Long before Dr Faizan Mustafa was appointed vice chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, he was Dean, Faculty of Law, and Registrar of Aligarh Muslim University. Recently, in Supreme Court, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi made submissions tantamount to denying the minority status of AMU. In this interview with Scroll.in, Dr Faizan lays out the history of AMU, its long battle to retain its minority status, and why Rohatgi has got his argument all wrong. Excerpts:
What was the position of the Aligarh Muslim University Act, 1920, and the various amendments to it over the years, regarding the institute’s minority status?
In 1950, India adopted the Constitution. Article 30 of the Indian Constitution gives the minorities the right to “establish and administer educational institutions of their choice”. There are three terms in the sentence – “establish”, “administer”, and “of their choice”. Fundamental rights are available to pre-Constitution institutions also – and, therefore, to Aligarh Muslim University as well.
Article 30 is the only fundamental right which is not subject to any restrictions. By contrast, for instance, Article 19 (1) (a) guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression has as many as eight restrictions. There are jurists who, therefore, say that Article 30 gives absolute right. However, in the TMA Pai case, the Supreme Court said that this absolute right did not mean that there was no restriction.
Didn’t it mean restrictions such as, say, maintaining hygiene or meeting sanitary standards?
Yes, but otherwise the right under Article 30 is absolute. The Supreme Court has also said that if you have established a minority institution, then you have the right to administer it. This institution, which is today called Aligarh Muslim University, was established after 1857 (the revolt), when Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and other Muslims realised that the British government was here to stay, and that any participation in government had to be through education. So they formed a Society for the Diffusion of Western Learning among Muslims. Thereafter, they invited essays on the theme of why Muslims are educationally backward.
You mean to say that there was an essay writing competition.
Yes, and as many as 25 essays were received. Each and every essay said Muslims were not making use of government educational institutions. This was because, the essayists said, Muslims believed that if they were to go to government institutions, where no religious instruction could be imparted, their commitment to their religion would be adversely affected. Therefore, the need was to establish an institution which could provide western learning and also (Islamic) theology.
But this kind of education (secular and religious together) could only be given in a minority-established institution. However, when they went to the District Collector to secure permission for setting up a university, he advised them to proceed gradually – that is, first establish a school, then a college and, finally, a university.
They set up a school, which was upgraded to college in 1877. It was called Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College. During the foundation-laying ceremony itself, the then Viceroy and Governor-General of India (usually shortened to Viceroy) came. In his presence, Sir Syed said that their intention was to establish a university. Thereafter, this wish was reiterated every year, in the presence of the viceroy who would visit the college, which soon acquired tremendous reputation. Government too supported conversion of college into university.
In 1898, Sir Syed died. At his condolence meeting it was said that the most befitting tribute to the departed founder would be to realise his lifelong wish to turn the college into a university. It was decided to raise funds and approach the government.
Why did they decide to approach the government?
Oh, this was because a university could be established only by invoking the sovereign power of the state. This was then done by getting a royal charter or by having an Act passed by the legislature. Parliament was not there then; what India then had was the Governor-General in Council.
The government asked the Muslim leaders to raise Rs 30 lakh. This was because the government support was minimal then. There was also a debate whether or not AMU should be an affiliating university. People wanted all Muslim degree colleges of India to affiliate with AMU. The government, however, advised them to opt for a smaller unitary university where it would be easier to maintain standards. In order to give the university adequate status, the community wanted the Governor-General to be the Chancellor. Though reluctant, the government ultimately agreed – so the Governor (of United Provinces) became the rector and the Governor-General the Visitor, which is now the President of India.
It was in 1920 that the Aligarh Muslim University Act was passed to incorporate AMU.
Did the Act explicitly reflect AMU’s Muslim character, or stated that it was a minority institute?
In the annexure of this Act there is a list of 124 founder-members, all of whom are Muslim. The Act also provides that Muslim students would be given compulsory religious instruction. It also said that the university’s supreme governing council called Court was to be an exclusive Muslim body, empowered to elect the Vice-Chancellor.
The Act also stated that adequate purdah arrangement will have to be made for Muslim women students and they could be exempted from public lectures. Thus, it was a Muslim institute which was upgraded from college to university in 1920. From 1920 till 1950, there was no problem.
So what changed after the Constitution was adopted in 1950?
In the Constitution, universities as an item of legislation is listed in the State List, thus giving the state legislatures the power to pass laws regarding them. However, AMU, Banaras Hindu University and Delhi University are mentioned in Entry 63 of the Union List.
Since all pre-Constitution laws had to be made consistent with the Fundamental Rights (required by Article 13), the AMU Act was amended. Thus, the provision of compulsory religious education in the 1920 Act was in contradiction with Article 28 (3), which said that no person attending any educational institution receiving aid out of state funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction imparted in such institution.
So the AMU Act was amended in 1951 to make compulsory religious instruction optional. It did not say that no religious instruction could be imparted, as is the case in state institutions under Article 28(1). This means that had Parliament treated it as a non-minority institution, the right to impart even optional religious instruction would have been taken away.
The other amendment was to do with the University Court. The government said that between 1920 and 1950 there had been massive Muslim presence in the Court. Why, then, have an exclusion clause barring non-Muslim members from the Court?
So when did the minority character of AMU become contentious?
In 1965, a controversy arose over external and internal reservations in AMU. Then AMU reduced the internal or institutional reservations from 75% to 50%.
[Interviewer’s note: AMU, as of now, allocates seats in BA and MA course in the following proportion – 40% for internal students, 40% for external students, and 20% covers eight categories such as children of employees and old students, students from disturbed states, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, etc. For BA, internal students are those who have studied in the AMU-run five schools. For MA, internal students are those who did their BA from AMU. All students have to take the AMU entrance examination and the merit list for each category is prepared. For medical, engineering, bio-tech courses, seats are shared equally between internal and external students.]
The reduction in internal reservations led to protests and violence on the campus. Vice-Chancellor Ali Yavar Jung was assaulted. In response, the government promulgated an ordinance in 1965. The ordinance was followed by an amendment of the AMU Act, which said that the University Court was not to be the supreme governing body, but merely an advisory one to the Visitor and the Executive Council. The composition of the Court was also altered and both Court and the Executive Council were packed with the nominees of the President of India, the Visitor.
Some Muslims without consulting AMU went to the Supreme Court…
Who were these Muslims?
Nobody really knew them. They weren’t prominent. S Azeez Basha was one of them. They went to the Supreme Court saying Parliament didn’t have the power to pass the 1965 Amendment Act as it impinged on the right of the minorities to administer their institutions. In the process, the petitioners also challenged the 1951 Act, saying the clause pertaining to its Muslim character had been removed. In 1967, the Supreme Court delivered its judgement, now known as the Azeez Basha judgement.
The Supreme Court went into AMU’s history. They accepted that Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College was the nucleus of AMU, that MAO was established by Muslims, that it was a flourishing institution in 1920. But it also said that AMU wasn’t a university before 1920, which is when it became one through the 1920 Act. The Act was passed by the Governor-General in Council. (It was the legislature.) However, the court said that under Article 30, the state legislature (because of the secular character of the Indian state) cannot establish a minority institution. This is what Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi too said to the Supreme Court on January 11.
