Interview by Yash Panchal
Mr. Joyjit Choudhury is the Founder Chairman of IILS, Siliguri. His years of thought, planning, and execution have culminated into bringing the existence of the Indian Institute of Legal Studies in 2009, which has over the years seen numerous transformations in agenda and object and is striving towards perfection. He feels that the prime objective of IILS is to serve the society in its own way by spreading awareness, knowledge, and education, and this type of responsibility is what feeds its soul and fuels its purpose.
Mr. Choudhury wandered through the length and breadth of India, mixing with illustrious personalities, scholars and common folk alike, learning from all- gathering all wisdom, binding them together with a cord of love, and attempting to transform IILS into a wonderful bouquet of opportunities. Under his guidance, IILS has achieved and proved many things. IILS has proved that education cannot be contained in compartments but needs the freedom to serve humanity and to realize a “just and fair society”. He states with all humility and conviction that the coming days and years shall see IILS in all its brightness, grandeur and occupy its rightful position among the top institutes providing legal education.
Mr. Choudhury quotes the following which is befitting in all aspects:
“Know what you want to do,
Hold the thought firmly,
Do every day what should be done and
Every sunset will see you that much nearer the goal”
Mr. Joyjit Choudhury ’s experience of setting up IILS and his venture in the legal education field
At the foremost, I thank you for creating this opportunity for me to air my thoughts regarding Indian Institute of Legal Studies popularly known as IILS as well as about the legal education.
To me, IILS is ingrained in myself, my thoughts, my visions, my adaptations and in my day-to-day life. Setting up IILS which goes back to the year 2004, — of course nurturing its thoughts goes well beyond 2004 ----- and then establishing it in physical form has been a tedious and hard journey which has captivated my thoughts and actions over the years. To me, life is not a bed of roses and each must find own path meandering like water through the rocks.
Yes, getting into the legal education field is an offshoot from my own legal training and learning culminating in a Masters Law degree (LLM). During my legal learning, I saw and gained firsthand knowledge and experience that the Government alone cannot shoulder the responsibility of school education - primary, secondary and higher secondary, mainstream graduation, post-graduation and lastly the professional education, that too, free of cost to the beleaguered aspiring students – hence – the need of private participation in the education sector.
The idea of setting up IILS and philosophy of leadership
My idea of setting up IILS stems from such conceptions and my own way of contributing to the society in my own small way. Even the almighty showered all his blessings upon me in my endeavor- by not only removing all the thorns and spikes and mother nature also chipping in, which is evident from the fact—IILS – like a baby in the arms of nature – bestowed with all the natural beauty being set up in the foothills of the Himalayas—and the majestic Mount Kanchenjunga in the background. There is a Latin maxim – “Res Ipsa loquitar” — which means, “the thing speaks for itself” -- IILS speaks for itself.
It is a well-known dictum that a “leader must lead from the front”.
The imprints of the leader’s footsteps must be so glorifying so as to be emulated by the generations to come.
The earth has seen such glorifying leaders, and it is their footsteps we follow.
Being associated with IILS in a small way gives me myriad satisfactions. Of course, the responsibilities of being the Chairman and administrative head of IILS has its own glory and responsibilities, which I try to fulfill with humility and modesty --- this is my conception of leadership style.
Challenges related to imparting legal education
I now dwell on the fact of the importance of legal education and the role to be played by legal institutes like IILS. Legal education is a professional education. The basic obligation of a law faculty is to provide essential skills, legal knowledge, developing competence and providing motivation for engaging with the moral dimensions of professional life.
In India, the Bar Council of India prescribes and supervises standard of Legal Education. Law degrees in India are granted and conferred in terms of the Advocates Act, 1961 which is a statute passed by parliament ----- both on the aspect of legal education and also regulation of the conduct of the legal profession.
The importance of law and its education in today’s world
Law is a dynamic discipline. It is necessary that law and its interpretations change with time and are able to confront the challenges that are posed by the social, economic and political transformation in society. If one goes through the current paradigm shift in the legal perspectives attributable to the changing needs and requirements of the citizens of a country or be it linguistic minorities or religious minorities or the economic needs of doing business with ease -- in the Indian present scenario – we see number of legislation as the Bill on Triple Talaq, GST, amendments to POCSO Act by imputing death sentence to an accused of raping a girl child below 12 years of age, transgender laws under consideration of the Supreme Court.
The need of the hour is not the only pro-active legislature or judicial activism but legal education playing a vital role in law reform through legal research and survey, facilitating new laws on any current issue or changing/ amending the existing law/s which is not adequate for their proper implementation.
My views are that I see law schools as IILS “as institutions that promote social engineering.” This ought to be done not only imparting high-quality legal education through cutting-edge research on numerous issues that affect law and society and it is here I ask the question --- what ought to be the role of lawyers and law academics in that society. This role of law schools is very important, and they are quite suited to perform it if they can develop a sound institutional foundation on the basis of which intellectual and scholarly abilities of legal scholars can be actively promoted. Thus, what I mean to say is that the role of law schools assumes significance particularly in relation to the social expectations generated because of the nature of universities as institutions of quality research and higher learning.
