THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 14 MAY 2019 (The Madhava Menon model of legal education (The Hindu))

The Madhava Menon model of legal education (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Legal education
Mains level: Madhava Menon model of legal education highlights

Context

  •  The study of law was often a default option, when you couldn’t get admission to any other course or didn’t know what course your life should take.
  •  The law degree was a three-year affair following an undergraduate degree.
  •  There were a few exceptional teachers and a few exceptional students; for the rest it was pretty much an active engagement with the “guide” books in the run-up to the examinations.
  •  Real learning started when you were apprenticed to a senior lawyer.

About him

  •  Menon (1935-2019) shook that up. Responding to an appeal from the Bar Council of India, which was gravely concerned with the steep decline in standards of the profession, Menon accepted the challenge and transformed himself from an academic to an institution-builder.
  •  With missionary zeal he established the country’s first National Law School in Bangalore in 1987, with an independent university status.
  •  He oversaw the building of its campus. He drew in excellent faculty.
  •  He carefully designed a five-year law course as the first degree after school, thereby ensuring that only those who were seriously interested in the subject came in, and would emerge well equipped for what the profession needed.

The Menon model

  •  The mix of motivated students and faculty overseen by a Vice Chancellor to whom dedication and discipline came naturally produced results which made the Bar, Bench, law firms and other users sit up and take notice.
  •  As his graduates entered the field, it was clear that law had joined the ranks of other professions where much could be expected from an entrant, and the entrant could expect commensurate responsibility, position and compensation. Inevitably this led to the creation of other national law schools which largely followed the Menon model, and whose heads were often Menon trainees.

  •  That one achievement would have been enough to guarantee him a place in any honours listing, but Menon was far from done. Judges too, especially young recruits to the service, needed training.

  •  The National Judicial Academy (NJA) was set up in Bhopal, and the Menon magic of institution-building created another sterling institution from scratch. It became de rigueur to have this on the resume of a judicial officer, and it was a mark of subject expertise to be invited to teach a course.

  •  In time this expanded to reach higher levels of the judiciary, especially in new areas of law.

  •  Many senior judges received their first exposure to public interest litigation and human rights and environmental issues at the NJA long before these became current coinage indeed, Menon’s endorsement of these outlier subjects was a key reason for sceptics to become adherents. Supreme Court judges also came to teach, learn and, on occasion, receive reprimand for an errant judgment, which took the occupant of the apex court back to his college backbencher days.

Law for society’s benefit

  •  At the request of the State government, he set up the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Calcutta, which sought to focus on academics and research.
  •  To some extent, this was to alleviate his concern that students from his first and premier law school had shown a preference for law firms and corporates rather than joining the Bar or NGOs where a rights-based language was at play.
  •  For Menon, the law worked best when it worked for society’s benefit. True enough, retirement and quieter times did not figure in his list of options.
  •  In his sunset years, he created and ran the M.K. Nambyar Academy for Continuing Legal Education in Kerala as well as the Menon Institute of Legal Advocacy Training for developing grass-roots capacity to access and use the law for underprivileged sections.

Conclusion

  •  Being the last word on the subject, he was, of course, the first choice when it came to being asked to serve on the Law Commission and other bodies and committees connected with legal education.
  •  All these tasks he accepted willingly and gave each one his best.
  •  At a personal level he constantly engaged with those working in fields close to his heart.
  •  They received his advice, encouragement and valued friendship.
  •  He will be missed and mourned by many, especially generations of his students.
  •  Perhaps one tribute that would please him would be an introspection if they passed the ultimate Menon test of using the skills he gave them for the public good, wholly or at least in part.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) What is the objective of the National Knowledge Network (NKN) project?
(a) To encourage faculty from global universities to teach in Indian universities.
(b) To provide for funds from global universities to Indian universities.
(c) To enable collaboration in research efforts in India by providing secure and reliable connectivity.
(d) To enable learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Answer: C
Mains Questions:
Q.1) Describe the highlights of the Madhava Menon model of legal education.

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