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RIP: Indian lawyers mourn Prof Madhava Menon, visionary father of legal education, giant of the profession

RIP Prof Madhava Menon: Miles he went...
RIP Prof Madhava Menon: Miles he went...

The single-most influential and already in-his-lifetime legendary figure in Indian legal education, Prof NR Madhava Menon, has passed away last night, after having been diagnosed with liver cancer several months ago.

He was 84.

Menon has perhaps single-handedly done more for the modern Indian legal profession than nearly any other Indian lawyer, having founded NLSIU Bangalore, National Judicial Academy Bhopal and NUJS Kolkata, and having inspired and encouraged thousands of lawyers.

Born on 4 May 1935 in Kerala, Menon began his career studying a BSc in Zoology in 1953, continuing to complete law at Government Law College Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram between 1953 and 1955, and then practised as a lawyer before the Kerala high court.

He took a job at the Central Secretariat in Delhi after passing his civil services exam, then secured an MA from Punjab University via its Delhi campus, and completed his LLM and PhD from Aligarh Muslim University by 1965, also becoming warden at a hostel there and joining as a professor in 1968.

By 1986, Menon had set up India’s first national law school, NLSIU Bangalore, which he headed up for 12 years to much acclaim. In 1998, implementing some of the lessons he had learned in Bangalore, he set up NUJS Kolkata and in 2003 he presided as the founder director over the National Judicial Academy Bhopal, until retiring in 2006.

Nevertheless, even after retirement, Menon continued to be a visionary and leader of the legal profession and particularly legal education as well as law and policy, setting up the educational charity, Menon Institute of Legal Advocacy Training (MILAT), which has been conducting continuing legal education (CLE) sessions throughout the country.

As we cited from his memoirs in our profile of Menon from 2009:

“Health is deteriorating and the body is asking to slow down activities,” he wrote. “Mind, on the other hand, seems to say that lot many things need to be done and can be done before one bids good bye to this wonderful, beautiful world.

“I am reminded of what Robert Frost had written many years ago:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Accolades for Menon began pouring out late last night, particularly from NLSIU graduates.

Prof Shamnad Basheer tweeted:

What a huge loss for us! Prof Madhav Menon just passed away. A legal legend who pioneered the National Law School model and gave a fantastic face lift to legal education in India. Making it even more attractive than engineering and medicine!

Senior counsel and academic Menaka Guruswamy tweeted:

Dr NR Madhav Menon, founding director of the National Law School of India Bangalore, dedicated teacher, reformer of legal education passed away today. We, his students mourn his passing while celebrating his work and his life. #Drmenon Thank you sir, for all you did.

World Bank lead counsel Vikram Raghavan wrote on Facebook:

N. R. Madhava Menon. Founder director of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. Doyen of Indian legal education. A model citizen whom India’s founders would be proud of. RIP.

Other tributes

The President of India tweeted:

Sorry to hear of the passing of Prof N.R. Madhava Menon, educationist, scholar and a pioneering spirit behind modern legal education in India, beginning with National Law School of India University, Bangalore. My condolences to his family and countless students #PresidentKovind

The governor of Kerala, former Chief Justice of India (CJI) P Sathasivam tweeted:

Deeply saddened by the demise of Prof. N R #MadhavaMenon, whose insightful ideas modernised legal education in India. As an authority in legal & constitutional matters, he used his limitless erudition to build world class institutions & to enlighten generations of students.

NITI Ayog member Bibek Debroy tweeted:

Have so many memories about Professor Menon. Had known him since 1993. Had the opportunity to work with him too.

To be updated.

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