Abhilasha Foundation - Legal Education to the Underpriviledged

The legal profession today has undergone a sea change.  Looking at the requirements of the profession today, the education pattern followed presently may have to be completely overhauled. 

Stark disparities exist in legal education. There are institutes like National Law Schools on one side, with the likes of Symbiosis, ILS Law College, Pune, Government Law College in the middle and colleges from mofussil areas such as Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Ratnagiri and such other areas in Maharashtra, on the other side.

The comparison of National Law Schools and Colleges like Symbiosis, ILS, GLS and colleges operating from mofussil areas is an eye opener.  Graduates passing out of the former may end up with packages comparable to those offered by some of the prime management institutes.

Even in National Law Schools and other premier institutes’, a comparison will reveal disparity in terms of knowledge and approach of students. Therefore, Graduates passing out of National Law School, Bangalore or NALSAR may end up with an initial package of Rs. 1,50,000/- per month upwards and Graduates from colleges like Symbiosis, ILS, GLS get anything between Rs. 50,000/- to Rs. 1,00,000/-. In all the above mentioned premier institutes, the packages mentioned may not be a bench mark but the average stipend received after passing out is quite decent.  The students are easily absorbed in the profession all over.

A cursory study of the creamy layer institutes will reveal that most of the students after passing out opt for jobs in the corporate world.  Very few students opt for litigation and jobs as a Judge or a Prosecutor.

The students admitted in such creamy layer institutes are mostly from English medium schools and from higher or higher middle class families, who understand the importance of qualitative education.  These creamy layer institutes have better infrastructure, better facilities and qualified staff.  The fee structure also is also quite high.

In contrast to these colleges, the picture of law colleges operating from mofussil areas is a diagonal opposite. Here, the students are from middle class families and mostly from Marathi medium.  Study of law demands thorough understanding of the English language, that too of the highest order. Naturally students from Marathi medium find it extremely difficult to understand the language. The infrastructure in such colleges is also nothing to be proud of.  Even basic social needs such as clean wash rooms are not available. The colleges conduct classes in class rooms which cannot be compared to even good high schools in metropolitan cities.  The courses are conducted more as a formality.  The quality of teachers and the library is also quite very poor.  Most of these colleges do not provide any IT facilities to their students for research and the students are mostly left on their own to fend for themselves, with support from their parents to conclude their education. 

Primarily, it is these students from mofussil law colleges, who form the backbone of our litigation practice.  The lawyers from mofussil areas prefer to join the judiciary and mostly accept jobs such as Public Prosecutors, Government pleaders or law officers in public sector undertakings.  This disparity in education reflects even in the legal system.  Boys and girls from mofussil areas are weak in the English language.  Therefore, quality of judgments, recording of evidence, appreciation of the law is also quite average.  The disparity is so apparent that even in High Courts, Judges coming from such backgrounds have to face humiliation and find it extremely difficulty to match the abilities of a Judge coming directly from bars like Bombay Bar Association.

The students from mofussil areas are as eager as their counterparts and are also equally keen on developing their career through their ability.  However, initial hurdles continue to deter their progress.  The situation of students coming from lower middle class families or lower classes is more heart rending and they continue to suffer from an inferiority complex.

This may also be the scenario in all other spheres of education and the administrations for their own reasons may be reluctant to take effective steps towards improving the system.

However, `Abhilasha’ founded by Late. Shri. S.V.Nevagi who retired as a District Judge has resolved to contribute in this area along with support from Just Society, promoted by the likes of Late Shri. V. M. Tarkunde, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court and Ex-Chief Justice High Court, Mumbai.  Justice VR Krishna Iyer is the present Chairman.

The Abhilasha Foundation has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Shivaji University and is planning to start a programme to provide free additional training free of cost to the students studying in law colleges in mofussil areas.

Dr. Santosh Shah, Adv. S.N.Chingale, Mr. Abhay Nevagi, Advocate, Mr. Madan Godse, Mr. C.G.Kumbhar, I.P.S. (Rtd.), Mr. Shrikant Kulkarni, Retd. Judge (DRT), Mr. Deshpande, Rtd. District Judge, Mr. Nandu Kulkarni have come together and decided to organize round the clock training programmes in certain law colleges to help the students bridge the gap that exists between themselves and their counterparts from top law colleges.

The Nevagi family has agreed to create a corpus of Rs. 25,00,000/- to start the course in Association with Shivaji University in five Districts.  The programme initially will cover law colleges from the said Districts as well as those from Ratnagiri.

The entire expenditure of the faculty will be borne by the Foundation.  The faculty will comprise of Retd. Judges, senior lawyers and professors from English as well as other faculties.  Additionally, ex. Army officers have shown their interest to give their time for personality development.  This is a combined effort towards improving the quality of law students in mofussil areas and a small step towards improving the justice delivery system at large.  The effort is being made without waiting for the Government to act.  The efforts have already begun.

Abhilasha Foundation along with Just Society and Shivaji University / Shahaji Law College, Kolhapur would like to formerly inaugurate the programme as early as possible, preferably this month. We would prefer to conduct the initial leg of the training programme soon after the completion of exams in the month of March.

The note is prepared to place on record this objective.