No land, no building, no funds, no teachers, yet Maharashtra National Law...

No land, no building, no funds, no teachers, yet Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai wants to start this year

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It is called Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai (MNLU, Mumbai). It has no land. No building. No funds. No teachers. But, it has a Vice-chancellor appointed a few months back. And, the young Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, who is himself a law graduate, has no time to meet the Vice-Chancellor for last about two months. It is already January 2015. And, yet the Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai, wants to starts its first batch from the 2015-16 session, which will begin in a 5-6 months from now. And, we call it a “National Law University”!!! Just name it as a “National Law University”, and it will become a world-class or at least a “National level” law university without land, building, funds or teacher. It is the name which counts and not the infrastructure – physical or human infrastructure. [Update (20 May 2015): Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai to start from TISS building during 2015-16 session.] 

Vidhan Bhavan, Maharashtra, Mumbai

It may be pointed out that Maharashtra Law University Act, 2014, came to be notified on 20 March 2014, and it is deemed to have come into force on 18 February 2014 (see here). The Schedule to this Act, read with Section 3(1) of the Act, lays down that there shall be 3 National Law Universities in Maharashtra as under:

Name of Law University Headquarter of the University
(1) Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai Mumbai
(2) Maharashtra National Law University, Aurangabad Aurangabad
(3) Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur Nagpur

About one year is about to be over since this Act is deemed to have come into existence, yet there is no sign of any of these 3 NLUs coming into existence in Maharashtra any time soon. Remember, earlier, many years were lost in planning to set up NLU(s) in Maharashtra. However, DNA reports that Professor Bhavani Prasad Panda who has been appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the MNLU, Mumbai, is trying to make his best efforts to start the first batch of the NLU right from the next academic session in a few months. Notwithstanding the fact that there is no land, no building, no funds, no teachers. Notwithstanding the fact that the Chief Minister of Maharashtra does not have time to meet the Vice-Chancellor for last about 2 months. Notwithstanding the fact that the last date for becoming a participant NLU in the Common Law Aptitude Test 2015 (CLAT-2015) for selecting students for next session has already expired in October 2014 [see: CLAT 2015 to be held on 10 May 2015; Admission notification to be issued on 25 December 2014].

The Vice-Chancellor is hopeful that MNLU, Mumbai students can be selected through the All India Law Entrance Test 2015 (AILET-2015) which is conducted by NLU Delhi, though this test has also been notified already [see: All India Law Entrance Test (AILET 2015) for NLU Delhi on 3 May 2015].

Moreover, while so far there is no building or space allocated to start the MNLU in Mumbai, the Vice-Chancellor is trying to start it in a few rooms (if made available) in Ismail Yusuf College in Jogeshwari in Mumbai from the academic session 2015-16 itself. While we must salute the spirits of the Vice-Chancellor Mr. Panda, the question that needs to be answered is: will it be having the standards of a National Law University? Will it become a National level University by merely calling it a “National” law university?

Mark the noble objects of these MNLUs as mentioned in Section 4 of the Maharashtra National Law University Act:

4. The objects of the university shall be to advance and disseminate learning and knowledge of law and legal processes and their role in national development, to develop in the students and research scholars, a sense of responsibility, to serve society in the field of law by developing skills in regard to advocacy, legal services, legislation, law reforms and the like, to organize lectures, seminars, symposia and conferences to promote legal knowledge and to make law and legal processes efficient instruments of social development, to hold examinations and confer degrees and other academic distinctions, and to do all such things as are incidental, necessary or conducive to the attainment of all or any of the objects of the university.”

And, this is what is stated in the Preamble to this Act:

“An Act to establish and incorporate National Law Universities in the State for the development and advancement of legal education and for the purposes of imparting specialized and systematic instruction, training and research in systems of law and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Great! But, these ideas remain only on paper. There is no planning and efforts to convert them into reality. At least, so far.

We have earlier seen how certain Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were started in make-shift premises, without no proper funding and infrastructure (human or physical), and some of these IITs still continue to operate from those make-shift arrangements for last 3-4 years. Of course, we take pride in calling them IITs and in claiming that we have set up so many new IITs, what if there is no physical or human infrastructure to make them of any worthwhile standard. No doubt, the only consolation is that the students are selected after a tough test, so they will be of a high standard.

The same appears to happening with MNLUs in Maharashtra. The only thing “National” about MNLUs, at least in the initial few years, would perhaps be that the students would be of high calibre, having been selected (hopefully) through a tough competitive examination such as CLAT or AILET. Otherwise, everything else may perhaps be like any other usual college.

Having seen the falling standards of the Government Law College, Mumbai (GLC, Mumbai), which is the oldest law college in Asia, which does not have regular teachers for last so many years because of Maharashtra Government policies, one cannot have very high hopes for the MNLUs, at least in the initial years. Remember, Maharashtra is the only big or medium size state in India that does not have NLU so far. Because the politicians could not agree for one place where MNLU would be set up (whether Mumbai, Aurangabad or Nagpur?), so we now have 3 NLUs at all these three places!!! The only state in India which will have more than one NLU will be Maharashtra. So, it pours heavily after a long drought. Alas, only if Maharashtra can provide sufficient funds and infrastructure for 3 NLUs, when it is not willing (or not capable) to provide funds to its existing great institutions such as GLC, Mumbai, to meet the basic needs even to employ a minimum strength of regular teachers. Mostly part-time teachers teach there, at daily wages (my apologies for using this word) that may perhaps shame even the Minimum Wages Act.

Having resided for several years in a building that has a common wall with GLC, Mumbai, and having lived in all the three cities (Mumbai, Aurangabad and Nagpur) where MNLUs are to be set up, and having obtained my LL.B. degree from Nagpur and my LL.M. and Ph.D. (Law) degrees from Mumbai, I have enough interest and hope in seeing (in my life time) that top-class NLUs come up and get fully established at all these three places. If only our system will allow that.

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