Prof. Manoj Sharma is among one of the best professors at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law. He has taught for eight years at Guru Nanak Dev University, Jalandhar. He joined RGNUL in 2012.
In this interview with acadman.in he talked on choosing law as a career, his teaching experiences, socio-political activities, Grades, NLUs being market oriented and more.
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When did you gravitate towards law? How has your teaching experience been so far?
My interest in law developed while I was in class 12th, basically when I opted for commerce after 10th. I was fascinated by commercial laws and laws which were taught in B.Com, like Mercantile Law, Factories Act, and Industrial Disputes Act.
Teaching has always been my passion, right from 10th standard, I wanted to be a teacher. The only thing that I decided, later on, was that I was going to pursue legal studies. I taught as an Assistant Professor, Department of Law at Guru Nanak Dev University, Regional Campus, Jalandhar for 8 years. In 2012, I joined St. Soldier Law College, Jalandhar. After teaching there for a few months I joined RGNUL. My experience at RGNUL has been wonderful.
You teach Code of Civil Procedure at RGNUL. What is the scope of research in this subject?
I think that it is one of the fascinating laws on Earth. In order to be a successful civil lawyer, you should have mastered the code of civil procedure. The scope of research in CPC is very wide. Most of the people are fascinated towards Criminal Law because there, the results are very fast and the money involved is high. But in the case of civil litigation, it takes years and years altogether.
So, research in Civil aspects of the procedure would involve finding out the lacunas which hinder speedy judgments in civil cases. There have been various amendments in 1976, 1999 and 2002, which aimed at speeding up the judicial process in civil cases. But there has been no substantial improvement in the situation. So research can be done on these aspects as well.
If you were to suggest any 5 books to the law students, which would those be?
I would suggest students to read Keshavnanda Bharti case four to five times. It is more than enough.
You have been a Counsellor at District Legal Aid Clinic, Jalandhar. How was your experience there? How effective have legal aid clinics been in solving problems of the society?
It was a good experience. Actually, it was the venture of the State Government. The Government stated that pre-litigation counseling should be given so that cases can be disposed off through conciliation and counseling before litigation and even after litigation in cases of divorce. So, a 5 member committee was appointed, consisting of a retired police officer, retired session judge, an academician, a social worker and one from the banking institutions. All five of us used to help poor people, each of us used to spend an hour daily and on weekends we used to sit together and discuss and analyze issues which were to be resolved.
I think legal aid clinics have been successful to some extent. However, they can do better if the people who are nominated are willing to work. Most of the committees appointed for providing legal aid counseling have retired people and often they are not willing to work. It is good to have experience, but if the people appointed are not interested in working then the purpose is defeated.
What is the role of ethics and morality in the legal profession?
Morality plays an important role in both, law making, and practice of law. People say that law and morality are two different things but in fact, positive morality is translated into law. Laws related to surrogacy, abortion, adultery etc. have been propounded on the basis of morality. When you see morality as a part of the legal profession, whether you are a teacher or a lawyer or a legal advisor, it helps in the long run. It establishes your credibility in the society. Morality is necessary for the sake of the society it is the aim of every professional to be ‘perceived’ as moral.
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It is believed that institutions providing professional courses isolate students from the social realities of the country. Most of them have no student or political body. Do you think that indulgence in Socio-political activities is a distraction?
If you consider institutions like IITs and Medical Colleges, which provide professional education, you won’t find such activities. These activities are prevalent in universities where social sciences are more prominent- where you have MA Political Science, Research in Political Science, Economics, and other related subjects.
I think social and political activities are a distraction, if you are pursuing a professional course. Even in NLUs, the students are already indulged in academic activities, some are busy with moots, some with research papers. Then there are various assignments and projects. You have classes from 9 am to 4 pm. So there is hardly any time to go for these activities. I would suggest that instead, students should indulge in sports and other physical activities so that a balance is maintained.
Also, there isn’t much scope for these activities when you are pursuing a professional course. You have a jam-packed academic schedule, so any attempt to incorporate socio-political activities in NLUs would adversely affect the NLU culture. After all, NLUs were designed to produce advocates who have an edge over the substandard advocates produced by other colleges. So, if we want to strive for excellence and remain true to our motto then certain sacrifices have to be made.
Today, the idea of knowledge has been reduced to getting good grades. How effective is this approach? Do you think that there is any alteration required?
I don’t have a problem with the grading system. My issue is with the basis on which grades are given. I have always been of the opinion that instead of the basis being theoretical questions, it should cover practical aspects of the subject. I don’t want somebody to cram and spit it out in the examination.
Actually, this is the biggest problem with the grading system. It would be fine if we make a change in the pattern of examination. Nowadays, what happens is that you mug-up few pages, vomit it on the paper and you get good grades.
What is more important for a lawyer is that when a case comes to him, he should know which laws are applicable. So, maybe we should provide students with a copy of bare act in the examination and ask them to solve practical problems given in the paper using the Bare Act.
In actual courts also, it’s not that you cannot carry a Bare Act with your material. So, I think that if more focus is given to practical aspects of a subject, the grading system is still manageable.
Many accuse NLUs of having a market-oriented system. What’s your take on this?
Well, there is nothing wrong in being market-oriented. Anyone who joins an institute which offers a professional course, has placements as his/her primary aim. It is not that NLUs have started this trend. On the very first day of orientation, parents ask about placements and before choosing an institution, the first question that is kept in mind is- what about placements?
There are no remunerations initially if you are going for litigation. And nowadays parents and students want quick results so the students gravitate towards corporate firms. NLUs basically respond to the market-oriented approach of parents, students and the society in general.
But sir, on-campus placement should not be the only purpose of NLUs …
Of course, a job is not the only purpose of imparting education. I don’t think that NLUs are lacking in providing education. You can compete only if you have the requisite qualification and learning.
Also, NLUs are not lacking in research. They are much better than traditional universities. However, I do agree that research aspect needs to be emphasized more.
But over emphasis would again raise the question that where would those researchers fit in a job-oriented market? Because everybody seeks financial security and good job prospects after graduation. Having said that, I agree with you that research should be the focus of all the universities because universities are not only the center of imparting knowledge but also centers of generating knowledge through research.
Where do you see RGNUL in the upcoming years?
It has potential to be the best. None of the NLUs have the kind of infrastructure we have. Also, there has been some new appointments in faculty, the additional faculty has also been added. In academics also, we are performing well; in Moots, our ratings have gone up- we have reached the third place. So, a little bit effort from the students and we can become number one National Law University in India.
What would be your parting message to the students?
I believe that students need to have a clear focus. Today, I find that students lack focus and determination, especially in the first three years of their college life. You need to have a plan and a backup plan. You need to set your priorities right. If you know what to do and you have a plan of action, then I don’t think that anything or anyone can stop you.
Nothing should come in the way of your studies. I don’t stop students from enjoying, this is the best time of their life they should enjoy, but there needs to be a balance between enjoyment and studies. A student should harmonize enjoyment, social interaction, and academics.