Law School Darshan: Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala
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Law School Darshan: Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala

Bar & Bench

The usually reliable Urban Dictionary defines a flash mob as “a bunch of random people who meet up to spontaneously do something ridiculous to confuse others”. For once, I think they have it wrong. I am standing in the campus of the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab (RGNUL) and am watching a “flash mob” take place before my very eyes. It is some sort of invitation for the farewell party for the final years and it consists of a bunch of students going absolutely bonkers. They dance (in a clearly synchronised manner) and then shout and then dance some more and it is one of the most fun things I have seen. The performance is filled with energy, happiness and the kind of careless abandon that only a college campus can have. Three months of country-wide travel had gotten me a bit tired, a bit nostalgic for home. This made me forgot that for while, made me leave behind my cynicism for a couple of moments. Perhaps being a law student isn’t that bad after all.

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I have to say, Prof Jaswal does have a certain amount of charisma. I am not too sure about what all students think of him but the man does have a nice way of putting things and can look quite avuncular at times. Plus, at some level, he understands the need to market and advertise a young institution such as RGNUL. He has taken some steps to structure and organise the recruitment procedure, something which newer institutions need to take quite seriously.

More importantly, it appears that Prof Jaswal is someone who can make things happen; the new campus being a perfect example. He has been credited with ensuring that the construction of the new campus actually begins and that is commendable.

During the interview, I also realise that he is acutely aware of how inter-connected law schools are, both through faculty and students. Also, despite his professed love for teaching, I get the distinct feeling that the Professor is an able administrator and that this is where his strength lies.

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I am sitting in the girl’s hostel. No, let me correct that. I am sitting in one of the rooms in the girl’s hostel. With Dr. Shilpa Jain (Assistant Professor) sitting next to me. Talking to four RGNUL students. It all feels a bit surreal and I can’t help but wonder that if this had happened just a few years ago, I would have definitely been the cat’s whiskers. But such is life.

Anyway, the hostels are large and the rooms (two students to a room) look very comfortable. The entire hostel is centrally air-conditioned, something which a student will definitely appreciate once summer kicks in. The mess is also a massive structure and there is plenty of space in the new campus for students to get comfortably lost in once in a while. Everything is brand new.

Frankly, on the hostel front, I don’t think students have much to complain about although one or two did tell me that the mess food is not the best. What I did find a valid complaint was the distance from the college to the main city, roughly fourteen kilometres. Extra-curricular life must need to be planned well in advance. Plus, the old campus is a quaint, historic structure located right at the heart of the city and it would have been fantastic if it could have somehow been retained. Win some, loses some I suppose.

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“This internet is making people forget things”.

It is my second and last day here and I am sitting before Associate Professor M.R. Garg and having one of the most interesting chats yet. The Professor is telling me about how “research” is slowly being equated to good computer skills. Prof. Garg is decidedly old school, and displays great disdain for research through the internet, a trait which I found to be quite endearing. We talk about this and that and he tells me about the kind of rigorous training a PhD entailed in the “olden days” and how standards have fallen.

I also ask him whether it makes much sense to have students write five papers a semester, and his reply is surprising. He tells me that it is quite unfair to expect five original ideas to be written upon in the course of one semester. In fact, he advocates lesser papers and providing students with more time to focus on one or two topics over the course of the year.

I did not expect that.

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A white stretch limousine catches my eye. Well “catches” would be an understatement. It is some sort of stretched Mahindra Xylo, shining proudly on the road and I know that I am truly in the land of the Punjab. Absolutely no denying it.

As I take a quick walk outside the RGNUL campus, I realise that this is something which students may want to consider while thinking about joining RGNUL. The student body itself might be quite multi-cultural in its makeup but the fact of the matter is that, for several students, RGNUL might necessitate several cultural adaptations.

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So what do I think about RGNUL? I get the feeling that this is still a bit of a new institution, where the students are still sorting things out, trying to figure out what they want from the law programme. Until, the new campus starts operations, students will have to put up with, what  I consider, classrooms which were not meant to accommodate such large batches and a library which could be more exhaustive.

RGNUL accepts 120 students a year for its undergraduate program, a size which places it between small batches such as NLSIU, Bangalore (80) and GNLU, Gandhinagar (160). The fees, as per the 2011 Prospectus, hover around 1.5 lakh per annum, a figure which is slowly becoming the median for fees at most National Law Universities.

As for the faculty, there are some impressive names in the faculty list so I guess it really is up to the students to extract as much as they possibly can. At the same time, it must also be said that most of the faculty (again as per the 2011 prospectus) appears to be from nearby geographies, something which struck me as a bit uncharacteristic for an NLU.

This may sound a bit repetitive but it is going to take a couple of years for the placements to pick up and the alumni network to grow. RGNUL is slowly beginning to organise more national-level competitions, an effective strategy to garner attention and attract students from around the country. I also hope that academic writing is encouraged and given the kind of attention it deserves.

Perhaps I should have spoken to a few more students and get an idea of what they think of their law school. I guess there are more than a few limitations of a 2-day visit. Right now though, I am sitting back in the seat of the Shatabdi, thinking about the flash mob and smiling at all the turbans popping up from behind the seats.

Also here is one of the photos of the flash mob:

The above mentioned “darshan” took place in April 2012. I would like to thank the RGNUL students and authorities for their hospitality. Lastly, I am planning a round of visits to the following law schools: 1. NLIU Bhopal; 2. RMLNLU, Lucknow; 3. NUSRL, Ranchi; 4. CNLU, Patna and 5. HNLU, Raipur. If anyone can help arrange a visit please do contact me at anuj [at] barandbench [dot] com.

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