Daksha Fellowshipstarted a new series of expert conversations, Daksha Dialogues, with the objective of adding value to the lives of law students and professionals.
The first conversation happened on April 10, 2020 between Dr. Ananth Padmanabhan, Dean, Daksha Fellowship and our special guest Dr. Madhav Khosla, Faculty at Daksha Fellowship and a leading public law expert. Lawctopus collaborated as a media partner.
The focus theme of this conversation was to understand the changing landscape of public law in the light of technological advances and how legal education is set to change in order to stay relevant.
The dialogue started off detailing the context of Dr. Khosla’s most recent book, India’s Founding Moment. His background in political theory and law enabled him to understand how framers of the Indian Constitution thought about critical themes like universal representation, federalism and codification.
A key feature of Dr. Khosla’s effort is its genuine commitment to interdisciplinarity, combining insights from political theory, history, and law to result in a well-reviewed work. As he explained, an interdisciplinary approach is central to a good legal education model.
To combat our collective societal challenges, including the present Coronavirus pandemic, compartmental learning must cede way to interdisciplinary models.
For example, a student of regulation must be well-versed in the basics of economics. A technology and policy enthusiast must certainly engage with the history of the internet. Likewise, a disputes-resolution professional should display willingness to engage with human psychology and the political economy surrounding conflict.
Dr. Khosla’s deep engagement with legal scholarship informed a good part of this conversation.
Legal writing is given considerable emphasis in universities abroad. Even though the National Law School model of legal education pushes students to produce written projects all through the year, qualitative training needs to be prioritized over quantitative output.
Courses on research methods and legal writing, coupled with guidance on active reading, are pivotal to the learning curve of the law student.
He supported Daksha Fellowship’s initiative to include a year-long communications lab as part of the curriculum design. In his opinion, lawyers had to be exposed to multiple types of writing including narrative non-fiction and journalistic pieces, and a full-fledged lab was required to advance this objective.
A major part of Dr. Khosla’s more recent work has been directed towards the technology question. He split it into two parts: one, the impact of technology on law practice; and two, its impact on legal doctrine and frameworks.
On the first issue, he spoke extensively about the impact of automation on the work lawyers do. The fact that bots have replaced entry-level jobs in other sectors is one that the legal profession too must account for. Algorithmic support in the exercise of judicial discretion is a reality today, and lawyers must engage with these changes.
He commended Daksha Fellowship for its vision in including a course on data and decision-making as part of the curriculum, thereby seeking to instill statistical thinking essential for lawyers in the digital age.
On the second issue, the conversation used the Aadhar project as a talking point to identify areas of public law impacted by technological advances. Dr. Khosla felt that the Supreme Court did not address rigorously enough the multiple constitutional questions that the court was confronted with.
For starters, the verdict did not delineate the limiting principle in clear terms when it came to the privacy versus social good question. It ignored serious exclusionary concerns. It also failed to take note of the fact that the Unique Identification Authority of India served as both data custodian and data regulator.
In short, serious questions of fundamental rights and separation of powers are raised by large-scale technological projects.
Dr. Khosla observed that the Covid crisis is already throwing up more such questions, with contact tracing apps and similar surveillance measures being put in place.
He concluded that this was the right moment for developing a new framework on health privacy, the continuous expansion of technology in governance, the ethical and legal limits for automation, and structuring state surveillance within narrowly defined scenarios.
Dr. Khosla concluded by urging students to engage with past scholarship such as Dr. Upendra Baxi’s seminal works on access to justice. He felt that these works should form the foundation for creating technological solutions to access issues.
At the same time, students should equally apply their mind to what privacy, free speech and other human rights mean in the technological age. They should also focus on regulation and governance issues, be it in the technological or non-tech domains.
Only a holistic approach of this kind could lead to a robust and relevant legal education paradigm.
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