The Journal of Indian Law & Society (JILS) is a pioneering law journal, managed by the students of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata.
As a prelude to its 10th Volume dedicated to Legal Education in India, the JILS Blog is going to publish a series of interviews with thought leaders in the Legal Education space in India.
In furtherance of its mission to enable informed and inspired careers, and to promote quality Legal Education in India, Lawctopus has collaborated with JILS Blog to publish these interviews for the benefit of its readers.
This is the second interview in the series of interviews titled ‘Reforms in Legal Education’. The interviewee for this part is Dr. Lovely Dasgupta, Assistant Professor (Law) at West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. As a career academic, Dr. Dasgupta has valuable insights to share on the way forward for Legal Education in India.
Question 1: Professor Dasgupta, could you share with us your journey through law schools that has led you to your current academic position?
Professor Dasgupta: Like many, I too was lucky to have got admission in NUJS at a time when Prof. Madhav Menon was its Vice Chancellor. And I got my initial training as a law student of its LL.M programme under him and his team of brilliant teachers.
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Thereafter I have been lucky to have done my M.Phil under Prof. B.S. Chimni and my Ph.D under Prof. M.P. Singh. Whatever I have learnt it’s through the interaction with these legends of legal education.
Question 2: Could you tell us what developed your interest in the arena of sports law, competition law and contract law? What impact do you think law schools can have on shaping their future?
Professor Dasgupta: I was given the task of writing my LL.M dissertation on Sports Doping, by Prof. Menon. And it was in the course of researching on the topic that I got interested in the subject.
Similarly, the developments in the field of Competition Law, pertaining to cartels, led me to research on the subject.
And my interest in Contract and Commercial law was organic because that was my first teaching assignment upon completing my LL.M.
Question 3: Do you find differences between NLUs and Non-NLUs? If yes, what do you think aggravates these differences and how could we aim at limiting them?
Professor Dasgupta: The biggest difference between NLUs and Non-NLUs is the lack of vision. NLUs are guided by the vision of Professor Menon.
Thus irrespective of the additions and the innovations made subsequently all the NLUs try to enable the students to think out of the box.
This is possible because NLUs were designed to be autonomous and follow the interdisciplinary approach to legal studies. Non-NLUS unfortunately are tied down by numerous limitations and hence the focus on innovative legal education gets blurred.
Question 4: For a person who has been associated with teaching law students across several batches, what differences do you find in the students from recent batches? Are these changes in students’ approach and the law school culture destined to bring positive impact in society?
Professor Dasgupta: The fundamental difference across the different batches is that the students of the recent batches are in a position to take up more challenges in terms of their career. The students who started with the start of the NLU experiment were more concerned about establishing the brands. Hence their struggle was different in the sense that they were to be the flag-bearers of the law school experiments.
The current students don’t have the burden of proving their worth or brand. Definitely the more choices and opportunities the current students get the more they will be engaged in different career paths.
Hence it will not be only the corporate law firms but also NGO and policy-making as well as entrepreneurship which see the law school student’s participation.
Question 5: What do you think are the possible barriers that law students face? Further how does the intersectionality affect their performance and how could we create a level playing field?
Professor Dasgupta: The class barrier is the biggest challenge facing the law students within the NLUs. Considering the widely growing popularity of law as a career choice, we do have students from different sections of the society joining in. And there in creeps the conflict between the elitist and the non-elitist ethos.
It is therefore important for the law schools to practice what they preach viz. objectively handling all the students irrespective of their background. And the process has to be organic.
The systems backed by authority within the law schools need to provide that space for different sections to prosper and thrive. The subject designing and the curriculum as well the teaching has to reflect this inclusiveness.
There has to be an aim to foster a culture of inclusiveness at all levels. Though the responsibilities of those who wield power is the greatest.
Question 6: How much of an impact, according to your observation, does actively incorporating commercial knowledge in subjects have?
Professor Dasgupta: It provides a student with choice and its not only about commercial law.
Any subject having the scope of incorporating views from other disciplines enables the students to develop wider vision and view the larger picture beyond the text.
Question 7: According to you, how can we create a safer environment for women in law schools, taking into account the increasing cases of sexual abuse that remain unresolved?
Professor Dasgupta: As noted above the role of the authorities is the greatest in eliminating any form of discrimination and abuse. Hence sexual harassment/abuse case can be tackled if the NLUs across the board strictly implement a zero tolerance policy towards such issues.
And again the way we teach also will help in making all more sensitive towards gender rights and issues of discrimination and abuse.
The language of our delivery and communication both within and outside the class is important. As teachers we owe it to our students to be vociferous with our protest against such horrific acts.
The effort has to be greater on the part of the law enforcing agencies within the campus of the NLUs to strictly deal with such cases.
Question 8: What measures can be taken to make college campuses more inclusive for trans-persons as most campuses including law schools lack adequate infrastructure and policies that include them?
Professor Dasgupta: It is about building an inclusive campus. And this not only includes trans but also the other differently-abled persons.
We cannot leave it at the stage that there is no policy or infra. We as a community need to insist on these essentials to be in place.
And again as teachers we need to, through our teaching, foster the culture of inclusiveness.
Question 9: In light of the recent changes in the CLAT pattern which relies heavily on comprehension based learning, how, according to you, this would affect the accessibility to premier law schools? Further, how do we weigh the issue of accessibility barrier with the importance of English language for a law student?
Professor Dasgupta: Lets first deal with the issue of English as a barrier. I think this approach needs to change for in a country as diverse as ours English enables us to communicate across board with all.
Further, if we want our students to be prepared to take on the world we need to make them comfortable with English. Hence while we should have CLAT in different languages, as in the case of other national level competitive exams. We at the law schools need to have English as a compulsory subject and treat it as such.
Further, we need to have more engagement with students to make them comfortable with English. Learning a language which is used in all major jurisdiction will open up more avenues and empower the students.
In so far as the CLAT exam pattern is concerned I think it is and will be always a matter of debate as to the best way to make the law schools more accessible.
Question 10: Amidst the global pandemic that has accelerated the culture of having online classes and assessments, numerous questions regarding accessibility arise. How do you think universities should proceed with the evaluation system?
Professor Dasgupta: This scenario is new for all hence it requires a lot of brainstorming at the end of the NLUs as well as students.
And I think it will be a case to case decision making depending on each institutions concerns.
Question 11: Professor, mental health issues related to the burdensome curriculum of legal education are becoming more common every day. Could you suggest some changes that should be considered for revising the curriculum?
Professor Dasgupta: Mental health in the context of law students needs to be addressed in a holistic way. And one needs to be sensitive as to the causes of the same instead of presuming.
This will require institutional tie-ups with organisations who are working in the area of mental health issues.
Question 12: Professor, could you share your advice for law students who are striving for success in today’s climate, especially with regards to those interested in legal research and writing?
Professor Dasgupta: There cannot be any advice for each learns from their own lived experience. Hence like every other field law too requires a person to enjoy it and work hard to achieve what one strives to.
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Here are some of Lawctopus Courses that you may be interested in:
- Online Course on Legal Research & Writing.
- Online Course on Contract Drafting & Negotiation. (Dr. Lovely Dasgupta has also developed a portion of the module for this course)
- Online Course on Trademarks – Law & Practice.