In the 1967 judgement, the Supreme Court said that since the legislature, not the Muslims of India, established AMU, they did not have the right to administer AMU. So the taking away of the powers of the Court, or the packing of the Executive Council with the President’s nominees, can’t be the grievance of the petitioners, because they didn’t have, to begin with, the right to administer.
Do you feel the 1967 judgement was wrong?
Yes, this is because AMU wasn’t a party in the 1967 case. My grievance is that the Supreme Court can’t take away the minority status of an institution without even giving it a hearing.
The whole basis of this judgement is that “in the face of the Act” (Supreme Court’s words) it isn’t clear that the Muslim minority established it. After quoting the rather long title of the Act, which said that whereas it is “expedient to establish and incorporate Aligarh Muslim University”, the Supreme Court said AMU was established by Parliament. The court then went to argue that since Muslims did not establish AMU, they did not have the right to administer it.
However, the judges admitted in Basha that the term educational institution in Article 30 does include university. Therefore, there can be no doubt that there can be a minority university. Universities are to be incorporated under a central or state Act.
Did the judgement spark off a movement?
Yes, the old boys of AMU and other well-wishers started a movement for restoring to AMU its minority character. This movement continued till 1981, when the government accepted the demand. It said that the Supreme Court did not understand what the intention of the legislature was in 1920, because of the confusion over the word “establish” in the long title of the 1920 Act. It also said that since the Act did not provide a detailed narrative of how the university came into being, what was implicit was to be now made explicit.
Were these changes incorporated in the 1920 Act through the 1981 amendment?
Since the 1920 Act did not explicitly convey the idea that AMU and MAO were one and same, the government deleted the word “establish” from the long title of the 1920 Act. In the definition – 2 (L) of the AMU Act – the amendment said “the university” means an educational institution of their choice established by the Muslims of India, which originated as MAO college and was subsequently incorporated as AMU. This is how it stands today.
They added what is now Section 5 (2) (c). It gives the university the power to promote especially the cultural and educational advancement of the Muslims of India. They also restored to the Court the powers granted to it by the 1920 Act. It was, once again, back to being the supreme governing body. The amendment also ensured Muslim presence in the Court and gave it a role in the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor.
When Parliament overturns a Supreme Court judgement, it does bare minimum. They did not touch all the aspects relating to “administer” except restoring powers of the Court and few other matters. This was because in Basha the Supreme Court had ruled that an institution can administer if it can prove that it was established as a minority institution. This the amendment of 1981 clearly showed now. From 1981, it was absolutely clear that AMU was a minority institution. Since the 1981 amendment was a declaratory law…
What do you mean by declaratory?
A declaratory law is always retrospective. It may clarify certain provisions. This means the 1967 judgement is gone and AMU, since 1920, is a minority institution.
Did AMU not have a quota for Muslims right through?
You see, AMU was established as an institute of excellence. There was an institutional quota. However, over the years, the all-India character of AMU was coming under strain. There were many reasons for it, but prime among these was the emergence of several centres of excellence in different parts of India. The consequence was that instead of catering to the needs of Muslims of India, AMU was confined to servicing the districts of West Uttar Pradesh and Aligarh. The main beneficiaries of institutional reservations were the sons and daughters of AMU employees and those who had studied in the schools of AMU.
A number of committees went into this issue. Till 1993, when the St Stephen’s case was decided, it wasn’t clear whether there could be reserved seats for the minorities who had established the institute. This clarity wasn’t there because Clause 2 of Article 29 says that any educational institution which receives aid by the state cannot deny admission to students on grounds of religion, language or caste, etc. Like St Stephen’s, AMU is a state-aided institution. This clarity was for the first time provided in 1993, and the Supreme Court ruled that an institute could reserve 50% of seats for the community which established it.
The saner elements in AMU said that in order to preserve its all-India character, it was perhaps better to have reservations for Muslims instead of having it for internal candidates. But there were others who thought otherwise, and preferred internal reservations.
What was the reason for this difference of opinion?
This is because if you have Muslim reservations, then many internal candidates will not make the cut. The AMU reservation policy – and I say this with complete sincerity and without any fear of contradiction – is the only policy in the history of affirmative action in the world that intends to take the more meritorious instead of the less meritorious. All reservation policies cater to the unequal, or admit students who scored lower grades than others, to bring them on par. AMU’s Muslim category is a superior category, the internal was an inferior category.
Why do you say that only internal candidates stand to gain from the existing admission policy?
This is best illustrated through an example. For MBBS, 1,700 internal students compete for 75 seats, and 50,000 students compete for the other 75. When the Muslim quota was brought in for the first time in 2005, not a single internal Muslim candidate qualified in MBBS in the Muslim quota. The person who was last in the Muslim quota was still far ahead of the student who was first in the internal quota.
Wasn’t the Muslim quota challenged in the same year?
Yes, and a stay was put on the new admission policy. It is interesting to examine the basis on which the Muslim quota was challenged. For the MD and MS (postgraduate in Medicine and postgraduate in Surgery) courses, the Supreme Court’s position for many years had been that 75% of seats would be reserved for internal students, and the remaining seats for students who take the all-Indian examination conducted by AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences).
In 2004, however, the Supreme Court revisited the MD-MS admission policy in the Dr Saurabh Choudhary case. In accordance with the judgement in this case, the Directorate of Health reduced the 75% institutional quota to 50%. It was after this that AMU, claiming to be a minority institution, demanded a quota for Muslims. AMU students stood to lose. Earlier, 75% of seats were reserved for them. But following the new admission policy of 2005, 50% of seats were reserved for Muslims, 25% for all-India candidates, and only 25% for internal candidates.
Why? After all, internal students could also qualify for the Muslim quota.
Only those among them who were Muslim. The non-Muslim internal students went to the Allahabad High Court, saying their chances of getting admission to the MD course in AMU had been reduced. The single judge, Arun Tandon, in 2005, said he was reading down the 1981 Amendment Act. Sometime the courts don’t strike out the law but read it down.
What is the difference?
This means the law is saved (that is, it is not deemed unconstitutional) but its impact is reduced. He said that the 1981 Act merely establishes that MAO was established by the Muslims of India, not that the university was established by them.
So he delinked AMU from MAO?
Yes, he delinked it. Further, he said the minorities cannot establish a university; at best, they can establish a deemed university. His argument was that a full-fledged university would require a legislative Act (thereby saying Parliament can’t establish a minority institution). As a consequence, government of India and AMU went in appeal to the divisional bench of the Allahabad High Court. The two-judge bench delivered its judgement in January 2006.
That is quick, isn’t it? The students challenged the quota in 2005, Justice Tandon reads down the 1981 Act and a two-member bench delivers it judgement in 2006.
Yes, it was quick. The two-judge bench said that religion-based reservations were wrong even though there was a notification from the HRD Ministry permitting it. The AMU had gone to the Union government and after looking at the AMU Act, the ministry said that since AMU was a minority institution, it was entitled to reserve 50% of seats for Muslims. This notification was quashed.
