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4th time lucky: NLIU Bhopal about to form its very first student body association (SBA), submits constitution for sign-off

Power to the people: NLIU student Magna Carta nearly has final approval
Power to the people: NLIU student Magna Carta nearly has final approval

NLIU Bhopal is in the final stages of forming a Student Body Association (SBA), for the first time in the law school’s 21 years of existence. The students are set to submit the SBA’s draft constitution to its administration by tomorrow, following an eight-month-long consultation process.

23 student representatives have drafted a constitution that runs into 28 pages, 50 “articles” and two schedules, over five months of research, discussion, two formal debates with the entire student body at NLIU, several informal debates among themselves and with the senior LLB batches at the law school, and seven revised drafts.

The five-member drafting committee (DC) was voted in by all the other students, in December 2017, immediately after the collective student movement at NLIU that had led to the ouster of Prof SS Singh from his role as director for administrative mismanagement at the law school.

Historic shift

Although NLIU is nearly as old as NLSIU Bangalore (and older than Nalsar Hyderabad and NUJS Kolkata), like younger law schools, it has long found itself lacking an SBA.

Historically, this is the fourth attempt at establishing an SBA at NLIU, with the other three pushes having been led in 2009, 2013 and in 2017, an authoritative source at the law school told us.

Four directors (Prof VS Reiki, Prof Moolchand Sharma, Prof Balraj Chauhan and Prof SS Singh) have headed NLIU’s administration before Prof V Vijayakumar from NLSIU was appointed as director in May this year.

The source told us that Singh, Vijayakumar’s immediate predecessor, was “averse to the idea” of an SBA while the administrations before him were “not conducive at all” to the process of creating the body.

It was the protest of November 2017 which was the final trigger for this fourth attempt at forming the coveted student representative body.

We have reached out to Vijayakumar for comment.

The process

The draft constitution so far is entirely a student-led initiative with no administrative interference or faculty member involvement.

“We wanted the approval of the student body before taking it forward with the administration. The administration has been very supportive and encouraging,” the source explained.

Immediately after the week long protest of November 2017 the students held elections for the drafting committee and voted in five students from the first, second, third and fourth year of LLB, one student from the LLM batch and two students from the cyber law degree course.

The work started with the drafting committee researching the SBA constitutions of NLSIU, NLU Delhi, NUJS Kolkata, BITS Pilani, IIT (Delhi, Madras, Bombay, Kanpur, Kharagpur, BHU), Delhi University, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, IIM Lucknow, the previous draft constitutions at NLIU which never could come into effect, the Lyngdoh Committee reforms and the NLIU Act 1997.

Based on this research the drafting committee came out with the first version of the constitution and circulated it for feedback among fourth and fifth year NLIU students.

After amendments, the draft was published for the student body on a Facebook group and explanations of the constitution’s “articles” were released during vacations. Subsequently, two formal debates were held.

Other than these formal debates, the draft was amended several times through debates within the drafting committee or with individual students across batches.

The version submitted to the administration is the draft’s eighth.

Voiceless, until when?

At NLIU, the months leading up to the fourth SBA draft document were also historic in the sense that the law school saw an unprecedented student galvanisation to clean up its administration on several fronts.

That student associations are a standard check and balance for the considerable power at the disposal of a state-funded university’s administration, was more than aptly demonstrated in recent times at NUJS Kolkata and at NLUs elsewhere.

And yet, the majority of NLUs even now suffer a lack of student representation, including GNLU Gandhinagar, NLU Jodhpur, and most other younger NLUs.

Correction: We had erroneously stated that HNLU Raipur did not have an SBA. This is incorrect and we regret the error. HNLU’s registrar has stated: “For your kind information, the University has its SBA since its inception and the SBA elections are conducted on periodical basis at HNLU.”

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