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Students at NLUs aren’t taught the fundamentals – Dr. Jyoti Mozika, NEHU

Students at NLUs aren’t taught the fundamentals – Dr. Jyoti Mozika, NEHU

Aditya AK

Dr. Jyoti Mozika is an Associate Professor at the Department of Law, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU).

In this interview with Bar & Bench’s Aditya AK, the former head of the Department of Law at NEHU, offers a perspective into the workings of a law department at a traditional university.

Aditya AK: What are the differences in the instruction at traditional law schools and National Law Universities?

Dr. Jyoti Mozika: The main difference is in the method of teaching. From my experience with students who have studied in national law universities, I would say that the teachers there, do not concentrate on the basics or fundamentals of legal subjects. The students are expected to be well versed with the concepts of law.

In traditional law departments, we emphasize on teaching the basic concepts which must be clear to have a strong foundation. Students who have graduated from here and return after their LL.M from national law universities come back and share their experiences. They say that their classmates, who came from an NLU background were not very clear with the fundamental concepts of law. They also make it a point to thank us for what we taught them. Of course, students in the NLUs get better exposure, being mostly in the mainstream.

LL.M. and PhD students on the other hand, are not treated in the same way. For PG students, it is assumed that they are aware of the basic concepts. Therefore, we tend to concentrate on developing their faculties of reasoning and questioning. This is done mainly through seminars and presentations. It is not expected of a teacher to strictly confine himself/herself to the curriculum. Rather, teachers are also given a lot of leeway; they can devise their own modalities with respect to the syllabus.

Aditya AK: What were the initial problems faced by the Department of Law at NEHU?

Dr. Jyoti Mozika: Initially, infrastructure was a big problem. In 2005, when the Department of Law at NEHU was established, the University had allotted four rooms in the School of Social Sciences to the Department of Law. The Department carried out all its activities from these four rooms for almost two years. After more than two years the Department was handed over the first block of its building which is now a huge complex having three blocks – one for the undergraduate students, one for the PG students and a third for the administrative activities.

I remember with gratitude and fondness the support that I received in establishing the Department, as I was the first faculty member to be appointed in the Department and the lone faculty for about eight months. The people who were at the helm of affairs in the University as well as some Professors in the University lent their unconditional support and encouragement whenever needed.

Aditya AK: Did you still find time to teach despite your administrative duties when you were the Head?

Dr. Jyoti Mozika: As I said, I was the only law faculty for more than a semester. I had to teach all the law subjects during the first semester. Later too, after more faculty members joined, the teaching load was always shared among all of us. Although administrative duties are enormous when you are the HoD, but the HoD has always been sharing the teaching duties. This semester especially the workload is quite heavy as we have started PhD coursework along with LL.M and the undergraduate programme. I am relieved that I am not the HoD at present!

Aditya AK: What is the faculty profile of the Department?

Dr. Jyoti Mozika: As of now, we have 8 permanent faculty, with the posts of Professor and Associate Professor lying vacant. Attracting good faculty in the North East is difficult. Now, the University has the roster system of reservations. The post of Associate Professor, which was an open post, has now become a post reserved for Schedule Caste.

Aditya AK: Do you think LL.M. grads should be appointed as faculty to make up for the vacancies?

Dr. Jyoti Mozika: Other universities are doing that. For example my parent university, North Bengal University, hires LL.M. graduates on a contract basis. These graduates are virtually running the department.

But here, the university administration tends to strictly follow the UGC norms. The University should consider appointing Guest Lecturers. The administration needs to be convinced that hiring of young graduates can be done. There seems to be no other solution to make up for the lack of faculty. Especially now, since the LL.M. and PhD programmes have started, our workload has increased.

Moreover, no appointments even to the vacant posts have been made in the recent past due to administrative reasons.

Aditya AK: What are the career trends of the students at NEHU’s Law Department?

Dr. Jyoti Mozika: Most of the students who have graduated are practicing in courts. Many of them are also working in companies and banks in cities like Pune and Hyderabad. A number of them have got into academics and are pursuing LL.M and research. Some of our students have already started teaching in law schools and colleges.

Aditya AK: Do you think that reservations dilute the quality of students?

Dr. Jyoti Mozika: Though it is a sensitive topic, I don’t think reservations should be more than 50% anywhere. Here, there are only 30% seats for open category of students. Students from Meghalaya are given added weightage in the merit list. This year, we have not admitted a single general category student. Initially, more than half of the students were from the general category; they came from Assam and other states. Reservations to such an extent does affect the quality of students as there is hardly any competitive spirit in the class.

Aditya AK: 3-year or 5-year? Which course do you think is better?

Dr. Jyoti Mozika: Having done the 5-year course myself, I feel it is better, although my colleagues favour the 3-year course. They say that students coming for the 3-year course are more mature. Though that may be true, I feel that only those who really intend to do law go for the 5-year course. There used to be a time when those who did not get admission into either medical or engineering or for that matter into any other stream joined the 3-year law course after graduation.

Aditya AK: What suggestions would you make to improve legal education in traditional colleges?

Dr. Jyoti Mozika: I feel that admissions for all law colleges should be centralised and done on an all-India basis, like the NLUs. Now, the admission process is confined to the University. If we open it up and have a ranking system like the NLUs, I think we can get better quality students.

Another thing is that I don’t feel our examination procedure is fully equipped to really assess the students. The kind of questions asked in the examination are not enough to test the students; there need to be more practical problems. Only then will they be ready to do well in the legal profession. Teaching should also lay more emphasis on practical aspects of law. Giving lectures on concepts of law is only one part of it. Students could be made to solve moot problems so that they understand the concepts in a practical manner.

Moreover, we should involve lawyers to share their experiences with the students. In traditional universities, it is somewhat difficult to streamline all these.