When a person goes to the court, it asks for X, Y, Z to be done. Neither before the single judge nor before the divisional bench, the students who had questioned the Muslim reservations claimed that the word “establish” which had been deleted in 1981 was wrong. There was no request made, but the court did strike it down on its own. It went beyond the pleadings. The divisional bench said it agreed with the single judge, but said it would go a step further.
What was that step?
It said Parliament did not have the power to pass the 1981 amendment Act. So they held unconstitutional the deletion of the word “establish”, the narrative linking MAO to AMU, and the provision that said AMU has the power to “promote the educational and cultural advancement of the Muslims of India”. It quashed the amendment Act that had unambiguously restored to AMU its minority character.
The irony is that the appeal to the Supreme Court is not about the minority character of AMU, but about the power of Parliament to legislate on it.
So how do you react to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi telling the Supreme Court on January 11, “As the executive government at the Centre, we can’t be seen as setting up a minority institution in a secular state”?
It seems the learned Attorney General has got it wrong. It is his duty to defend the right of Parliament to legislate.
So what you are saying that Rohatgi is not defending the right of Parliament to enact law as far as AMU goes, right?
Yes, that is what I am saying. The High Court, after all, ruled that Parliament didn’t have the power to pass the 1981 Amendment Act. Even in Basha, the right of Parliament to amend the AMU Act was upheld. That is why the Supreme Court said the amendment was constitutional, and it was so because Parliament had the power to amend the AMU Act.
So there is a contradiction in his position?
Yes, yes. But let me take you through other, finer details. The Allahabad High Court judgement says that AMU had a character in 1950, which was incorporated into the Constitution as Entry 63 of the Union List, and that this character can’t be changed by the 1981 amendment. Two issues arise. One, the character of AMU in 1950 is independent of the amendments of 1951and 1965. The very nomenclature of the university – Aligarh Muslim University – conveys the sense of it having a Muslim character.
Two, the legislative entries are the field of activities. By his submission, Rohatgi is freezing the field of activity and taking away from Parliament the power to legislate. This means the same will apply to Banaras Hindu University and Delhi University. In other words, the government can’t make laws regarding them as well. But both were not parties to the case in the Allahabad High Court. So how can their rights be taken without hearing them, just as AMU was not heard in 1967?
Three, the High Court also said that the 1981 Amendment Act was a brazen overturning of the 1967 Supreme Court judgement by Parliament. Recently, the government issued an ordinance overturning the Supreme Court judgement in the Jallikutta case. It is a different matter that the Supreme Court has stayed it. The overturning of judgements happens every day. Parliament does this by removing the basis of the judgement. The basis of the Basha judgement was that from the AMU Act of 1920 it was not clear whether Muslims had established it. As I have pointed out earlier, Parliament clarified in 1981 as to who established it. From this perspective, the 1981 Act is completely constitutional.
But the issue here is whether a minority institution is empowered to have a policy of religion-based quota.
Minority institutions are different from state institutions. Many people have this confusion that religion-based reservations can’t be there. But this prohibition pertains to state institutions. For instance, Delhi University can’t have reservations for any religious community.
Minority institutions can be either religious or linguistic. Most minority institutions in India are not religious but linguistic minority institutions. For instance, we have about 100 Sindhi minority institutions in the country, including good many medical colleges. If I am a Brahmin of Uttar Pradesh and I come to Hyderabad and wish to set up an educational institution in Hindi medium, then it would be a minority institution. Minority is defined at the level of states.
Likewise, if a Marathi or a Telugu community establishes an institution in Delhi, it would be a minority institution. It would be allowed to reserve seats for the community which established it. There is no communal angle in the minority rights.
The protection in the Constitution is granted to preserve the diversities of India. You can’t protect the language or script or culture (Article 29) if you don’t have public spaces for it to flourish. This isn’t possible if a community, either linguistic or religious, doesn’t have members preserving it. This is possible only through minority institutions.
What explains for Rohatgi’s submission to the Supreme Court?
Either he wasn’t briefed properly or the government hasn’t taken a reasoned, deliberated decision. Parliament can legislate to promote rights under Article 30.
Do you have the apprehension, as so many Muslims have, that the current government seeks to change the character of AMU?
I think they may have a problem with the word Muslim…
That is because I can’t see any other reason for Rohatgi’s change in stance will damage prime minister’s image and commitment to diversity. (That is change in the stance of the Union government from the time the United Progressive Alliance presided over it.)
So you think Rohatgi, or rather the government’s problem, arises because of the Muslim character of AMU?
I don’t know. But I do think the government is missing out the opportunity to reach out to Muslims. It could have done this by saying that it did not agree with the Allahabad High Court, and that it is a historical fact that AMU is a minority institution.
But how could it have reached out to the Muslim community? The entire Hindutva campaign targets the community.
Since AMU is also a symbol of Muslim identity, it presented the government the opportunity to reach out to the community.
And that opportunity the government…
I think they have lost it. In its appeal, both AMU and the government have said that all the facts were not before the Supreme Court in 1967. The University was not a party in it. After all, the request to the Supreme Court is to simply reconsider the Basha judgement, which has been criticised by all legal luminaries. For instance, HM Seervai, who is India’s greatest constitutional author, in his criticism said, “The 1967 decision of the Supreme Court is protective of great public mischief and must be overruled.”
So the government could have asked for a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court to hear the appeal. (The one which heard Basha was a five-judge bench). Assuming it rules against AMU’s minority character, despite the 1981 Amendment Act, the government could have taken the plea that it tried but was now helpless against the verdict. So politically too, it was a wrong decision.
Legally India asked the vice chancellors of all 17 national law universities some questions about their law school and why law aspirants should come there.
Here’s the first in our series of national law schools, in their own words, with Nalsar Hyderabad vice chancellor (VC) Faizan Mustafa giving his candid view about what he thinks makes Nalsar special.
Nalsar at a glance
|Total number of teachers||60|
|Of whom:|| Law Professors: 8
Management Professors: 3
Associate Professors (Law): 1
Associate Professors (Management): 2
Assistant Professors (Law): 17
Assistant Professors (Arts): 5 (1 for each subject)
Assistant Professors (Management): 3
|Of 17 Assistant Professors ( Law)|| 2 at Stage 3 (10 + years service at current institution)
3 at Stage 2 (5 + years service at current institution)
6 at Stage 1 (<5 years service at current institution)
6 in contractual positions (0-3 years of service)
|Academic research by teachers|| Each teacher expected to publish in prestigious peer- reviewed journals and devote vacation period to independent research and writing.
Some teachers are working on longitudinal research projects and some are taking correspondence courses from specialised centres.
|Teaching hours|| 10-12 hours of class per week per teacher.
One mandatory course, one elective course and one research- based seminar to be taught per teacher per semester
|USP||Course design flexibity. BCI’s mandatory courses taught by third year. Fourth and fifth year students are allowed to choose from elective courses, research-based seminars and shorter courses. LLM students build a custom specialisation.|
Which jobs that students secured in the past three years, do you think most exemplify why your law school is a great place for students to join?
