Banaras Law School, BHU: A Celebration of Traditional Legal Education in India

By Shruti Mani Tripathi

Long before the meteoric rise of the modern 5-year integrated law courses, the monopoly in Indian legal education was primarily held by the traditional 3-year LL.B course.

The later years of the freedom struggle saw an expeditious rise in the establishment of many prestigious educational institutions offering a degree in the much sought after LL.B course, which, with the years that passed, shaped the future of our country by producing an army of enormously talented legal professionals. One such institute of national importance is the Banaras Law School of Banaras Hindu University.

The beginnings of ‘judges ki factory’

Colloquially known as ‘Judges ki factory’, the Law School has provided this country with some of the biggest and boldest judges and CJIs since its establishment in the year of 1922.

Popularly known as Faculty of Law, this highly acclaimed institution was one of the first few to be instituted in the varsity since its own establishment in 1916 under the Banaras Hindu University Act, 1915.

Its first ever session was held in 2 classrooms borrowed from the Faculty of Arts (FOA) of the university, owing to a lack of infrastructure at the moment.

It was then in 1967 that the building was constructed with aid from the prestigious Ford Foundation of United States of America and the Faculty of Law was renamed as Banaras Law School.

Prof. Julius G. Getman, currently professor of law at the University of Texas, School of Law was also appointed by the Foundation as a visiting professor from 1967 to 1968 ‘(with the hope that the School along with Indian Law Institute, New Delhi) will develop into models of excellence which will shape legal education throughout the country.

As a salute to Harvard Law School, the shape of this temple of knowledge that houses one of the oldest institutions of national eminence in India stands tall in the shape of the English letter ‘H’.

Legal Aid and Clinical Legal Education

The Institute was one of the first in the country to introduce Clinical Legal Education and Legal Aid Programme into its mainstream curriculum. It was also one of the first six law colleges to provide Clinical Legal Aid Services to the poor so as to cater to their needs, which, might I add, is in service to this very day.

This model, which was developed by the Law School, has been judged by Hon’ble Mr. Justice P. N. Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of India, as the best model for the same.

The Library and the Stalwarts

The library dedicated to the faculty boasts of a sum total of around 80,000 books containing over 135 National and International Journals including the likes of the revered Harvard Law Journal, Columbia Law Journal, Cambridge Law Journal, et cetera.

Apart from this, the Central Library – Sayajirao Gaekwad Library – famously known for being Asia’s largest library serves to satiate the remaining thirst for knowledge.

The former deans of this celebrated institution have not only been freedom fighters (Sir Rashbihari Ghosh, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya), noted authors (Prof C. M. Jariwala, Prof. B.C. Nirmal), legal luminaries (Prof. D.P. Verma, Prof. Anandjee, Prof. R.P. Dhokalia, Prof. M.C. Bijawat, et cetera) but also celebrated academicians.

In 1966, Prof. Anandjee introduced the “modern full time 3-year LL.B course and full time 2-year LL.M course that included practical subjects and futuristic academics”. It is, perhaps, the only institution in the country to conduct two years full-time special course on LL.M. in Human Rights and Duties Education.

Prof. Anandjee, in his Dean’s Report [(1965) 1 Banaras Law Journal 1, at 3] stated that, “Law School BHU should be a pioneer institution of legal education in India with an excellent team of teachers and a selected student body, stressing individual attention and intensive as well as extensive study and thereby carrying further the all-important task of educational renaissance in the country in a manner befitting the monumental efforts of the founder of the University, Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya ji.

The most intriguing feature of an institution as old and time-honoured as this is that many of the aforementioned pioneers are alumni of the Law School itself and a number of these distinguished personalities went on to pursue their masters and doctorates from internationally acclaimed institutions namely Yale University, Columbia University, University of London, and suchlike.

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All that goes up…

Newton’s law of universal gravitation, when broken down to the most elemental terms, states that all that goes up, must come down. Breaking this law and defying all clichés, Law School, BHU, has carried forward its years of academic legacy.

This is evident in the fact that the current faculty consists of a similarly rich guild of professors and academicians as were associated with the institute 50-70 years ago. They have not only been pillars of educational excellence in the field of law but have also laid their marks of brilliance at national and international level.

The inexhaustible list of achievements attained by the torchbearers of this distinguished institution comprises undertaking projects for the Bureau of Police Research & Development, having Ph.D. evaluated and commended by the then Chief Justice of India, executing prestigious World Bank projects, being a noted member of Environmental Law Commission, IUCN, Switzerland – just to name a few.

It is not for naught that the institute was awarded 5th rank by India Today’s Survey for Best Law Colleges in India, 2018 and 6th Rank by Outlook India’s Top 25 Law Colleges in India.

The 5-Year Program from the Ghaats

To keep up with the recent revolutionary developments in legal education, Law School, BHU in 2014, started the BA LL.B programme, the first batch of which shall be passing out in 2019.

As the institute inches closer to a centenary celebration, one cannot help but marvel at how phenomenally it has managed to keep up with the challenges of the advancing times and not lose its relevance and glory.

To put in terms that us desi folks understand best, Law School, BHU is that one older, overachieving cousin that you do not really stay in touch with, who will probably go on to marry a girl from the same caste and religion because he is used to doing everything right.

But then, this orthodox cousin also has a lesser known, majorly rumoured but pretty secretive life of his own that is filled with all kinds of ‘unorthodox’ activities that you probably only dream of doing on a daily.

What I’m trying to say here is that while the institute may not be located at a glamourous location akin to that of a metropolitan city, there sure is something hypnotic about the famous Ghaats of Varanasi that does a spectacular job of luring you in, effectuating a total change of persona and morphing you into a true-blue Banarasi  in just a matter of months.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to go for an evening stroll to Shivala (ghaat) for an hour’s “recreation” after a particularly rough day of rekindling a lost romance with M.P. Jain?

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