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Studying International Law Crucial In Indian Legal Education

In an interview with Education Post, Prof Balakista Reddy shares his insights about the present and future of legal education in India, and emphasizes the need for adaptability, strong foundations, and practical skills.

Prabhav Anand17 March 2024 11:02

Prof. Balakista Reddy, Dean of School of Law Mahindra University, Hyderabad

Prof. Balakista Reddy, Dean of School of Law Mahindra University, Hyderabad sheds light on the present and future of legal education in India in an interview with Education Post’s Prabhav Anand. An expert in international law and aerospace law, Prof. Reddy emphasizes the need for adaptability, strong foundations, and practical skills. His perspectives on recent changes in law and challenges in legal education provide valuable guidance for aspiring law students in navigating the dynamic field of law.

Q. With your extensive experience in teaching and research in the field of law, please share your insights on the current state of law education in India? What do you believe are its strengths and where do you think it needs improvement?

The current landscape of legal education in India is quite fascinating. It’s a dynamic field, constantly evolving with elements of both tradition and modernity. We adhere to the strict curricula set forth by the Bar Council, which provides a solid foundation built upon fundamental principles. This emphasis on basics is crucial. However, we’re not stuck in the past; we’ve embraced modernity as well. We’ve integrated practical components like moot courts and internships into our education system. It’s all about striking a balance between theory and practice these days.

When you look at law schools today, you’ll notice a trend towards multidisciplinary approaches. And why not? We live in a globalized world, and our education system must reflect that. Globalization, liberalization have all left their mark on legal education, too. So, it’s imperative that we adapt. We need to focus on specialized areas and keep abreast of global changes.

But it’s not just about adapting to the changing times; it’s also about fostering a culture of research and critical thinking. We encourage our students to delve into contemporary issues, not just within the Indian context but on a global scale. Understanding the global context is crucial in today’s interconnected world. We’re all in this together, working towards a more informed and aware society.

Q. Given the rapid changes in law and technology, how do you envision the future of law education in India? What steps should law schools take to ensure that their curriculum remains relevant and prepares students for the future?

Law and technology, they’re intertwined. Whenever there’s a technological advancement, it necessitates legal thinking. Take the example of the Wright brothers inventing the aircraft in 1903. Suddenly, we’re dealing with cross-border issues. How do we regulate air travel when it crosses international boundaries? And then there’s space technology. Sputnik 1 launched in 1957. It ushered in a new era, prompting the United Nations to urge the international community to use this technology for peaceful purposes.

Technology drives the need for laws. Whether it’s air law, space law, IP law, or IT law, they’re all interconnected. But technology is advancing rapidly, much faster than the law can keep up with. This presents a significant challenge. The law needs to evolve alongside technology, but it’s lagging behind. We need a forward-looking approach.

So, what can law schools do? First and foremost, they need to update their curricula to include emerging areas like cyber law, data privacy, and artificial intelligence. The curriculum should evolve to reflect the changing landscape of law and technology.

Secondly, there should be a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary learning. Law cannot exist in a vacuum. It needs to be integrated with other fields like management and technology. That’s where I’ve seen success in my own experience. Designing courses that combine law with management and technology has been instrumental in preparing students for the future.

Thirdly, there’s the aspect of digital literacy. Legal research is increasingly reliant on digital tools like e-discovery and virtual case management. Law schools need to ensure that students are proficient in using these tools.

Finally, collaboration with the legal industry is crucial. Internships provide students with practical, real-world experience. At NALSAR, for instance, we’ve structured internships to cover different aspects of legal practice, from research to court clerkships. This handson experience is invaluable for students, not just in terms of learning, but also in securing jobs in the legal field.

Q. How are the recent changes in Indian law, including the introduction of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, being incorporated into the curriculum at Mahindra University’s School of Law, and what challenges and opportunities do these changes present for law education? As an internationally recognized expert in air and space law, what are your views on the impact of these changes on the legal profession in India, and how should law schools prepare their students for these changes?

Law is dynamic, always changing according to socioeconomic, and political conditions. Mahindra School of Law is at the forefront of adopting recent Indian changes and implementing dynamic curricula. We focus on practical exercises like moot courts, legal ethics, and stimulating legal precedents. We’re also keen on experimental learning, converting projects into publishable papers. Interdisciplinary education is key, as per the National Education Policy 2020. We integrate with technology and business, emphasizing tech law challenges.

