‘Communitarian Justice’ and Justice to All is the New Mantra of Legal Education
(Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor National Law University Odisha)
I congratulate the Legal Aid Society for taking this initiative to launch the Legal Aid Blog today on 72nd Independence day.
The education to all and justice to all is the perambulatory promise of the Indian Constitution that reflects the idea of ‘communitarian justice’. It requires learning the law beyond books and courts halls and in wider community settings.
Jerome Frank, an eminent American Jurist in 1933 advocated for a clinical lawyers schools in United States arguing for integrating law teaching with social sciences and interaction with the work of Court, lawyers and community. He was arguing shifting from ‘case method’ to clinical method of learning through practical lawyering skills in the form of legal aid clinics in partnership with judiciary, legal profession and learning from the community. The public interest vision of Jerome Frank, became reality with the evolution of clinical legal education all over the world including India in eighties. The Indian jurists like Upendra Baxi, Madhava Menon and others have also expressed similar ideas and thoughts about rethinking on legal education and articulated the idea of ‘Socially relevant legal education’.
The access to justice movement all over the world advocated moving away from legalism in institution of justice delivery to informal justice. Strengthening and democratising informal justice is a step in the direction of providing ‘communitarian justice’. David Trueback succinctly observed that it will be ‘the radical transformation of the ideas about law and justice’.
My experiences in Clinical Legal Education in India
Let me share my involvement with the access to justice movement in India over three decades in several law schools that influenced my thinking in developing Pro-people and Pro-poor stance in my academic engagements.
Conceptualising and Developing Land Rights Paralegals: The development of land rights paralegals in NALSAR Law University in Hyderabad in 2003 was a significant experiment in legal aid in India. The concept of land rights paralegal emerged out of our Clinical course on Legal aid and Public Interest Litigation. We made an attempt to study the pending land disputes in revenue courts and land tribunals in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Later the government of Andhra Pradesh has initiated major reform as part of its Project on Society for Elimination of Rural Poor (SERP). Later, the land paralegals were developed by the state of Andhra Pradesh in association with Rural Development Institute (RDI) now called as LANDESA.
Development of Diploma in Paralegal Practice: This initial success of developing a specialised land paralegal course prompted me to develop comprehensive one year Diploma Programme (Diploma in Paralegal Practice) at Indira Gandhi National Open University in 2009.
Barefoot Lawyers College: We started Barefoot Lawyers college in this University in 2016 to offer two year Advanced vocational diploma programme in Paralegal Studies under the Community College Scheme of the University Grants Commission.
All these experiences have encouraged me to rethink on the existing model of legal education in providing justice to all.
My dream is to develop in the coming years a new model Clinical school in India. I do hope with all your support, we will be able to do this.