Our recent graduates have chosen jobs spread across different sectors:
Which co-curricular and extra-curricular achievements of students in the last five years are you most proud of? Which student body activities are you most proud of?
Can you provide a break-down of monetary funds provided for the use of student bodies’ activities?
In the present academic year (2015-2016), the University has allocated approximately Rs 40 Lakhs to the Student Bar Council (SBC).
Out of this amount, nearly half is allocated to cover the travel and registration costs for moot court competitions, client counseling, negotiation and mediation competitions.
The remaining amount is allocated to the various elected committees that are part of the Student Bar Council (SBC), namely the Academic Committee, the Literary and Debating Committee, the Cultural Committee, the Sports Committee and the Student Welfare Committee among others.
The students have considerable autonomy in the inter-se allocation of funds and the University can only provide an exact breakdown of how funds were utilised at the end of the academic year.
|Total Student Bar Council Budget (2015-2016)||Rs 40 lakhs|
| travel and registration costs for:
||Almost Rs 20 lakhs|
Have you worked on developing any systems in your law school to better manage, incentivise and / or improve effectiveness of teaching and non-teaching staff?
The most important intervention in this regard has been the introduction of a comprehensive course evaluation system since 2012.
Towards the end of each semester, students are asked to fill in anonymous feedback on the performance of their respective teachers. The feedback is collected through a structured questionnaire that also generates a rating of the concerned teacher’s performance on several aspects such as knowledge of the subject, communication skills, availability for students and transparency in assessment of exams.
The ratings generated through this process are communicated to the teachers and are given weightage in decisions related to regularisation and promotion.
Regular faculty seminars are held in order to advance academic discussions on topic of contemporary relevance.
How many professors and assistant professors have you hired in the last 12 months? How many have left? Can you give a breakdown of names who have joined and / or left?
Since March 2015, we have hired five new faculty members (Two Professors for Management Studies, Two Assistant Professors for Law and One Assistant Professor for English).
In the past one year, two faculty members (both Assistant Professors) have left, one to pursue doctoral studies and another on account of health-related difficulties.
Names have been withheld at the request of the interested parties.
|Faculty members hired since March 2015||5|
|Faculty members who left since March 2015||2 Assistant Professors|
|Hired Management Professors||2|
|Hired Law Assistant Professors||2|
|Hired English Assistant Professor||1|
What do you look for when hiring faculty?
The first and foremost thing is that a prospective faculty member must demonstrate a commitment to learning and open-minded inquiry. We require all applicants for teaching positions (whether for contractual or regular positions) to give demonstration classes before our students.
This is important since a teacher should be an effective communicator and be able to handle the students’ questions with confidence. Applicants are then required to face interviews before Selection Committees (as mandated by UGC regulations) where they aretested for their subject knowledge and analytical skills.
We are doing our best to identify and attract capable teachers, but in the legal education sector it is quite difficult since the remuneration in other branches of the legal profession is a lot more.
What kind of emphasis does the college place on faculty to publish in journals or to do academic research? How much time would you expect professors and/or others to spend on research?
We expect each one of our faculty members to publish their independent research in peer-reviewed journals. Instead of setting a numerical target, we encourage them to aim for publications that carry a certain degree of prestige and are known for their quality.
Some of our faculty members are engaged with longitudinal research projects (for example there is an ongoing study on Knowledge-Based Interventions in order to realise Socio-Economic Rights such as work, education and housing) as well as specialised centres that offer correspondence programmes in areas such as Patent Law and Aviation Law to name a few.
While our faculty members are busy with teaching responsibilities for nearly nine months in an academic year, we expect them to devote the vacation period (May, November and December) towards their independent research and writing.
We also host symposiums and workshops from time-to-time that are substantially based on the research interests of our faculty members.
How many hours are teaching faculty expected to teach per week?
As per the UGC regulations, the prescribed teaching load ranges between 14 hours to 16 hours per week. However, this prescription was made with traditional university-systems in mind.
In the NLUs, an instructor has to devote considerable time for consultation hours, presentations of term papers, internal evaluation of examinations and written assignments as well as providing support for student activities (e.g. moot courts, legal writing exercises, guest lectures etc.) in addition to one’s own independent research.
Keeping this in mind, we usually require our faculty members to engage 10-12 hours of class per week.
Each instructor is hence required to engage one mandatory course, one elective course and one research-based seminar course in a semester. We do recognise that such a teaching load is higher than what is prescribed in the leading Western Universities (6-8 hours per week), but we hope to rationalise this with more faculty hiring in the foreseeable future.
It is our policy to give a semester off after three semesters. In last one year two assistant professors were given a no teaching semester to help them complete their Ph.D. University had also given sabbatical to 75 per cent of its eligible faculty members.
What do you think your NLU offers that is unique and sets you apart from the other 17 NLUs?
The most distinctive feature about the curriculum at NALSAR is the substantial flexibility that it allows.
In the last four years, we have hosted more than 50 short coursestaught by visiting faculty which includes sitting High Court judges, senior lawyers, bureaucrats, academics, film-makers, activists and NALSAR alumni who are engaged in different sectors.
None of the other NLUs have enabled academic flexibility to such an extent.
Our elective courses are consciously designed to emphasize interdisciplinary scholarship and ways of thinking.
Our LL.M. programme is unique among Indian universities since it does not lock students into specialisations at the beginning of the academic year. Instead, our LL.M. students can customise their own coursework and build a specialisation of their own choice.
What piece of legal education reform, either at the statutory or regulatory level, would you most like to see during your tenure, and why?
At the moment, the most worrying aspect about the NLUs is theiruncertain financial health.
While all of them have been created by State-level legislations, the financial support for building infrastructure and meeting recurring expenditure has been quite uneven. While some of the NLUs have received generous support from their respective State governments, others have struggled on this count.
Limited support from the State leads to escalating costs in administration which further result in the continuous increase of fees collected from students. Increasing the fees has several debilitating effects such as discouraging applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds and compelling current students to prioritize lucrative earning opportunities over their personal interests and motivations.
It is important to preserve the public character of the NLUs and the same can only be done with consistent financial support from the respective State governments.
Residential institutions such as the NLUs are far more expensive to run in comparison to traditional universities, so we have to find a way to make a special case for their funding on a recurring basis.
At the statutory level, the governance structures of the NLUs need to be made accountable to a broader range of stakeholders. At NALSAR, we are exploring the possibility of having the formal representation of alumni (chosen from the pool of graduates who have more than 10 years of work experience) in our governing bodies.
This practice is followed by the best universities in the world since the alumni will have a strong interest in enhancing the reputation of the institution in the long run.
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa is the current Vice-Chancellor of National Academy of Legal Studies and Research, (NALSAR) Hyderabad. Before joining NALSAR in 2012, he was the founding Vice-Chancellor of National Law University Odisha, (NLUO) Cuttack.
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa completed his LL.M. from Aligarh Muslim University, (AMU) Aligarh. He, being a gold medallist, was persuaded to join the AMU Law Faculty. The academic journey was followed by the administrative one and he worked as Dean, Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University and then served as AMU’s Registrar.
