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When I'd just begun studying law, people often asked me if I had learnt different ways in which to murder a person without being held criminally liable. I thought it was merely an over-done joke.

Three years into law school, I find it deeply insightful.

Naïveté would have you presume that the law university is the perfect site for individuals to imbibe a culture of law abidingness; that while several other legal institutions suffer, today, from a crisis of legitimacy, the law university would seek to be the ideal and not seek to replicate (and, sometimes, even out-do) the norm. 

Perhaps generalisation is unfair but, judging from recent news, I strongly doubt that it is the case. The Indian law school falls over its feet to prove Duncan Kennedy's argument: legal education perpetuates social hierarchies, instead of queering them.

It teaches you, early on, that with great power comes great impunity. That the better you are at oiling the cogs of a diseased system, the greater your chances of survival. That only those people abide by rules who are left with no other option - those who form the bottom rung of the law school hierarchy and have no connections to lend them a rule-evading hand. That, when in power, it makes far greater sense to circumvent unjust rules than to seek to have them changed; when you're not in power, your experience of injustice is immaterial. That law is inherently political, and only dirty politics works.

Deliberation and democratic decision making seem alien to the administration of law schools.

Students are governed by individuals of dubious integrity and competence who are selected through opaque processes involving half a dozen committees/councils, no discussion with stakeholders and most certainly no reasons for the choice. Students are governed by rules, often anachronistic, framed and implemented by individuals who seem to have taken off from our colonial masters in their understanding of the white man's burden.

Students are taught (when they are taught), more often than not, what the law says - not why it exists or what it could (should?) mean or what is wrong with it. Students are silenced when they question authority, for questioning queers the pitch.

Heck, even teachers are silenced when they question authority, no discrimination there! Faculty decisions are made on the basis of factionalism and not deliberation; as is the case with student politics. And when student politics goes to bed with faculty politics, social sanctions begin to follow dissent.

There is, of course, the odd exception - a stellar teacher, an empathetic administrator - perpetually fighting the system to stay afloat.

The competition rages, the pressure to perform is high; a line extra on that CV might mean the difference between a job and joblessness. But at what cost? At the cost of allowing those in power to hold their illegitimate sway over us, by exonerating those who abuse power, and, indeed, rewarding them with more administrative positions? At the cost of compromising on understanding in the quest for a point extra on one's CGPA?

Perhaps it is time we asked ourselves: who constructed this dream of the law school life; whose ends does it further, that we turn into little boxes on the hillside, unquestioning little boxes made of ticky tacky?

Does it really further our own end that whenever we see injustice, even when it directly affects us, we roll over and pretend it doesn't exist? Do these five years of law school really have to be so full of griping, or can the system be rehauled to something more humane, consultative and inclusive?

A friend recently quoted Howard Zinn on his Facebook status: "But humans beings are not machines, and however powerful the pressure to conform, they sometimes are so moved by what they see as injustice that they dare to declare independence. In that historical possibility lies hope."

I have my fingers crossed.

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