‘CLAT exam in regional languages is impractical,’ says WBNUJS Kolkata vice-chancellor

NUJS Kolkata has launched new law courses, collaborated with foreign universities, expanded its library and research activities, said its VC

Nirmal Kanti Chakrabarti, vice-chancellor, West Bengal National University of Juridical SciencesNirmal Kanti Chakrabarti, vice-chancellor, West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences

Pritha Roy Choudhury | January 12, 2024 | 01:07 PM IST

Kolkata: While there is rising demand for legal instruction and entrance tests in regional languages, Nirmal Kanti Chakravarty, vice-chancellor of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS), believes India’s legal education system isn’t ready for either. He spoke to Careers360 about language, value-based education and equipping students with skills in new technologies.

Q. There has been controversy around the domicile quota in the NLUs. WBNUJS implemented it in 2020. Why was it introduced and what has been your experience?

A. This happened with an amendment of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences Act 1999, in which a 30% domicile quota was introduced. My experience is very encouraging. Students from all over West Bengal are getting a chance to study here, they come even from remote districts.

Q. There has been criticism of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) as the entrance test for the NLUs and demands that the CLAT and legal education be conducted in regional languages as well. What is your take?

A. I, to some extent, agree with the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India (CJI) who said that the present legal education misses value-based education. In my view, it should focus on three most important aspects -- knowledge, skills and values.

Students these days are more focused on corporate jobs and thereby neglect or give less importance to the ethics of the legal profession and community lawyering. Similarly, the curriculum of law schools is not giving due weightage to ethical legal education.

Also, regarding regional languages in CLAT exam, at this moment it is impractical. In all the NLUs, the medium of instruction is English and the examination conducted is based on written paragraphs from which questions are framed. In many cases, the student needs to give an analytical answer. So, it is not possible to have questions in all the languages.

Apart from English, materials and educational instructions are only available in Hindi. All our teachers are accustomed to teaching only in English. So, at this stage, it is not possible. First, we have to develop the materials in regional languages and then, in a phased manner, we can think about how many languages we can accommodate. We cannot just hastily decide that the entrance examination should be in all regional languages.

Also read How important is English for a career in law?

Q. WBNUJS has risen to the fourth rank on the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), which happened after you took charge as vice-chancellor. What are your plans for the university?

A. When I joined in 2019, there was no permanent vice-chancellor for more than a year. Acting vice-chancellors usually cannot take any vital decision as it has finance-related implications. There was a gap. Hardly 10% to 20% of the library budget was expanded. I tried to make up and initiated an e-library because of which, almost all e-databases are now available globally. Similarly, we have purchased more than 10,000 e-books as reference books as students are more comfortable reading on the laptop or their cellphones.

Q. What are the new programmes?

A. Previously, there were only two areas of specialisation in masters. I introduced technology law, intellectual property rights (IPR) law and criminal law. Keeping in view that we will need more scientific experts and forensic experts in near future, I introduced an MSc programme in forensic science. This triggered a lot of buzz over whether a law school should have an MSc programme at all.

We had a few research centres which were not very active. I activated over 12 centres. We have introduced an accessibility laboratory for disabled people. This is the first such library in a law university. We presently have four blind students. One of our faculty members has introduced citizenship law. My objective was to give as many opportunities as possible so that students get enough choices. We have also increased the number of workshops by bringing law firms and alumni to interact with the students.

We have also worked on infrastructure development. We have added two more floors to one of our buildings and have also hired some buildings to house the BSc LLB in criminology and forensic science departments.

Also read DU’s Law Faculty is one India’s best-known law schools. Why doesn’t it rank in NIRF?

Q. Since you offer law subjects with AI and ML, have you hired teachers especially for those subjects?

A. We have introduced collaborative research with the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology (MAKAUT). We are working on two projects with Jadavpur University which are Artificial Intelligence-related.

This kind of research will boost their knowledge and experience and will also open up a new arena on how to use AI in the legal field. One of the research projects with Jadavpur University is on AI and languages used in judgements. The project with MAKAUT is on predictive judgements, particularly in cases of crimes against women. We also have a teacher for AI and law, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

We also have “law, science and technology” as a compulsory subject through which students are acquainted with developments in AI. In the undergraduate programme, it is compulsory for all and in the postgraduate programme for those who are going for masters of law or LLM. For those who are more interested, we also have an elective paper on AI laws.

Q. Bar Council of India has allowed foreign lawyers and legal firms to practice in India. What is your take on that?

A. This is a good decision as it will help develop our standard of lawyers and legal education. This will help those who are thinking about developing their curriculum. I welcome this move.

Q. There is a growing emphasis on foreign collaborations. Do you have any such collaborations?

A. We have collaborated with King’s College, London; Cambridge University; Leicester University; and Sheffield University, UK. We have been preparing to welcome foreign students for the past year. We have also constructed two extra floors. Also, another new hostel is coming up.

Our alumni are placed in almost all the A-tier firms. Last year, 80% of the students were placed from the campus with an average remuneration of Rs 20 lakh per annum. Foreign firms are offering Rs 50 lakh per annum on an average.

Our students also participate in international moot courts and this year, we were the champions.

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