His contribution in drafting the Eritrean Constitution, teaching High Court Judges and working directly under the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, is well known to the legal fraternity.
Thereafter, he was appointed as the Founding Director of KIIT Law School, (KLS) Bhubaneswar and subsequently he went ahead and established National Law University Odisha, (NLUO) Cuttack in 2008 which became functional from 2009.
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa has also authored several books and number of International as well as National Publications. He also writes regularly on contemporary legal issues in National Newspapers.
He is the only academician who has been nominated as member of National Legal Services Authority, which is headed by the Chief Justice of India. He is a member of Executive Councils, Academic Councils and General Councils of various universities and has been on various committees responsible for identifying new Vice Chancellors.
He enjoys teaching a lot and is a great orator. His achievements are many and he is an eminent academician, a passionate teacher and a commendable scholar.
Live Law: Hello Sir, First of all heartiest congratulations on receiving the prestigious SAARC’s Best Law Teacher Award. Sir, How do you take this award, as an acknowledgement of your efforts or as a burden/pressure to perform well in future also?
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: Teachers don’t teach with the intent to receive awards. Their best award is the success of their students. Still this award means a lot to me as I am the first in-service Indian Law teacher to receive this award and therefore the burden to perform well in future necessarily comes with this award. I am grateful to the jury and Prof.N.R.Madhava Menon and Mr.Lalit Bashin, President of Indian Law firms for conferring this award on me.
I have little doubt in my mind that I hardly deserve this honour, but I can tell you that teaching is my passion and the kind of interest which my students have shown in my classes are my best reward.
Live Law: Please throw some light on the struggle in your life.
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: By the grace of Almighty so far I had a smooth sailing and have not experienced any real struggle. I was offered Assistant Professorship on the 25th day of my completing LLM. In fact I was never appointed as permanent Assistant Professor and was directly made Associate Professor after serving as temporary Assistant Professor for 5 years. I got all my promotions on time.
I had a huge challenge of setting up KIIT Law School and to make it comparable with National Law Schools but with the help of Dr. Achuta Samanta the visionary founder of KIIT University within no time we were able to compete with the leading Law Schools of the country. KIIT Law School has a name of its own today and is the Champion of Bar Council of India Moot Court. My students from KIIT Law School are doing well. Yesterday, I read an article published by two of my students- Mr. Kanad Bagchi & Jeet Soni- in the prestigious Economic and Political weekly. KIIT Law School students were responsible for the inclusion of third gender in the voter list. The issue was raised when Mr. Navin Chawla then C.E.C. visited KIIT Law School.
My next challenge was establishing National Law University at Cuttack. For 3 years I worked for 16-18 hours and today I am glad to see that NLUO is also coming of age and my students are doing extremely well not only in Moot Courts but also in the publications of research papers. NLUO has unique curricula and has integration of knowledge as its motto.
NALSAR offered me a different kind of struggle. I had taken over at a very difficult time when there was too much negativity about NALSAR. I am glad that today NALSAR is the most happening place with huge positivity and the kind of experiments which we are making at NALSAR are unheard off in the National Law Schools. I hope in years to come we will reap rich harvest out of these experiments.
Live Law: Sir, whether National Law Universities are serving the same purpose as sought by Prof. Madhav Menon?
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: National Law Universities have done a great service to legal education. If today law is a prized course it is because of National Law Universities. Today B.A.LL.B.from NALSAR is as prestigious as MBBS from CMS Vellore or B.Tech from any leading IIT or MBA from IIM (Ahmedabad).
Corporate lawyering is also lawyering and our students have indeed done very well in corporate law firms. Payment of education loan compels my students to join Corporates. There is a recent trend of our students returning to litigation after serving corporate law firms for few years. It is a welcome change and I am sure the litigation lawyering will also be soon dominated by students of National Law Universities. Senior lawyers should pay good salaries to attract young law graduates.
Live Law: It has been said that National Law Schools are way better than Traditional Universities but in fact most of the Vice Chancellors and Faculty of National Law Schools are from traditional Universities. Then, how can you justify that National Law Schools are academically stronger than Traditional Universities? Also there is dearth of faculty for teaching core subjects in National Law Universities, how do you think this affects the argument that they are better than Traditional Universities?
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: It is true that all the Vice-Chancellors of National Law Schools had their education in the traditional universities. Aligarh Law Faculty has given the maximum number of Vice-Chancellors to National Law Universities (Prof. N.R. Madhava Menon was Vice-Chancellor of National Law School of India University, Bangalore and W.B. National University of Juridical Studies, Kolkata, Prof. V.S. Rekhi was Vice-Chancellor of National Law Institute University, Bhopal, Prof. A.K. Kaul was Vice-Chancellor of National Law University Jodhpur &National University of Study & Research in Law (NUSRL), Ranchi; Prof. Leela Krishnan of The National University of Advanced Legal Studies, (NUALS), Kochi) but then National Law Universities can’t be blamed for not producing Vice-Chancellors as they are new institutions. National Law School of India University, Bangalore is in its Silver Jubilee Year and NALSAR in its 15th year. Other law schools are still younger and therefore to expect their students to occupy the senior position of Vice-Chancellor is unrealistic. As far as faculty members are concerned now many students of National Law Schools are teaching in various National Law Universities and I am sure in years to come this number will only grow. I have succeeded in pursuing some of our graduates to join NALSAR. I am of the firm view that in the recruitment of Assistant Professor, B.A.LL.B. should be made qualification instead of LL.M. with NET and LL.M. should be done only in service. I have already written a long letter on this subject to Bar Council of India.
In my opinion National Law Universities are academically stronger than traditional universities because they are full-fledged universities of law. Law department in a traditional university will be only one out of 100 departments with very little autonomy to design its courses. In terms of resources also they have issues. In National Law Universities we have full autonomy as we have our own Academic Council & Executive Council. National Law Schools also have the involvement of Judges and lawyers of Supreme Court and High Court for a better Bench-Bar-Academia relationship. The teachers of National Law School are far more focused in their researches than the teachers of the traditional universities. It is a different story that several National Law Universities have not made full and good use of their autonomy. I always believe that readymade teachers are not available anywhere. It is the duty of the Vice-Chancellor to locate the raw talent and then with the help of senior Professors train these newly recruited youngsters.
Live Law: Sir, as a sitting Vice-Chancellor of a National Law University, what are your comments on ‘Online CLAT’ Examination which is going to start from 2015.
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: Personally I have reservations about the Online CLAT Examination but then it is the decision of the CLAT Core Committee and I am bound by its decision.
Live Law: All India Bar Examination is a mandatory exam to be given by a law graduate in order to enrol his/her self to the practise of the law. The exam pattern is Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and it is an Open Book Exam. Sir, what purpose does an ‘Open Book Method’ serves? Your comments on such pattern of exam.
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: Open Book Examination is a good and modern method but then questions should not be based on facts or provisions. They should require testing of analytical skills not memory. Most paper setters do not know how to set questions for an open book exam. Giving of Bare Acts in Law examination is not something very new. In several judicial service examinations, Bare Acts used to be supplied as candidates were not expected to memorize the language of legal provisions. Even in multiple choice questions the smart paper setter may test analytical and logical understanding.
