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“You can send me your questions via e-mail and I will get back to you”, a student replies when I ask him what he thinks about his university. He looks at me as if he has said the most normal thing in the world, waiting for me to jot down his e-mail ID. “I don’t want to be misquoted”, he explains, much like a Senior Advocate who is reluctant to speak to the press. I have just been lawyered.
The first thing I notice is that the campus of the National Law University in Jodhpur has become a lot greener, offering a little respite from the oppressive desert heat. The students making the arduous walk from the Halls of Learning to their hostels are certainly grateful for the increase in foliage.
Having visited some of the more nascent national law universities, I have to say that the infrastructure here is a bit old-fashioned, but that is understandable, given the fact that it is one of the oldest NLUs in the country.
Despite there being nothing “fancy” on offer, the University has all the requisite facilities, from a well-stocked two-floor library to a moot court hall to a large auditorium. The boys hostels are comfortable (single occupancy) and clean, save for the customary pigeon that poops all over your balcony and peeps into your bathroom stall every now and then.
It is relieving, and at the same time, disconcerting to find that none of the students I meet have a genuine gripe about the University. They are largely happy with the way things are being run. Being a part of an established NLU seems to have its benefits; they are grateful for the variety of opportunities they get. Students from the senior batches seem to have gotten over the isolation they once felt as a result of NLU J’s remote location. The fact that there are very little curfew restrictions also helps.
Campus life is always busy, as there is something for everyone. The sports facilities on offer are some of the best among the NLUs.
For those who would rather not spend their time in a basketball or a volleyball court, the mooting (one student proudly tells me that they stood first in last year’s MPL) and debating culture is very much thriving. One of the most hotly attended cultural fests among NLUs, NH-65, is scheduled to be held in a month. (I visited in September).
So what has changed over the last few years at NLU J? For one, there has been a change at the top, with the appointment of Dr. Poonam Saxena as Vice-Chancellor in 2013.
I am sitting in her office along with Assistant Professor Nidhi Gupta and we are discussing the success of the NLU model.
Dr. Saxena is of the opinion that it is 20-year project, that is to say, the impact of NLUs can only be fairly gauged only two decades after a university’s inception. According to her theory, we will be able to see the difference NLU J students make in the Bar as well as the Bench in a few years. And she says that the omens are positive, with the career trends of students becoming more diverse. Traditionally, NLU-J graduates have largely opted to join corporate firms, but that is apparently changing, with more students opting for litigation and civil and judicial services.
Dr. Saxena admits that like other universities, NLU-J too faces a difficulty in attracting experienced faculty. And like other NLUs, she has had to make do with young LL.M. graduates. However, they are only appointed as faculty after a vetting process in which students also have a say.
The Vice-Chancellor also points out that the research culture at NLU Jodhpur is alive and kicking. There are now 14 centres of research at the University. The Competition Law and Policy Centre recently received a letter requesting the University to be a knowledge partner with the UNCTAD. There is also a BRICS law institute that is one of a kind in India.
The most commendable work though, is being done by the Legal Aid and Awareness Committee. They recently worked on the implementation of the Right to Education in nearby villages.
Mukul Vyas, head of the Committee, tells me that they are trying to make the villagers aware of their rights. The students’ work includes educating the people about the Right to Information and how to avail of the government schemes in place.
He also heads the Centre for Litigation Studies, where students are trained to take up Public Interest Litigations in the High Court and the Supreme Court. Mukul and his friends have already filed a few petitions in the Rajasthan High Court. One of them related to water shortage in the surrounding areas; six months after it was filed, the crisis was resolved, as directed by the court.
For his efforts, the final year student was awarded the Best Law Student of the Year Award 2016 by Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) and Menon Institute of Legal Advocacy Training (MILAT). As Mukul runs off to attend a meeting, I am left there reminiscing the path-breaking work I did in my final year of law school. What? Eating copious amounts of Biriyani is hard work, okay?
On the topic of food, the deprived denizens of other residential law schools can take note that NLU J now has yet another canteen. With the quality of food and variety on offer, these students are certainly spoilt for choice.
However, this comes at a price, quite literally. You will spend, at the very least, 100 bucks a day on food, which can turn out to be a rather expensive affair. However, you can wash down your woes with Sanjeevani Chaach, made from Bharatiya cows, guaranteed to cure cancer.
So what is the verdict on NLU Jodhpur? With an able and autonomous administration, a decent faculty with a mix of young and old teachers, a diverse and bright student population, and a wealth of experience behind it, the University has become more than just a functional law school. In fact, it should serve as a model for some of the recently introduced NLUs. As the sun sets and the cool desert breeze blows, I leave the campus, knowing that NLU J will only grow from strength to strength.
Postscript: Acquiring transport from the University can be quite a pain. As I wait for an auto, I decide to pay a visit to Hans, a little cafeteria that is a popular hangout for the students of NLU J. Amidst the crowd, I spot our soon-to-be email pen pal, doing something his mother would not approve of. Before I can smile and wave, he drops everything and scoots out of Hans in a flash, quite inexplicably.
We will be in touch, my friend.