argumentative Indians’– By Amartya Sen, ‘An Era of Darkness’– By Shashi Tharoor, ‘The Nature of the Judicial Process’– By Benjamin N. Cardozo, ‘The Rebel: A biography of Ram Jethmalani’, ‘My Own Boswell: Memoirs of M. Hidayatullah’.
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Many students believe that the activities like mooting and debating are ‘luxuries of the elite’ due to their pre-requisite of good command over English language. It is often seen that many good students under-perform in these activities due to this language constraint. Do you think that those who do not participate or under-perform in moots miss out on any thing important?
It is not the case; the object of moots is to groom the students to be good lawyers. There are many good lawyers who are not the product of NLUs but they have the argumentative skills. So argumentative skills and critical thinking cannot be developed only through moots and debates. Even within NLUs, not every student is interested in Mooting, some are interested in research, whereas some focus specifically on studies. So, mooting helps but it should not be the criterion on which a student should be judged. In most of the NLUs, you will find that only 20 to 30% people are interested in Moots. Bar Council of India has prescribed a compulsory paper of Clinical Legal Education, which is Mooting. However, this is only one part of the curriculum. As far as English language is concerned, it is important but not essential for legal profession.
One of the major concerns of students and parents is exceptionally high fees in NLUs, despite them being government institutions. What is your view on this?
The fee is a bit high, and if the government starts funding these institutions, then this problem would be solved. But if the government itself says that it would provide financial support only for a few years, then how will the universities survive? So, institutions increase the fees so that the minimum expenses are met with, because at the end of the day, financial viability is important for the institutes’ survival. There are a few NLUs which receive grants from state government and there the fee is a bit lower. However, the unfortunate part is when we hear that some student couldn’t get in to NLU because of lack of financial assistance. So government and society should think on this aspect and come up with a way to mitigate the situation.
Many college ranking indices judge a college based on the number of on-campus placements it has procured for its students. How do you see such a development in legal education, a field of knowledge which rests more on development of skill and analytical mindset than on grades?
I totally agree with your concern that on- campus placement should not be the sole criteria to judge an institution, the object on these institutions are not only to provide jobs but also to impart good education and indulge in quality research. This is the concern of MHRD as well, because in the world rankings, Indian Institutes do not find a place even within top 200 universities of the world, and the reason behind this, is that adequate research is not taking place, there are other factors as well but lack of quality research is an important one. You will be surprised that Punjab University is a premier institute in terms of research and ranks high in global rankings.
People allege that NLUs are market oriented. They are basically catering lawyers for law firms and MNCs. How do you look at it?
Initially, the purpose of NLUs was to impart quality legal education, their objective was to attract students to opt for law as their first career and this objective has been, to some extent achieved, may be on the wrong premise of corporate culture and high packages. However, their aim was not only to prepare students for corporate jobs, they were started with a vision to prepare good lawyers for Bar and Bench both. Unfortunately, the students are not ready to take the challenges initially. If you are preparing for judiciary or practicing in courts, then there is no remuneration for at least 3 to 4 years. So, if the students have that kind of patience and are ready for the challenges, then in that case they can survive, but unfortunately, due to family pressure or because they have taken loans to fund their education, they are moving towards corporate jobs. But I am happy that even after this there are around 30% students who are focusing on litigation and judiciary. So, up to an extent 30% of our objective is served. I personally believe that students should take a chance.
RGNUL has the largest law library in India. However, many students complain that they are not able to effectively utilize this facility because it is only opened from 8am to 8pm. Why can’t the library access be made 24*7?
These are administrative matters, there may be certain reasons for that. In case if that is required, then the administration may think on extending the facilitates for 24hrs as well.
Several Universities across India ban social networking sites. However, many students find them to be a medium of expression and a platform to build their network and they believe that by banning these sites colleges are trying to effectively curtail their freedom of expression. What’s your take on this?
I don’t know about other institutions, but there were certain reasons due to which the social networking websites were banned in RGNUL. However, personally, I don’t believe that any such platform that allows students to interact should be banned, if there are certain genuine reasons then those reasons must be considered and if there is a possibility that the ban could be lifted, then it should be. However, if the reasons for ban exist even after giving notices then it cannot be helped because the object of providing such facilities is to provide some additional academic benefits. If the purpose is being served then there should be 100% support, but if students are deviating from it and misusing it, then there should be some kind of restrictions.
Are you satisfied with placements from RGNUL?
Yes, I have been told by the placement officer that the ratio of placement in RGNUL as compared to other institutions is satisfactory.
What would be your message for the alumni of RGNUL?
They should keep in touch with the institution, because all the NLUs are surviving and achieving greater heights due to their alumni base. Unfortunately, in RGNUL, the alumni are not much in touch with the institution. So, through Acadman I want to request all the alumni to take more interest in the institution and decide a date on which we can have alumni meet on a larger scale so that the alumni don’t feel that they are not a part of this institution. Because in other institutions the alumni are coming, they are interacting with students, they are taking classes; the students also feel good that they are interacting with their alumni. In the legal profession, these things matter a lot.
The interview is taken by Vivek & edited by Aakansha. To suggest an interview, feedbacks, comments you can write at firstname.lastname@example.org
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