The legal profession is evolving, and we’re proactive in preparing students with current and future knowledge. India, being a youth country, must harness its human resources effectively. Legal education should align with global standards, offering flexibility for a changing future. COVID-19 has influenced legal education, demanding foresight for the next five to ten years. We must ensure our graduates are globally competitive, adapting to globalization, liberalization, privatization, and digitization. Our focus is on shaping the future of legal education in India to meet evolving needs and challenges.

Q. You have a strong background in International Law. How important do you think is the study of international law in Indian legal education? How is it being taught at Mahindra University’s School of Law and what improvements can be made?

Studying international law is crucial in Indian legal education, yet unfortunately, it has been neglected. In smaller countries, the significance of international law is recognized, but in India, there’s a lack of emphasis. However, in the 21st century, as India takes on a more prominent global role, understanding international law becomes essential. Personally, as a student of international law, I see its importance.

Have you heard of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) under the World Trade Organization (WTO)? It encompasses over 160 services, including legal professions. In the next five to ten years, as globalization continues, being a part of such agreements will significantly impact our legal profession. This is inevitable due to the principles of reciprocity and sovereignty

Domestic courts today face international issues like imports and exports due to globalization. The legal landscape is changing rapidly, and international law plays a crucial role in navigating these changes. Therefore, studying international law is not just relevant; it’s imperative for the current and future legal professionals in India.

Q. Law students often face ethical challenges in their legal careers. How does your school prepare its students to deal with these challenges?

We prepare students to face ethical challenges in their legal careers by focusing on future-oriented areas and unexplored sectors. For instance, when I was a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University, I delved into air and space law, an area often overlooked in traditional legal education. Today, the aviation industry offers vast employment opportunities, yet there’s a lack of education in this field across Indian universities.

Similarly, the maritime sector holds immense potential, as highlighted in the Maritime India Vision Document 2030, released by the Government of India. However, education in maritime law is limited. Therefore, at Mahindra, we offer courses in air law, space law, defense, and maritime law to equip students with the necessary skills for these emerging sectors.

Furthermore, there’s a shift away from stereotypical thinking that confines legal education to Indian law and crime. With advancements in technology, legal issues have become increasingly international in nature. Cybercrime, intellectual property disputes, and cross-border legal matters are now commonplace. Hence, it’s essential to broaden the scope of legal education to encompass these global challenges.

To make education accessible and convenient, we embrace innovative methods such as online learning. This allows us to reach students regardless of their geographical location and provide them with quality education at an affordable cost.

In summary, Mahindra University’s School of Law prepares students for ethical challenges by offering education in future-oriented areas like air law, space law, defense, and maritime law. We recognize the importance of adapting legal education to meet the evolving needs of the global landscape.

Q. There are numerous law schools in India. Every month or so, we come across news of a new law school being established in some part of the country. However, in my opinion, not all of them possess the necessary skills, faculty, or peer groups required to form the kind of law schools we imagine. Considering the unequal quality of legal education across colleges in India, should students who do not get admission into good law colleges have the option to choose an apprenticeship model instead of going to a law school? They could learn practical skills from a mentor or a lawyer. What are your views on that?

The quality of legal education across Indian colleges varies significantly, with only a few institutions like Nalsar providing excellent education. Many law schools face challenges such as inadequate infrastructure, resources, faculty, and practical training opportunities. While some privileged students have access to interdisciplinary learning and practical experiences, the majority do not.

It’s true that practical learning, such as through apprenticeships or mentorships with practicing lawyers, can often be more beneficial than purely theoretical education. However, the problem lies in the limited availability of such opportunities. Many colleges lack the faculty and resources to provide practical training, leading to a gap in students’ skills and knowledge.

The Bar Council, as the regulatory body, should address these issues and promote practical learning initiatives. While institutions like Nalsar have succeeded in offering quality education, there’s a need for broader reforms in legal education across the country. Government intervention and support are crucial to ensure that all law schools can provide adequate training and opportunities to their students.

Q. Lastly, what advice would you give to a student who is about to start their law education in India, especially in light of the recent changes in law?

My foremost advice to students is to be adaptive to the evolving legal landscape and open to new ideas and challenges. Stay informed about recent changes in the law by reading legal journals, following cases, and participating in legal discussions. Build a strong foundation in both traditional legal subjects and emerging areas like corporate law, intellectual property, and cyber law. Develop critical thinking and analytical skills by understanding the principles behind statutes and case laws and analyzing arguments presented in cases. Connect with teachers, peers, professors, and legal professionals for internships and mentorships. Remember that law is a service oriented profession, so focus on continuously updating your knowledge and skills to stay competitive. Shift your focus from social media to textbooks to ensure a thorough understanding of the basics, which will help you in your arguments and practice.

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