Do NLUs deserve national importance? Lok Sabha to debateDo NLUs deserve national importance? Lok Sabha to debate

A DSNLU Vizag student has drafted a bill to provide for Institute of National Importance (INI) status to national law universities (NLUs), to bring the NLUs under central funding and supervision.

Member of Parliament (MP) from Jadhavpur Dr Sugata Bose, who is also the director for graduate studies at Harvard University, introduced the bill in the Lok Sabha on 10 March. It is currently pending discussion and debate in the legislature.

The drafter, DSNLU final year student Debadutta Bose, commented: “Primarily this bill aims to maintain a federal structure. A balance between central and state powers. It provides for certain funds to be given to the NLUs by the Centre, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit and without compromising the existing powers that the states have in NLUs.”

Bose began work on the bill in 2015 and later pitched it to Dr Bose.

“In that way I have been particularly lucky to have been studying at DSNLU [where drafting the bill is concerned] because we have been facing lots of challenges since the beginning. Andhra Pradesh wasn’t divided earlier so we were a second NLU,” he said.

“The entire concept of a NLU, as it is, is very vaguely defined . No one can say what exactly are the criteria of becoming a national law university. The [National Institute of Technology] Act designates NITs. Similarly IIT and IIM have their own central acts. But NLUs have state acts. Uniformity is not there. If you think of an NIT you know it will have a [governing] structure [defined in the central act] but every NLU has a different structure.”

Salient features

This is how the bill purports to bring uniformity and parity into the working of India’s 18 NLUS:

1. The NLUs will be declared “Institutes of National Importance”.

2. The Parliament will make a central law to govern them, so that all of them have the same objects, powers and functions.

3. There is no reservation of seats by default, but will be provided by order of the state in which the NLU is, up to an upper limit of 50%

4. Review powers will lie with the Chief Justice of India as the “Visitor” of the NLUs, and inspection powers will lie with the chief justices of the respective high courts as “chancellor” of the NLU.

5. A “National Council” will have the power and function of oversight over all the NLUs, on matters of the CLAT, inter-NLU disputes, annual budget sessions and fund allotment.

6. The Union Minister of Law will be the Chairperson ex-officio of the national council, without impinging on the Bar Council of India’s power to regulate legal education.

7. All the existing authorities will remain the same, i.e. the state will retain control of the Universities. Such authorities and officers of the Universities are now standardized for NLUs. An ad-hoc sexual dispute redressal committee has been standardised.

8. The bill provides for the much needed central government grants, maintenance of separate bank accounts, and audit of the accounts of the NLUs by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to be laid before the Parliament aimed at transparency in the working of the NLUs.

9. The bill, when an act, will repeal all the existing Acts. Subsequent NLUs can be set up or removed by amending the schedule.

The process

It took Bose around one year and 10 different versions of the bill, to finally arrive at a final one which he pitched to Dr Bose who then tabled it before the Lok Sabha in late 2016, and was finally able to introduce it to the house on 10 March 2017.

“I read all the state acts of the NLUs first, and how the structures of the central universities like IIM,IIT, NIT are. I basically took all the good things from all the Acts and then sort of combined it and so that nothing is in conflict with each other,” explained Bose.

“All state interests and sentiments have been duly considered and even the names of the NLUs have not excluded any names of persons put in by the states into their respective NLUs,” he added.

He said that the idea behind having a provision for inclusion of state reservations in the bill was to get all stakeholders on board. “A bill cannot be entirely ideal, and to get the states convinced their interest has been protected,” he remarked. By tailoring the provision not to include reservation by default but have the states pass their own reservations by special order, he has attempted to balance interests.

Currently, Nalsar Hyderabad is looking at a 50% state-based reservation for seats in the 3 year LLB program for which the law school will receive land from the state. In contrast, NLSIU Bangalore faces a looming 50% state-based reservation in its 5 year LLB program, while 10-seat NUJS Kolkata has already begun reserving 10 seats for West Bengal domiciled candidates in its 5 year LLB program from this year.

In April 2017, little over a month after the bill was introduced, the student bar associations of NLSIU Bangalore, Nalsar Hyderabad and NUJS Kolkata also expressed their intent to work together towards achieving the INI status for NLUs.

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Like +6 Object -0 Guest 04 Aug 17, 21:59  interesting
Well done to this student and to Prof Bose. Hope the student bodies at other NLUs will take this forward (so far they have shown that they are mostly all talk, no action).

I also request LI to please interview Prof Bose on this.
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Like +11 Object -7 nlu student 04 Aug 17, 22:04  controversial
Sorry, but this is a terrible bill. Why does the bill give the state such sweeping powers and permit reservation? The bill should give NLUs the same treatment as IITs and IIMs, which have no domicile reservations and also give high salaries to professors and have a lot of autonomy in recruiting them.
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Like +1 Object -2 Guest 05 Aug 17, 12:57
Khud Kar le kuch...
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Like +13 Object -5 Debadatta Bose 05 Aug 17, 14:00  interesting  controversial
Firstly, the Bill does not give the State 'sweeping powers'. It rather aims to limit and control the sweeping powers that the State already has, by way of Central oversight.

Secondly, the IITs Act and the NITs Act is silent on reservations which means they are given certain liberty, the legal status being unclear. In such a case, many NITs have domicile reservations up to 50%. As the article has already quoted me, removing reservations outrightly was not an option since the Bill had to be put forward and support had to be sought from the States who were not willing to let go of their interests. Whatever hope there is of this Bill passing, that is because this Bill keeps in mind the interest of all the stakeholders. This is a legislation and not a sovereign command that can be unilaterally imposed.