Live Law: Sir, you have always promoted legal education and legal profession. The recent regulation by BCI restricts young law advocates from practising in Supreme Court. Do you think that such restriction by BCI is justified? And if yes then on what grounds is it justified?
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: I am not in favour of restricting young law graduates in practicing in the Supreme Court. India is a country of young people. They are our best human resource and we should make best use of them. These young graduates can quickly learn from senior advocates.
Live Law: Sir, you have been a Student, a teacher, a dean, a registrar and also Vice-Chancellor. Was the trajectory of your career a result of careful planning or was it a matter of destiny? And what next have you planned, sir?
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: My career trajectory was not planned. I never dreamt of being a Vice-Chancellor. I am convinced I don’t deserve it as better people are around but since destiny has put me in this place I must deliver to the best of my abilities. I enjoy teaching and I am passionate about it. Thus I plan to go back to teaching. In my view one should stay at a place only when one is meaningfully contributing to the institution. Thus if I think I cannot do anything anymore or not allowed to do things at my pace, I prefer to move out. A player who has got tired should go out of field so that an energetic substitute takes the field and makes greater contribution to the team/institution.
Live Law: As someone who has worked on projects abroad, do you have advice to students who want to work in the international field?
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: I think a foreign degree gives us a unique experience and those who have opportunity to go abroad must avail this opportunity. Number of my students are in international law firms and they are doing exceedingly well.
Live Law: How will you describe your Working day at NALSAR? Do you have any changes planned in the University?
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: I have enjoyed my stay at NALSAR and the credit for this goes to my faculty members and students. We have already brought number of changes at NALSAR such as introduction of choice-based credit system, innovative/project scheme & less stressful introduction of large number of optional and huge reduction in mandatory courses. I think NLU Curricula is too stressful and we must take some radical steps to reduce academic stress. Similarly I have given NALSAR Rules & Regulations. We have drafted Financial Regulations, Purchase Rules, Service Regulations, laid down Recruitment Policies, for the first time drafted Academic Misconduct Policy etc. For the first time file note sheet system was introduced. We have brought in openness and transparency in our decision making.
Live Law: what are your thoughts on a Student Exchange Programme between National Law Universities?
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: I am for student exchange between National Law Universities. I think it is a part of social responsibility of leading Law Schools to help new National Law Schools and traditional schools located in their states. Just becoming an Island of excellence in themselves is not a great achievement. We should extend our helping hand to other traditional law colleges as we owe some duty towards them.
Live Law: Sir being an alumnus of AMU, I am sure you must have heard about the recent stories about female students not having access to the Library. Do you have any comments about it?
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: The Media coverage of library was not fair as media failed to understand the dynamics of the problem. Maulana Azad Library of AMU already has more than 3,000 female members. All post-graduate girls, female research scholars and girl students of professional courses including B.A.LL.B. and other courses such as B.Com, B.Lib.etc. are already members of this library. For the students of the Women’s College, there is a library within the premises of the Women’s college and the catalogue of Maulana Azad Library is also available to the under-graduate students of Women’s college. Whatever books they want from main library they make an online request and get it in two hours’ time and therefore a mountain was made out of a molehill. In any case the Allahabad High Court has permitted even the under-graduate girls to visit Maulana Azad Library and the university has implemented the decision of the High Court. Nobody ever raised similar questions about Delhi University where under-graduate girls are not allowed in the main library.
Live Law: Sir, Your message to your students across the Country.
Prof. (Dr.) Faizan Mustafa: My message to students is there is no shortcut to success. Hard work alone pays. Do not run after short term gains. This is the best time to study law.
Prof. Faizan Mustafa graduated from Aligarh Muslim University in History and Law. Thereafter, he pursued his doctoral research in Intellectual Property Law. He is currently the Vice Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, he was also the Founding Director of KIIT School of Law and National Law University Odisha Cuttack.
He was also consulted in the drafting of Eritrean Constitution and Asian Human Rights Charter of Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong. As a keen researcher and avid academician, Dr. Mustafa has authored several books and has about hundred national and International papers to his credit. Supreme Court of India has also quoted his article in its decision on right to die. He has worked in unexplored areas like Copyright Law, HIV Law, Art.356, Strict Liability Law, Freedom of Information Law, Religious Conversion Laws etc.
We requested him to share his views on:
I was admitted in Allahabad University in 1982. My elder sister was doing her M.A. (History) and I used to read her History books and developed interest in History. Aligarh Muslim University’s academic session was delayed and therefore I got enrolled at Allahabad University. When I came for Durga Puja holidays, I received a call letter from AMU and since it was my desire to study History under Prof. Irfan Habib, I left Allahabad University and joined Aligarh Muslim University. I enjoyed my graduation in History at AMU and was taught by some of the best historians such as Prof. Athar Ali, Prof. Shireen Moosvi, Prof. M.A. Alvi, Prof. A.J. Qaiser, Prof. I.A.Khan etc., Due to my interest in debating and having studied History quite well, I opted for Law and I thoroughly enjoyed my legal education at AMU Law Faculty. This University was the best place after Campus Law Centre, Delhi to study Law at that point of time. The departmental politics in History Department was another contributing factor for me to leave the discipline which was my first love.
Do you feel that the legal profession has significantly changed from the time when you decided to study law? What are some of the changes that have positively impacted the profession and legal academia in your opinion?
I agree that legal profession has significantly changed from the time when I studied law. At that point of time most people did not do Law out of choice as Engineering and Medicine were the prized courses. But the kind of diversity I had in my class was great as I had some B.Tech graduates and Post-Graduates of various subjects in sciences and humanities in my class. We had one M.B.B.S. graduate as well. The establishment of National Law School, Bangalore and other National Law Schools brought in a paradigm shift and law is today a very prestigious course. We attract very bright youngsters and they have proved their worth. The demography of Law Schools and colleges has completely changed in last 25 years.
You studied law at the Aligarh Muslim University. Which areas of the law fascinated you the most as a law student? What strategies did you adopt for acquiring a more nuanced understanding of these areas of law?
Law Department of AMU was established in 1891 and this department has given maximum number of Vice-Chancellors to National Law Universities. Prof. Madhava Menon, Founder Vice-Chancellor National Law School, Bangalore and West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata himself studied and taught at AMU. Prior to my joining law, some leading teachers of the University had already moved out of Aligarh or had gone abroad such as Prof. S.Dayal, went to Panjab University, Prof. S.C.Agarwal and Mrs. Agarwal went to Pune University. Prof.Tahir Mahmood went to Delhi University. Prof. Mohd. Ghouse had gone to Ananthapur University and several other Professors including Prof. M.R.Zafar and Prof.Syed Khalid Rasheed had gone to Nigeria but we still had Prof. S. Misbha-ul-Hasan who had studied at Yale, Prof. V.S.Rekhi who subsequently became founder Vice-Chancellor of National Law Institute University, Bhopal, Prof. M.Z.Siddiqui, Prof. Ahmed Siddique, Prof. Mustafa Ali Khan and Dr. Musheer Alam, Prof. G.A.Khan etc. on the faculty. All of them were great teachers and they have influenced me in a big way. Prof. M.Z.Siddiqui taught me for five years for LL.B., LL.M. and then guided my Ph.D. and proved to be a teacher, philosopher and friend in the true sense of the term. Prof. V.S.Rekhi was a great constitutional law teacher. Because of him I developed interest in this subject. Due to these teachers of great eminence, I developed interest in law particularly in criminal law and evidence. If you have a good teacher then learning becomes a fun activity and the teacher would help you in developing quest for clarity which would lead to good understanding of complicated legal problems. Law quickly became my second love.
