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National Law School of India University, Bangalore has launched a new Scholarship Policy in a bid to promote inclusive legal education. The Policy will enable students pursuing their BA.LLB. and LLM degrees to apply for financial assistance.
A Committee comprising Professors S. Japhet, Govindraj Hegde, A. Nagarathna, and Anuja S. was constituted by Dr. Venkata Rao, Vice-Chancellor of NLSIU, on April 15 to prepare the Policy.
Prof Japhet S, Chairperson of the Scholarship Committee told Bar & Bench,
“I realised that there was no such policy at any national law school, so I brought it to the notice of the Vice-Chancellor, who constituted a committee. We have representatives from the student body, the alumni, IDIA and others, so it is a truly democratic committee.
I took the help of the alumni and our present students; we did a thorough survey of the various policies in other universities. I could not have come up with it without the help of Shamnad Basheer, who put in a lot of work during our late night consultations.
I am sure this initiative will be taken up by other national law schools. We have to get students from remote areas, only then is there any meaning in setting up big law schools.”
The Preamble to the Policy highlights the prevalent elitism in law schools. It states that most law students at NLUs come from well-off urban backgrounds.
The numbers from rural areas, small towns or non-English medium schools are deplorably low. Apart from this, the composition also suffers from under-representation from the economically and socially backward classes, minority religious groups, minority ethnicities, disabled category etc.
The Preamble further points out that religious minorities and the North-Eastern states are poorly represented in NLUs across the country.
For instance, despite Muslims constituting 12% of India’s population, they constitute only 1% of the total NLU student population. This underrepresentation of minorities is equally reflected in the absence of any significant presence of students from the North-East – while there were 7 students in total from Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, there were no students at all from the North Eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim or Tripura.
Though Vice-Chancellors of other NLUs have claimed to have initiatives providing succour to students in need of financial aid, NLSIU is the first law school to come out with a formal policy. As reported earlier, NLSIU had waived the tuition fees of two IDIA scholars who made it to the university after their success in this year’s CLAT. The Policy will go a long way in helping ease the burden of the cost of a legal education at an NLU today.