How the National Law Universities are failing India

The first floor lobby at the National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata. On the face of it, the NLUs have seemed to create a group of well-trained lawyers, visible in splendid placement figures, coaching centre pamphlets, and exploits in much-reported court battles. However, they are a far cry from the founts of social idealism that they were initially intended to be. Biswarup Ganguly / Wikimedia Commons
30 April, 2022


“Since college shut down due to the pandemic, evenings on this terrace are possibly the only thing that have held me together,” a student of the National University of Juridical Sciences told me in the summer of 2020, sitting atop a concrete water tank on a terrace sandwiched between two taller buildings in their home city. “People in college seem to be living in a world apart—landing internships, acing their exams. No matter how hard I work, it doesn’t seem to translate.”

The student, then in the middle of their law education, had been born with a medical condition that left them with a serious disability. Doctors confirmed early on that they would need special education. The student was motivated to pursue law in the hope of improving their family’s modest financial circumstances and due to a deep interest in politics and society. At the age of 17, they cracked the highly competitive Common Law Admission Test, the gateway to the country’s 23 National Law Universities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the student joined NUJS, in Kolkata, as one of the small minority of disabled students at the university. This is where, chatting away one afternoon, we met each other as fellow students.

On the terrace of their home, the student turned to tell me they knew what I might say: that this was not their fault, that the pandemic had pushed millions of students like them into isolation and academic stagnation. “But sometimes it’s difficult to tell yourself that this isn’t your fault,” they said. “It’s not that simple.”