The National Law University Odisha (NLUO) promises to be an exciting new development in the field of legal education. A very new institution, its establishing Act of legislature was notified as recently as April 2009 and within a span of four months, classes commenced with the entrance being conducted in May. Now in its second year, the University has made a name for itself by earning laurels with excellent performance of its students in various seminars, conferences and moot courts.
NLUO is located in Cuttack, a city dating back to over a thousand years, and also boasting a rich legal heritage – not only is the Orissa High Court situated here, but also some of the finest lawyers and judges of the country trace their roots back to this city. The University is presently situated in temporary premises along the Mahanadi river, towards the north-west of the city’s present limits. It is scheduled to move to a new purpose-built campus at Naraj, a location being developed as an institutional area.
Currently the University has admitted students from no less than twenty-five States, representing a diverse range of socio-economic, ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. We hope that in the years to come, students from even more divers backgrounds will join NLUO, thereby underscoring its truly national character.
There was a time, in pre-and early independent India when legal education was treated as a pathway to a vast array of opportunities. The decline in standards began around the 1960s. This period was marked by a mushrooming of law colleges, most of which met Bar Council standards only in form. Whatever the real reasons for the Bar Council’s inability to stem the rot, one major factor could have been the sheer number of students enrolled at these spurious institutions. Law had become the last resort of the incompetent and perhaps the first of the indolent; for as matters stood then, if one paid the fee and stuck through the stipulated period the degree was almost assured.
The upshot of this abysmal situation was that it jolted the legal fraternity out of its stupor. It was in early 1970s that the Legal Education Committee of the Bar Council of India proposed the establishment of a national institution of excellence to promote legal research and scholarship. The proposed institution eventually took shape after thirteen long years in utero. The National Law School of India University (NLSIU) was set up at Bangalore and was an immediate success. So much so that it inspired a paradigm shift in legal education in the country. The law school at Bangalore rescued legal education from the mire it had sunk into by instituting an unprecedented curricula and methodology. It has since paved the way and provided the template for most law schools.
Despite the apparently spectacular success of law schools in terms of transactional lawyering – or more appropriately because of it – these law schools have, it is felt in some quarters, failed in equal measure at certain fundamental fronts. Very few graduates, if any, choose litigation; most gravitate toward the corporate world. The choice is understandable, given the gains, but then again so is the assertion of failure for was it not the avowed object of these very institutions to enrich the Bar and Bench. It is also being highlighted that law schools are getting complacent under the weight of their own success. This fact is reflected in non-revision of course curricula; myopic focus on humanities, managerial and natural sciences (most law schools do not give adequate attention to non legal courses); inadequate attention to certain substantive and procedural laws like Cr.PC and IPC (indicative of the corporate bias); and most importantly failing to motivate students into litigation.
It was in a law school world of this general nature that the idea of National Law University, Orissa was mooted about a decade ago. The University was established by Act 4 of 2008. It became functional with the appointment of the founder Vice-Chancellor in May 2009. To make the University functional right after appointment was a herculean task for the Vice-Chancellor. With the help of the young and remarkably able group of teachers that the Vice-Chancellor was able to assemble at such short notice, NLUO conducted its own entrance examination across 11 centres in June 2009. Contrary to expectation we were able to enrol 120 students sans vacancies in July itself. It is also to be mentioned here that the student demographic – with students hailing from across 22 states – was emblematic of the socio-economic, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of the country; thus, in a manner of speaking, validating the ‘National’ in NLUO. The following year state wise representation went up a further three notches.
At the time of NLUO’s inception the shortcomings of law schools – as noted above – were manifest and therefore we at NLUO having the benefit of hindsight have made it our object to address the same. Our cognisance of where others went wrong should hopefully help us in this endeavour. The following portions of this prospectus are a rough delineation of how we propose to go about the same.