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Growing concern that NLUs are not accessible, Justice Khanwilkar at CAN Foundation launch
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Growing concern that NLUs are not accessible, Justice Khanwilkar at CAN Foundation launch

Bar & Bench

The inaugural ceremony of the Confederation of Alumni for National Law Universities (CAN Foundation), an organisation aimed at providing financial aid to less privileged students and budding lawyers, was held at the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha in Bhopal on Saturday.

Among the dignitaries present at the launch were Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, the Supreme Court’s Justice AM Khanwilkar, Chief Justices of the High Courts of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh Justices AK Mittal and JK Maheshwari, and Chairman of the Armed Forces Tribunal, Justice Rajendra Menon.

Also in attendance were Senior Advocates Vivek Tankha and Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Madhya Pradesh Advocate General Shashank Shekhar, Bar Council of India Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, Director of the National Law Institute University (NLIU) Bhopal, Prof V Vijayakumar, and sitting judges of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Dignitaries at the CAN Foundation launch
Dignitaries at the CAN Foundation launch

CAN Foundation CEO Siddharth Gupta, an alumnus of NLIU, intimated the gathering on the efforts of the organisation in providing financial aid to students who otherwise cannot afford an education at a National Law University. He shed light on two of the organisation’s initiatives – Project Eklavya, which aims to give financial assistance to students of 25 National Law Universities, and Project Dhananjaya, which will provide less privileged students who want to pursue litigation as a career a stipend of up to Rs 18,000 a month.

The event also the aforementioned guests sharing their views on how graduates of NLUs can contribute to the justice delivery system.

Stating that NLUs must contribute to the litigation sector, Chief Justice AK Mittal of the Madhya Pradesh High Court said,

“Some of the brightest minds have kept away from practice and from joining the Bench.”

Justice Mittal also suggested a move to restructure law courses so as to resemble the MBBS course, at the end of which a one-year internship in a rural area is mandatory.

Vivek Tankha, whose charity work was showcased in a short documentary, brought to light the fact that many brilliant students cannot afford legal education at a top law college. The Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament informed the gathering that he had brought up this fact on the floor of the House.

Justice Khanwilkar was the next to offer his views on the topic. On the efforts of CAN Foundation, he said,

“This Foundation comes at a time when there is a growing concern that national law universities are not accessible to students from all sections of society.”

He went on to address the trend of NLU graduates not joining litigation. 

“A solution has to be worked out to reduce the burden on the students, either by the government or through organisations like CAN.”

BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra announced that a National Lawyers Training Institute was in the works to train law graduates from the non-NLUs. Plans for the first such institute in Madhya Pradesh were being discussed, Mishra revealed.

In his speech, Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan spoke about teaching law students’ values. Teamwork, pride in one’s work, and balance between work and life were some of these values that could be taught, he said. Sankaranarayanan also payed tribute to IDIA Founder Prof Shamnad Basheer, who passed away earlier this year.

Growing concern that NLUs are not accessible, Justice Khanwilkar at CAN Foundation launch

Justice Rajendra Menon urged law students and graduates to make the effort to understand the needs of the immediate society around them.

The event also saw twelve students from various NLUs being awarded the Project Eklavya Scholarship. The students will receive scholarships ranging from Rs 50,000-1.5 lakh.