A project to increase ''diversity'' in national law schools

Written by: Pti
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Balakrishnan Nair

Chennai, Jan16 (PTI) A project that seeks to improveaccess for underprivileged students to legal education besidesincreasing "diversity" within national law schools seems to begaining ground in the country thanks to dedicated efforts oflegal professionals and the student community.

"The Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access projectseeks to address two concerns - lack of access to premierlegal education to a large section of Indian society and sheerlack of diversity within the national law schools," ProfessorShamnad Basheer, National University of Juridical Sciences(NUJS), Kolkata, who helped evolve the "IDIA movement," said.

The law is a powerful instrument and giving this tool inthe hands of the underprivileged would enable them to advocatebetter for their rights and improve their socio-economicstanding, Basheer, who also holds the Intellectual Property(IP Chair) that has been instituted by the Human ResourceDevelopment Ministry, told PTI.

"Owing to the dedicated effort of student volunteers fromall the major law schools, we''re making some decent progress.

We visited many schools throughout India and have selectedaround 40-50 children, including 10 blind kids. And aretraining them for Common Law Admission Test (CLAT)," he said.

Gopal Subramanium, current Solicitor General and Chairmanof the Bar Council of India, who is a project trustee, feelsthat the project "is intrinsically a very far reaching one."

"It reaches out to the poor, shall we say, the moredisadvantaged sections of society and gives them anopportunity to acquire skills. So it is a model project. If itgets going off the ground we should be able to replicate it ina number of cases," he told PTI over phone from Delhi.

The seeds of the project were sown at the fag end of 2009during a discussion with Professor MP Singh, Vice Chancellor,NUJS, and Tarunabh Khaitan, a scholar from Oxford on the lackof diversity at law schools, Basheer said.

Tarunabh was very keen that NUJS should do somethingimmediately and suggested they actively reach out tounder-represented sections and enroll more candidates fromwithin these communities, Basheer said.

Surveys conducted at the leading law schools demonstratethat only 1-2 per cent of the total batch in each year of theundergraduate degree come from rural areas or have studied invernacular medium schools.

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