As a law student, you consistently excelled in academics and secured the first position in your LL.M. course from AMU. What are the 3 most important tips that you would like to share with law students for consistently excelling in academics?
My three tips to students to consistently excel in academics are:
Your Ph.D. thesis was on copyright law. Why did you choose copyright law in particular? What factors should a legal academic consider while choosing an area of specialization apart from personal interest?
Copyright was the 5th topic which I selected for my Ph.D. In 1980’s IPR was not there as a subject in most law colleges and faculties including Aligarh. Even today as per Bar Council of India regulations on legal education, IPR is only an optional subject. India was blacklisted by U.S. under Super 301 and this controversy about our IPR regime was responsible for choosing copyright law as a subject of my research. Moreover the country has just initiated a debate on the reforms which are to be brought in the Copyright Act of 1957. I believe that in addition to personal interest in choosing a Ph.D. topic, we should also think of its current relevance for the country.
Legal researchers and academics are not considered important stakeholders in our legal system. We have not yet appointed any professor of law as the Judge of the Supreme Court even though Art.124 of the Constitution explicitly talks about the appointment of an eminent jurist as Judge of the Supreme Court. The establishment of Law Schools and the involvement of Chief Justice of India as their Visitor and Chief Justices of High Court as their Chancellors has opened up avenues of dialogue between academics and judges and I am sure that this would help them to learn from each other.
You secured a diploma in International and Comparative Human Rights from International Institute of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France. Are there any specific aspects of this experience that particularly stood out for you?
The Strasbourg Course in International and Comparative Human Rights was an intensive course and had several processes of evaluation including a Moot Court in which you are given a problem to argue before European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. The course had good input of practical issues and helped me in understanding human rights problems. Human Rights was also not there as a subject in most law colleges including Aligarh. I introduced this subject at AMU Law Faculty.
How did you decide to go into academics? What would be your advice to those law students who wish to go into academia but are instead forced to opt for other fields that are considered more lucrative?
I was persuaded to join teaching by my Dean Prof. M.Z.Siddiqui as per the tradition of the University to recruit Gold Medallists. I had qualified IAS Prelims but he asked me not to write Mains exam. I was appointed within one month of my completing LL.M. and since I had seen some of the best law teachers, I tried to emulate them and started enjoying teaching. My advice to law students who want to join academia is that the amount of autonomy which you get as a teacher you cannot get in any other field. Nobody is your boss and nobody writes your confidential appraisal reports.
When would you say that an academician is successful? What are the career goals legal academicians should set for themselves?
A teacher is successful if he is able to ignite fire in the minds of students. A law teacher would be considered successful if he has taught his students how to find law. He is not supposed to tell them what is Law. The goal of a legal academician should be to produce competent and socially relevant lawyers. Today anyone who is appointed as an Assistant Professor in Law and he is good would surely end up as Vice-chancellor of some National Law University. Thus in appointing Assistant Professors I also consider how would they shape up as Vice-Chancellor.
You were involved in the drafting of the Eritrean Constitution and the Asian Human Rights Charter. What were the most intellectually stimulating aspects of this experience?
Eritrea came out as a country out of partition from Ethiopia. Ethiopia was never colonized except Italian occupation of some parts of Eritrea for about five years. They had uninterrupted monarchy for about 3,000 years. They also had the experience of socialism prior to the drafting of the constitution. I gave number of suggestions on the fundamental rights and the government-people relationship. Similarly, Asian Human Rights Charter was drafted in 1995 and legal luminaries like Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer were involved in its drafting. As a young law teacher I learned great deal during the consultation on the drafting of this Charter. Justice Iyer’s presence and conversation with me are still fresh in my mind. I specifically recall sessions on Rights of Elderly and HIV patients which were indeed intellectually enriching.
You have authored several books and have written approximately 100 national and international research papers on a large array of subjects pertaining to Information Law, Religious Conversion, HIV, the Right to Die, mandatory death sentence, etc. Your article was also quoted by the Supreme Court in its decision on the Right to Die. How did you find time to produce so many scholarly articles?
I do not think I have written anything substantial. In fact I feel bad when I read my own writings. The only consolation which I get is that I tried to study areas of contemporary relevance. I took up Right to Information Law in 1995 and wrote another book on this subject in 2003. Parliament enacted a law on RTI in 2005. Similarly I had written on HIV Law some two decades ago but the country is yet to have a law on this subject. I had written on mandatory death sentence many years ago but we continue to have laws which still provide for mandatory death sentence in spite of it being held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court way back in 1983.
I had also written something on recognizing domestic work as work two years ago. Supreme Court of India was shocked to note that the work performed by the housewives is not considered as productive work and house-wives are clubbed together with prostitutes and beggars. Ministry of Welfare tried to salvage the situation and came up with a proposal whereby housewife would be paid 15% of the salary of their husband. I again opposed this proposal because it reduces wife to the status of an employee. Fortunately nothing happened thereafter.
I have also been writing on the inconsistency in the decision of the Supreme Court on the commutation of death sentence. ‘Right to Die’ has been another area of my interest and continues to be relevant because new BJP government proposes to delete Sec.309 from IPC. If you have an idea which you want to communicate with others or initiate debate on an important issue you will feel compelled to write. I think teaching schedule has no relationship with one’s writings as the maximum number of classes a Professor takes in a week is not more than 12. Moreover we have long winter and summer breaks. One can also take sabbatical to write books etc.
Any time management tip for budding legal academics?
Time Management is an individualistic trait. If a teacher writes even one paper a year, I think it is good enough. A good academic should spend lot of time in reading.
When would you say a legal academician is ready to start writing books?
One should write when one feels he must write. From one’s teaching one gets ideas for research and writing and therefore teaching and research go hand in hand. It is painful that good teaching is not given any importance in the selection committee of teachers. The focus is only on the number of publications. UGC should do something about it.
What, in your view, are the few most important skills that law students should strive to acquire in order to write research papers effectively?
I do not believe in teaching research methodology. I never taught this course. Research is like swimming and no amount of teaching can help you in learning it. You need to go in water and learn. Similarly you need to start writing, over the years you would improve your writing skills.
You are the founder Vice-Chancellor of National Law University, Orissa as well as the founder Director of KIIT Law School. What were the biggest challenges and impediments that you had to face while building these institutions?