Promoting a research environment in the academic culture
The role of an academic institution in the present context, a law school like IILS, is unique and distinctive. It acts as an agent or rather a catalyst in socio-economic transformation and through its research-based legal education in the establishment of a law-abiding society, which in turn helps to shape the quality of “Rule of law.”
I always insist on an academic culture that promotes a proper research environment
I also feel that law schools in India should create greater opportunity for faculty and students to undertake original and serious research on identifiable issues relating to law and justice that affect Indian society which in turn serves as a facilitator to the efficient and effective administration of Justice. Such aims can also be fulfilled by comparative research and institutional partnership with overseas law schools on faculty and student exchange basis and methods which shall be mutually beneficial.
Ideal school environment for IILS
IILS, firstly and at the foremost focuses and teaches its students to “think like a lawyer.” To inculcate such thought patterns, I always insist on students to be actively engaged in moot court sessions and we at the very basic level on a yearly basis organize national and international moot court competitions providing our students with opportunities, avenues and vistas to be face to face with competitions from other law schools. This I feel has gone a long way in the preparation of a “Lawyer” before even getting the degree in law.
Another important aspect of legal education which cannot be ignored is “Legal aid.” IILS has become the front-runner in this aspect by adopting a Gram Panchayat named “Champasari G.P” in Matigara Block in the District of Darjeeling, West Bengal. Our final semester students along with faculty on regular basis visit the villages under the Panchayat and provide free legal advice to the people and at the same time legal awareness programs are also undertaken to educate the common people about their rights, duties, obligations, about laws at the very basic level, laws relating to domestic violence and host of others. IILS emphasizes on a system of legal education which presents future lawyers, judges, and public officials with a broad array of perspectives that will enhance their work—ranging from economics to philosophy – to an understanding of empirical and social science data.
IILS does not restrict itself to the above methods of legal training but paramount in its mind is to provide Lawyers with a “social vision” believing that Law is not merely an instrument of “social control”, but also as an instrument of “social change” and very rightly conferring a decorative title to Lawyers as “social engineers.” IILS aspires to base its educational curricula not only on mainstream law syllabus but offers applied Law programs or specialist accreditation courses which lead to a certificate or accreditation practice or a particular specialization. Through these special short-term courses which are primarily availed by serving police officers, high ranking public servants, cadres of armed forces, implementation and applicability of Law becomes transparent with a human face. IILS also stresses on a particular form of “Continuing Legal Education Programs” (also known as continuing professional development) which consist of informal seminars or short courses which provide legal practitioners with an opportunity to update their knowledge and skill throughout their legal career. In some jurisdiction, it is mandatory to undertake a certain amount of continuing legal education each year.
Goals to prepare professionally competent students
IILS adheres to fulfilling the basic tenets of providing legal education by creating modern and necessary infrastructure, good teachers and staffs and lay emphasis on methods of teaching, clinical experience and assessment of students.
IILS does not lose track of the learning needs of students who should be professionally competent to play their role in an increasingly transnational legal service market.
The functioning of law and the challenges with it
The important function of Law is to ensure justice and I feel the challenges facing legal education are:
a) Maintaining good quality that can produce good lawyers, teachers and law professionals.
b) Expanding the horizon of good caliber law teachers who can motivate the students and impart good legal education including clinical legal education, motivating law students to choose various career paths within the legal profession or opt for legal academia.
c) Sustaining good legal talent within India by promoting excellence in teaching and research.
d) Private Law Colleges should be given grant-in-aid by the Government.
There is a distance between the “Law in books” and the “Law in reality” which is ever widening. If Indian society is to wake up to this challenge, and for good governance to be based only on the Rule of Law, it is essential that Law Schools play an active and responsible role. The future development of legal education in India should encourage scholars to develop research inputs on the various problem areas of law for a better understanding of the institutions engaged in law reform. But we should not lose hope since legal education reforms are taking place in law schools in the wake of globalization led and globalization-induced changes in the nature and needs of legal professionals to quote the words of Prof. B.C. Nirmal a renowned jurist of India.
I end with an optimistic note and with a remedial advice, given the present state of civil and criminal justice system in India which has eroded the faith of the little man on the street on the judicial process, law, and legal institutions - the junk has to be removed – appropriate laws promulgated and speedily delivered in all fairness and with equity.
Suggestions for the aspiring students willing to be a part of IILS
Last but not the least, it has always been my effort and relentless persuasion of making IILS an institution of recognition and aspiring to impart legal education in a holistic manner and further imbibing into the students the spirit of freedom, commitment, humanity, modesty, humility and utmost dedication towards one’s own self, the society and the country.
IILS shall soon graduate to an institute of post-graduation with the immediate introduction of LLM in Law and M.A in Public Administration. By conducting various programs over the years like Moot Court Competition and National and International seminars with active participation of SAARC Nations a co-operative understanding has evolved amongst IILS and various Law Schools of the SAARC Nations. It has been preliminary discussed which is to get a final shape in the very near future between IILS and such overseas Law Schools that at the funding initiative of IILS, a research center shall start functioning within the campus of IILS on various Law related topics, environment, water sharing disputes and remedial measures among SAARC Nations and on any other topic/s concerning the society at large and affecting international relations.