Looking at Law School Rankings in India Through the Lens of Democratic Ideals

Date01 July 2021
Published date01 July 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Looking at Law School Rankings
in India Through the Lens of
Democratic Ideals
Swarna Hardikar1
Legal education in India has undergone phenomenal changes in the past few years. Gone are the
days when certain established universities had a monopoly over legal education, and when interest
in professional legal education was surpassed by the likes of science, technology and medicine, which
are essential for the industrial and social development of any country. Lawyers, characterized as social
engineers, are equipped with the vision for social change, which is essential in a developing country like
India. Lawyers understand the present and have a vision for the future. Social change can be brought
about by change in law, which reflects the direction in which the country is progressing.
Ranking systems portraying democratic and constitutional ethos will encourage law schools and
related authorities to change; accordingly, that is when they will become equipped to bring about
relevant social change. Hence, it only seems pertinent to analyse the ranking systems in accordance
with the democratic ideals and ethos enshrined in the Constitution, including the Preamble, which is
where we find the mention of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity, the Fundamental Rights and the
Directive Principles of State Policy, where we find the mention of the rule of law, social welfare and
the values propounded by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the international convention on
human rights. This will provide a better perspective for judging the quality of law schools and the law
students, which will be essential in understanding the changes which need to be made to the current
teaching and learning pedagogy. Students will be more equipped to deal with the challenges posed by
the legal profession after graduation and will become harbingers of justice.
Modern societies are built on models of development and scientific advancement, wherein law and legal
education play an important indispensable role. Ever since modernity gained support within the colonies,
concepts of democracy, development, social welfare, secularism and capitalism have been important
Asian Journal of Legal Education
8(2) 175–193, 2021
© 2021 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23220058211019338
1 Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
Corresponding author:
Swarna Hardikar, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana 131001, India.
E-mail: swarna.hardikar@gmail.com
176 Asian Journal of Legal Education 8(2)
precursors of the modern nation-state, which India is today.2 Law is an indispensable part of
implementation of all these concepts since a stable legal system is the edifice upon which these concepts
are based. Democratic society cannot function properly without a proper legal system to govern it. All
these values have been codified and enshrined in the Constitution of India, which is the founding
document of our modern nation-state, including the Preamble, the Fundamental Rights, the Fundamental
Duties and the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Law has been taken to be an instrument of social change,3 and that is exactly what the society and the
State expect from lawyers. Apart from social change, lawyers are also responsible for bridging the gap
between the have-nots and access to justice,4 something that all democracies strive for. Lawyers are
officers of the Court, and they are responsible for representing their clients to the best of their abilities
and help in delivery of justice. If they do not adhere to their duties and responsibilities, the entire justice
system will fail, and people will lose faith in the system. Legal aid, law reform and legal awareness have
gained prominence through the years, and that is the edifice Indian democracy is presently based upon.5
Legal studies, from being a theoretical discipline, has transformed into professional training spanning
across five years at the undergraduate level, which came with the second-generation reforms led by
National Law School at Bengaluru in 1986.6 This change was brought about after the realization that law
cannot be taught in isolation from humanitarian sciences such as sociology and political science, which
are an integral part of the law-making process. Another aim was to make the law students market ready.
There was an emergence of new technology, growth in intellectual property law and change in the
demand in the legal market at national and international level7 which led to the development of law as a
professional course.
Law schools cannot exist in silos. Especially with the growth of the professional degree course,
learning systems such as vocational training, professional training and field work in the form of
internships has changed the landscape of legal education to an astronomical extent. All these factors play
an important role in the making of an ideal law school of the twenty-first century. The growing number
of Institutions providing legal education including the various National Law Universities and the private
law schools has given rise to several ranking systems, which rank law schools at a national and
international level. The various systems of ranking are based on various criteria.
Such ranking systems have been under the scanner for a while since this process seems to be
mechanical and focused on input and output-based strategy. It has its own set of limitations, which
hamper the growth of the student in the entire process. The quality of a law school and a law student
cannot be decided based on these criteria, solely. There are various other factors impacting the same,
most of which have nothing to do with what the market demands out of a legal professional. Most of it
has to do with the integrity of the profession, which lies in upholding the constitutional ethos and the
prevailing sense of justice among the citizens, which is the primary objective of the justice system
anyway. The components of an ideal law school, which have been dealt with later in the article, should
be the criteria for ranking systems too, since law schools will try to match the standards set by such
rankings to stay in competition. This article will focus on the concept of an ideal law school, how
2 Sudipta Kaviraj, the imaginary inStitution of india: politicS and ideaS (2010).
3 Richard Gaskins, Second Thoughts on ‘Law as an Instrument of Social Change’, 6 l. hum. Behav. 153–68 (1982).
4 Ipshita Sengupta, Nurturing Caring Lawyers: Rethinking Professional Ethics and Responsibility in India, 5 j. indian l. Socy 13
5 Id.
6 N. R. Madhava Menon, The Transformation of Indian Legal Education: A Blue Paper, harvard law School: program on the
legal profeSSion (2012). https://clp.law.harvard.edu/assets/Menon_Blue_Paper.pdf
7 Id.

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