Law School Darshan (Revisited): Institute of Law, Nirma University

Law School Darshan

Armed with my faulty in-built GPS, I embark on the journey of finding the Institute of Law from amidst a multitude of monotonously grey buildings that make up Nirma University. A series of bad directions from students (I don’t think they can tell the difference either), and I find myself unwittingly taking a tour of the sprawling campus.

A Dandi March and a half later, I have finally found my way, thanks to a helpful gardener who pointed me in the right direction. Lady Justitia welcomes me to the law school with open arms.

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Lady of Justice
 Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal

I catch up with Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal to discuss what has changed at ILNU over the past couple of years. As she explains the changes in the Institute’s evaluation methods, I must admit things are going over my head.

The introduction of pedagogical concepts like Bloom’s Taxonomy and Assessment Rubrics are certainly a diversion from the traditional methods employed in Indian law schools.  By her own admission, Dr. Pokhariyal is unsure of whether or not the change can be successfully implemented across the board. Not to mention that Bloom has had his fair share of critics.

So what else has changed at ILNU since our last evaluation two years ago?

Cricket? As an elective? In law school? You’re having a laugh. Nope, it’s actually true.

The first and second years are offered sports and other ‘team building exercises’ as part of their course schedule. Of course, there are no credits for the sports courses; I wouldn’t imagine that being able to play a textbook cover drive would enhance your lawyering skills.

It is just another part of the new policy which aims to focus on the holistic development of the students.

The changes have evoked mixed reactions from the students. Some, particularly the younger ones, are happy to be part of a place where something exciting is constantly happening. The more senior students complain that these initiatives only add to their already packed agendas.

And speaking of the students, we come to the biggest issue that was discussed last time: the student-administration divide.

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Students have been fined for walking on the lawns

The main gripe of the students seems to be the strict enforcement of (sometimes) unreasonable rules. Whether it may be imposing fines if your phone rings in class, or for walking on the lawns outside, or for not wearing the proper uniform, the students have had many run-ins with the administration.

But these crackdowns, so to speak, are more a result of the larger University policy, rather than the law school administration having it in for their students.

Also, I would imagine that being a department of a University would mean having to go through some not insignificant amount of red tape in order to raise your concerns. It can be quite frustrating to change things in a set up like this.

A final year student says that after a point, law students, especially those who have figured out their career plans, shouldn’t be treated like kids. But what is the solution to that? Have a different set of rules for seniors? Try telling that to junior who has just learn about Article 14 in Consti-I.

However, the students do admit that things are better now. They say that some faculty members have been very supportive and have even helped in elevating their concerns to higher management. The Director, on her part, insists that her doors are always open to her students.

One of the canteens on the University campus
One of the canteens on the University campus

Coming to infrastructure, nothing much has change at ILNU, barring the construction of an, incomplete as of now, hostel for girls. The food at the canteens, located in the common areas of the University, can get quite tiresome.

But that is not so much of an issue in a law school that doesn’t have a fully residential campus.

The library is still too small for the 900+ students of the law school. Librarian Atul Bhatt tells me that they have introduced a remote login facility, through which the students and faculty can access the library’s e-sources from anywhere on campus.

The library also films ‘Talk Shows’, where students debate on various topics. The institute is not exactly a hub of research, although Dr. Pokhariyal is positive that this will change in the near future.

As far as placements go, there has been a change of career trends, with more students opting to join litigation and write competitive exams. But whether that is result of the lack of opportunities in terms of corporate placements is something that merits a closer look.

In conclusion, the changes in curriculum and evaluation methods adopted from the Institute of Management are certainly ambitious. But whether these changes will take ILNU or not, only time will tell.

So is it heading in the right direction? I cannot say for sure. Maybe I just have a terrible sense of direction.