NUSRL Effect: NLSIU, NALSAR and NUJS Student Bodies Join Hands, Demand ‘INI Status’ for NLUs

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Below all copied verbatim from the statement released by the student bodies of NLSIU Bangalore, NALSAR Hyderabad, and NUJS Kolkata. [See the original document here]

 

SINGULAR STORIES BUT SHARED DESTINIES

The recent unfortunate turn of events at the National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL), Ranchi have starkly highlighted the problem plaguing all National Law Universities, old and the new alike. [1]

First and foremost, we, the Student Bar Associations of NLSIU, NALSAR and NUJS affirm deep solidarity with each and every student in NUSRL and commend their courage in standing up for what is right and also rightfully theirs to claim.

The lax attitude of their administration is regrettable. The mismanagement of university funds robs these students of their legitimate aspiration of availing even basic amenities that are expected of a public university.

Lack of accountability of those appointed at the helm of these universities and minimal transparency in the use of allocated funds lead to a dismal state of affair at many public institutions.

It was heartening to see a constructive dialogue among the students and representatives from the judiciary and the state.

The compromises thus reached, that is annual publication of audit reports, appointment of a financial officer, setting up of a school review commission and most importantly, permission of formation of a student union would go a long way in ensuring effective checks and balances between the administration and the administered.

Kudos to these students for having attained that and we hope the resolutions passed in the meeting are abided by. However, this also throws the elephant in the room to the fore.

The National Law Universities (NLUs) have been struggling due to lack of funds. NLUs are state universities [2] and are formed under a statute passed by the respective state legislature.

This means that they rely on the University Grants Commission and their home state for funds. We dug deeper and found out how the entire discipline of law is neglected in this regard.

The latest annual report of UGC that is publicly available is for the period 2014-2015.3 Table 3.1(b1) of the report shows the Grant Allocated & Released to State Universities under General Development Assistance Scheme [4] Coaching Scheme for SC/ST/OBC/Minorities and Equal Opportunity Cell Scheme during XII Plan Period (2012 – 2015).

On an average, about Rs 9 Crores was allocated to various NLUs. This allocation is not annual but is spread across the whole of XII Plan Period.

It culminates into, as per the report, release of funds anywhere between Rs 70 Lakhs to Rs 2 Crores per annum, based on 2014-2015 data, until the exhaustion of the allocated budget.

Moreover, after the dissolution of the erstwhile Planning Commission, there is no clarity on if, when and how NLUs will be provided further grants by the UGC. The second source of funding is through state budgets, which is often very erratic and largely depends on realization of importance of NLUs by individual states.

While some of the states like Delhi and Gujarat are generous in funding their NLUs, most other states are not so kind. NLSIU, for instance receives only Rs 2 Crores as an annual grant from Karnataka Government. [5]

It hardly meets 3 months’ worth of salaries of its staff. It needs to be mentioned that seventh pay commission recommendations will be applicable to these universities in the coming months, thereby increasing the cost of salaries by another 30%.

On the other hand, barring a few instances here and there, NUJS does not have any steady support from the West Bengal State Government.

As a result of these severe shortages, the annual tuition fee of these NLUs sky rockets as the revenue generated from fees acts as the prime source of meeting the budgetary deficit. This fact is evident from exorbitant fees of Rs 2,80,000 at NUJS, Rs 2,27,000 at NALSAR, Rs 1,90,000 at NUSRL, Rs 1,76,000 at NLSIU, and so on.

Meager funding leads to not hiring quality faculty, reliance on ad-hoc faculty and failure to attract talent to legal academia.

Plethora of research proposals, University needs (NUSRL infrastructure debt to PWD for instance) and student demands are turned down citing lack of funds.

The high fees act as a disincentive for students with unprivileged backgrounds to even choose law as a profession.

Other undergraduate disciplines offered by Delhi University or even post-graduate disciplines at JNU have an all-inclusive annual fee of less than Rs 10,000.

In order to remedy this state of affairs, these institutes of excellence, which provide quality legal education need to be converted into Institutes of National Importance (INI).[6]

An Institute of National Importance is defined as an institute ‘which serves as a pivotal player in developing highly skilled personnel within the specified region of the country/state’.

While there exists no guideline for the same, [7] we believe that on such evaluation, as may be prescribed, the NLUs will squarely fall within the criteria of contributing highly skilled personnel to the legal profession, judiciary, bureaucracy, policy think tanks, academia and various other avenues.

These INIs, like IITs, NITs, IIITs and now IIMs after cabinet approval of the IIM Bill, 2017 receive funding directly from the Central Government as part of the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s budget for Higher Education. [8]

It provides almost Rs 7800 crore funding to IITs, Rs 3500 crore funding to NITs, Rs 1000 crore funding to IIMs, Rs 650 crores to IISERs etc. The case for such recognition for NLUs would be in pari materia with that of the NITs.

They earlier used to be Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs) managed by State Governments but were recognized as the INIs by the National Institute of Technology Act, 2007.

This Act accorded the status of INIs to NITs and empowered the “Central Government to, after due appropriation made by Parliament by law in this behalf, pay to every Institute in each financial year such sums of money and in such manner as it may think fit.” [9] What are we looking at through this statement?

Apart from expressing solidarity and commending the courage and determination of our counterparts at NUSRL, this is a declaration of our intent to work towards charting a course of action for recognition of NLUs as Institutes of National Importance for all the above-mentioned reasons.

The root of the problem needs to be fixed. We are in the process of contacting student bodies of all the NLUs to endorse our claim.

We also request all the Vice Chancellors of the National Law Universities and the Bar Council of India to recognize and appreciate this problem so that we can work together to garner appropriate funding from the Government.

1. Prachi Srivastava, Students have locked down NUSRL Ranchi campus for 24h now over perennial cash crunch, mismanagement, LEGALLY INDIA (April 11, 2017) available at http://www.legallyindia.com/lawschools/nusrl-ranchi-s-function-ofpoverty-students-lock-out-admin-faculty-demand-admin-overhaul-20170411-8433.

2. List of State Universities, UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION, available at http://www.ugc.ac.in/stateuniversity.aspx.

3. Annual Report, 2014-15, UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION, available at http://www.ugc.ac.in/page/Annual-Report.aspx.

4. Guidelines for General Development Assistance to Universities, UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION, available at http://www.ugc.ac.in/pdfnews/0423748_Guidelines-forGeneral-Development-Assistance-to-Universities.pdf.

5. Kian Ganz, Funding crunch looms over Indian law schools, LIVEMINT (April 26, 2012) available at http://www.livemint.com/Politics/FXxhWV2V9srpQEFMi5paPO/Funding-crunchlooms-over-Indian-law-schools.html.

6. List of Institutions of National Importance, MINISTRY OF HUMAN RESOURCE AND DEVELOPMENT available at http://mhrd.gov.in/institutions-national-importance.

7. Thomas Manuel, So Who Decides What an Institute of National Importance is?, THE WIRE (July 22, 2015) available at https://thewire.in/7014/demystifying-highereducation-in-india-second-of-a-series/.

8. Union Finance Budget, 2017-18, available at http://indiabudget.nic.in/ub2017- 18/eb/sbe58.pdf.

9. Section 20, The National Institutes of Technology Act, 2007.

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