I had a great time in Orissa and believe me I enjoyed every minute of my stay in Orissa. KIIT Law School is like second home to me and I feel more at ease in Bhubaneshwar than in Aligarh. Dr. Achyuta Samanta, Founder of KIIT University is a human being par excellence who believes in “art of giving”. He has too much of positive energy. He is a living legend of our time. He has set up Asia’s biggest tribal school with 25,000 students who are given education free of cost and the school takes care of their food and clothing. He gave me full freedom to set up a law school and I am sure in the years to come KIIT Law School would become a leading institution of legal education.
My challenge as founder Director was to create a space for KIIT Law School and I feel that KIIT Law School can be easily compared today with several National Law Schools. Establishing National Law University at Cuttack was my other significant assignment in Orissa and I got full support from the dynamic Chief Minister of Orissa. I continue to believe that NLUO was a unique experiment in terms of innovation in the curricula. My most effective strategy was to create ownership of NLUO amongst judges and lawyers of Orissa. We conducted first 3 admission tests and each year NLUO’s admission test was rated as the best law admission test of the year.
A common criticism of most National Law Universities is that the reputation that is enjoyed by these institutions is not matched by the quality of the faculty. Being an eminent scholar yourself, do you think that this is valid?
There is some truth in it that with the establishment of National Law Schools the quality of law students has gone up but the quality of law teachers has gone down. But then it is the problem of all professional courses. We are not able to attract our brightest students to teaching. I feel the solution is to make B.A.LL.B. as the qualification for appointment as Assistant Professor. At NALSAR, I have succeeded in persuading some of our young graduates to join academia. Moreover I believe readymade teachers are not available anywhere. It is the duty of the Vice-Chancellor and other senior Professors to train youngsters. In the recruitment of Assistant Professors I always look at their potential and my ability to train the selected candidates in becoming a good teacher.
A common perception in the student community is that the curriculum in most NLUs is outdated and does not equip the students with the skills that they need to solve real life problems. What are your thoughts about this perception?
The Law School curricula may not be completely outdated. But it is certainly stressful. I am a firm believer of reducing academic stress. I also believe that the number of projects should be drastically reduced and the students should not be asked to do more than one project in a semester. Our curricula has not been made after receiving inputs from the industry. We need good Law School – Industry interface in preparing curricula. We should also accept the fact that classroom is not the only place of learning.
Another concern that is often raised is that the NLUs are beyond the reach of the reach of hardworking students who lack the economic resources to study in these prestigious institutions. What steps should be taken foster more equality in the NLUs?
Law schools are islands of excellence and should therefore just like IITs be directly funded by Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. Due to the small number of students, the fee collection is very small and government has to give generous grants to these institutions to keep them functional. If government agrees to liberally fund then the fees would be automatically reduced.
NLUs in India have often been described as islands of excellence amidst a sea of mediocrity. What steps should be taken to usher in greater uniformity in the quality of legal education in the country?
1085 odd law colleges are in pathetic state and there is an urgent need to bring them at par with National Law Universities. Admission to all law colleges should be based on CLAT. If this is not possible, CLAT would collapse. Vacant teaching positions should immediately be filled and National Law Schools as part of their CRC should be asked to adopt at least one law college every year and give training to their teachers and help them in building libraries.
Any thoughts on the current system in place to train the Indian judiciary and continuous legal education of lawyers? How can these systems be improved and made more effective?
I think we should quickly have Indian Judicial Service in place to attract bright youngsters. National Judicial Academy and State Judicial Academies are doing well to train our judges. Judicial training is different from judicial education. National Law School and Judicial Academy, Assam is a novel experiment where law school and judicial academy have been integrated. A closer relationship between Judicial Academies and Law Schools may help us in the long run. A programme for training lawyers was also initiated by Government of India and I think it was a welcome step.
NUJS and GNLU have introduced online courses that are receiving much attention and attracting professionals from various backgrounds. What are your thoughts on these?
Online education is the in-thing today and a country of our size badly needs it. We run number of courses in the proximate and online onsite mode (P.G. Diploma in Cyber Law, Media Law, Patent Law, International Humanitarian Law, Two-Year Master’s Degree in Aviation Law and Air Transport Management (MALATM); Two-Year Master’s Degree in Space and Telecommunication Laws (MSTL); One-Year Post-Graduate Diploma in Aviation Law and Air Transport Management (PGDALATM) and One-Year Post – Graduate Diploma in GIS & Remote Sensing Laws). We need to further strengthen these courses. We are going to launch some new courses as well.
As the current Vice Chancellor of NALSAR, how do you feel NALSAR can take a greater role in social engineering in India?
In my opinion in terms of academics, NALSAR is doing exceedingly well and is the best destination for legal education in the country. I had introduced number of academic reforms such as flexible choice-based credit policy, huge number of electives, diversified project scheme etc. We are indeed producing highly competent law graduates. If we can produce some socially relevant lawyers it would be good for the country. We are offering number of unique courses which help our students in appreciating social issues.
Do you feel that there should be an independent CLAT body, which many people have been demanding and litigating for over the last few years?
There is an urgent need to bring structured reforms in CLAT and compel all Law colleges of the country to admit students only on the basis of CLAT scores.
What would be your message to those hard working law students who did not make it to a top NLU but want to excel in the profession?
None of the leading lawyers of the country went to top National Law Schools. In the long run it does not matter from which institution you got your degree; if one is hard working one would surely succeed in life. There is no short-cut to success. Those who are not admitted to top National Law Universities should not feel frustrated, they are no less than anybody as CLAT or for that matter any competitive examination is not a perfect measurement of one’s merit and talent.
Associate Editor, Anuj Agrawal spoke to Professor Faizan Mustafa, Vice Chancellor of the National Law University of Orissa. In this interview (taken before Mustafa was appointed Nalsar VC), Mustafa talks about this experience of building a young law school, the lack of good teachers in law schools and the need for a serious rethink in legal education.
Bar & Bench: A few words about NLU Orissa and your experience so far?
Prof. Mustafa: NLU Orissa is a new law school which started in 2009. Now this university is aiming for something that we call integration of knowledge. Therefore even though you are a law university, many law universities are just one-department universities. Therefore you need to have different disciplines and there must be some convergence of those disciplines.
That convergence is to be appreciated. Because the real knowledge is at the intersection of disciplines. That intersection of disciplines, I am sorry to tell you, is not appreciated or is not given the attention which it should be given.
Bar & Bench: Do you mean an inter-disciplinary approach?
Prof. Mustafa: It is not merely an inter-disciplinary approach. Say if you are doing law, and you are doing two courses of history or two courses of political science or two courses of sociology. That is not integration of knowledge. Integration of knowlegde is that legal knowledge and the knowledge of political science must converge.
Say I want to understand the concept of justice then I must sit with a political thought expert who has read all the theories of justice from Plato to Amarty Sen to Hobbes……that kind of application, that kind of dialogue between experts in two disciplines, that is I think the hall mark of NLUO. That is if I am teaching justice than a political science expert has to go with me to class.
And what is the society’s perception of justice, a sociologist has to tell me. Therefore a sociologist should also be in the class.
Bar & Bench: You are heading a relatively younger law school. So what are the positives or advantages of heading a younger law school?
Prof. Mustafa: That question is wrong. If you say positives,