Third, you spoke about professors' salaries. Well, can you show me a University Act that mentions professors' salaries in the Act itself? Professors' salaries are based on the UGC scale and individual Universities have little to do with it. However, now that there is a provision of allocation of funds by the Central Government, I am expecting to see an increase in the intake of permanent professors, associate professors and assistant professors rather than recruiting them on contractual basis which should probably satisfy your argument of having higher salaries.
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Like +5 Object -1 Alais 04 Aug 17, 23:19
Good work by the chap! Hats off!
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Like +17 Object -0 Older NLU alumnus 04 Aug 17, 23:52  interesting  top rated
Wow. Good work. I wish I had been this pro-active in college.
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Like +6 Object -1 Guest 05 Aug 17, 00:15  interesting
Great scoop LI. There are two especially good features of the bill:

1) It works on the principle of one NLU per state, and thus NLU Nagpur is left out.

2) It seeks a common admission test, which will bring an end NLUD's illegal and dishonest decision to stay out of CLAT.
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Like +4 Object -6 No 05 Aug 17, 13:54
What do you mean illegal and dishonest, while CLAT has been marred by controversies. CLAT has been a Pandora's box of let's see how we can mess with students, AILET has been consistently organised efficiently.
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Like +15 Object -1 Guest 05 Aug 17, 06:22  interesting  top rated
While the pampered students/alumni of certain NLUs grab headlines on Legally India for drafting random online petitions and blogposts, here is someone from an unheralded NLU quietly doing outstanding work and publicising it only when it is complete.

A lesson for everyone.
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Like +9 Object -2 Starman 05 Aug 17, 06:30  interesting
There is one big problem with the bill. The CJI is the Chancellor of older NLUs like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Calcutta while the newer NLUs like DSNLU have state CJs as the Chancellor. The Bill seeks to make the state CJ the Chancellor of all NLUs and downgrade the likes of Nalsar, NLS, NUJS etc to the status of DSNLU. The CJI is instead made a "Visitor".

This is very wrong. The Visitor should be the President (like at IIT and IIM) and the Chancellor should be the CJI. This will raise the profile of all the NLUs.

Comments should have been invited on the bill from the public before introducing it.
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Like +4 Object -7 Debadatta Bose 05 Aug 17, 20:45
Chancellors have quite an important position in the day to day functioning of the Universities and sit in the Council meetings, conduct enquiries etc. apart from other work. Do you expect the CJI to do the same for the 20+ NLUs that might be there in the future? In that case, the CJI, being unable to discharge his functions under this Act would be a catastrophe. That is why the Chancellor is the CJ of the State High Courts.

As a Visitor, the CJI has a role of greater importance (but not more duties) under this Act which is more practically implementable. Running for an increase in 'profile' does not always result in good governance.
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Like +4 Object -1 Starman 06 Aug 17, 06:37
1) Chancellors are always nominal heads expecting only to sign certificates and attend convocations --- which the CJI can do and should do. The convocations can be held during court vacation time to make it easier. Having the President as Visitor and CJI as Chancellor will raise the profiles of NLUs, especially the newer ones that have state CJs as Chancellors. Raising the profile is indeed important, especially for colleges like DSNLU, NLU Trichy etc which are practically unknown. Corporate funding and central government funding will be easier to attract by raising the prestige of the institute.

2) The real leader is always the VC. Pro-active VCs like Madhav Menon, Ranbir Singh and MP Singh (or Rajkumar at Jindal) can make a big difference and attract quality faculty. The real focus should be on appointing good VCs.
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Like +1 Object -2 Seconded. 05 Aug 17, 20:45
Correct and such attempts have been made in past and failed miserably. The Act will hamper the interests of premier law schools that are already under terrible administration.
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Like +2 Object -0 Guest 05 Aug 17, 21:22
The improvement of legal education and the entry of foreign law firms will be two of the most important and overdue reforms India has seen. Sadly, we have been burdened with incompetent law ministers showing no interest. Ravi Shankar Prasad has proven to be a useless minister on all front.. Modi should appoint someone better in the next reshuffle.
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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 06 Aug 17, 18:10
You cannot give 21 NLUs this status in one ago because the quality varies greatly and some have not even been established (like HP, Haryana and Uttarakhand). I the first phase the top 7 or 8 can be given this status, while we should wait and watch with the others.
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Like +1 Object -0 Important issue 06 Aug 17, 18:29
Kian and Prachi, please do a story on new faculty recruitment at Jindal, which are listed here:

http://www.jgu.edu.in/JGU/CMS/Issue5July/62-new-full-time-faculty-members

There are many NLU alumni who have joined. Yet, many VCs of NLUs resist hiring alumni because of insecurities. You should interview these VCs and quiz them about this. It's not necessarily the salaries at Jindal that lure NLU alumni. It is also autonomy and independence. Many NLU alumni hail from cities where NLUs are based, and will be happy to teach there for a lower salary than relocate to Haryana. Also, NLUs can at least make more of an effort to hire alumni for short-term one-week courses.

Please raise these issues!!
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Like +0 Object -0 Sreya Ray 16 Aug 17, 16:12
I do hope NALSAR Hyderabad comes up with a 3 year LLB from 2018. This way mature students who did not have an opportunity to study 5 year LLB can enroll in a world class institution - and law can actually be a viable post graduate professional course in India other than MBA. Hope this is not a hearsay.
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