First of all, thank you for speaking to GyanCentral. Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I started my teaching career at Punjab University in 1982 where I used to teach Constitutional and Administrative Law. Then, I joined Jammu University in 1983 and worked there till 1988. After that I came back to Punjab University and taught here for another three years. In 1991, I got my Nehru Centenary scholarship award to pursue my post doctorate at University of London. From there, I went to France and did an internship at Geneva and came back to India in 1992. In 1994, I was awarded the Young Talented Teacher award by University Grants Commission (UGC) which carries an amount of 1.5 lakh rupees along with a three-year paid leave to do research. I submitted my project in 1998 and till 2008, I was the chairman of Punjab University law department. It was in 2010 that I got an offer to be the Vice Chancellor (VC) of Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU), Raipur and I joined there in December 2010. Shortly after that, on 8th February 2011, I became the VC of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab (RGNUL).
What was the reason behind such a sudden shift?
Patiala is close to my house, so I chose RGNUL. It was only because of my family that I left HNLU and joined RGNUL, otherwise I had no complain as such.
What were your impressions of HNLU, Raipur?
It is a wonderful national law school and is a sister institute. When I joined HNLU, the infrastructure was in place whereas RGNUL is still developing.
Ever since you joined RGNUL on February 2011, what changes did you bring about till now and what are your plans for the future?
A lot of infrastructural improvements have taken place. One major step was to put the hostel together so that the students who were staying in other parts of the city could stay within the campus. When I came here, only one block of the hostel was functional. Now, all the hostel rooms are air conditioned. I have strengthened the library. Also, academically we have done the CCPA reforms.
You have 30 years experience in the field of teaching. Do you still get time to teach after being the VC?
You are right. I don't get that much time as I used to get earlier as a professor. After I became the VC, I have added administrative responsibilities and I do not find adequate time. But I do enjoy teaching even now and take classes whenever I can.
You have a whopping number of 61 research papers published in various reputed National as well as International Journals/Books. Tell us something about your research experience.
Teaching and research go hand in hand and they can't be divorced from each other. A good teacher would have to be a good researcher too. It is only through research that we develop our analytical skills and that is fortunately a part and parcel of my job.
Any tips for the future research enthusiasts?
Now-a-days research has become much easier. When I look at my own library, there is access to updated software for maintaining databases, thus making it easier for the researchers. Though, the only problem with internet is that it lacks authenticity.
So, how exactly did RGNUL happen to you?
Well, I did not apply for this post. These decisions are not in your control. I was not aware that my candidature was being considered for RGNUL. I was in fact attending a conference in Hyderabad when I got the news that I have been appointed as the VC of RGNUL. There was no selection process as such. The search committee recommended three names and it was the prerogative of the Chancellor to pick any one of those names.
What according to you is the current scenario of the law profession in India today?
It is a wonderful, upcoming profession with a lot of opportunities. The knowledge of law is extremely important in order to rise and excel in life. It is applicable to all spheres and industries. You may be the employee or the employer and you can be in any profession, but the knowledge of law will actually help you to reach the top.
Tell us something about the last batch of RGNUL placements. Which firms came and how many students got placed?
When I joined, the placement scenario was not on a happy note. So I constituted a separate Placement Cell and appointed few teachers in charge of it. Last year we published three placement brochures for three batches and we invited different law firms. It helped in making the employers aware of the University. This year Amarchand Mangadas visited our campus and few students got placed at reputable firms. Litigation is a very popular field and many students take it up. A lot of students also moved abroad for LLM and got into good schools like Oxford, London University etc.
Tell us a little about your educational background?
I studied in a typical Hindi medium school at Himachal Pradesh and did my matriculation there. Later, I moved to Chandigarh where I went to DAV College for graduation. I did my law, LLM and subsequently my Phd from Punjab University, Chandigarh.
Why did you choose law as a profession?
I was always curious to know more and more about my rights. That was the reason why I joined a law school. Gradually teaching became my first love after I joined the law department. Even though I was selected for central services and the Navy as a law officer, I chose to continue teaching. Being a professor was never my aim but after I joined Punjab University, I took up teaching and I do not ever regret my decision.
What is your take on the entire CLAT 2012 controversy?
I am a part of the CLAT core committee and I have studied the two pending petitions. About the Allahabad petition I do not have detailed information but I know about the Delhi petition in full detail. I did not find any logic behind it and I found out that it only referred to technical deficiencies. A similar incident had happened to me recently when I had set a paper (not CLAT) and at that time since people were less aware about the Constitution, they thought a few parts like the section 9B did not exist, which in reality does exist.
Every year CLAT is having some problem or the other. What is the solution for this according to you?
We have discussed the proposal of a permanent CLAT body but that has been rejected so far by the CLAT core committee. There is no serious problem as such. Few measures that can be taken are that no favouritism should be there and there should be complete transparency. Complete secrecy should be practiced and question papers should be set ethically. Also, since different people set the papers, there is a certain degree of subjectivity that is involved. As a part of the core committee, even we have no idea about who sets the question paper! Standard of setting question papers differ from person to person. If I am a paper setter, I will do it in a particular way and as a paper setter you will do it in a different way. So, that variation concession should be given to whoever sets the paper. Plus, we as Vice Chancellors have no discretion to choose which students to admit in our respective colleges. We admit those students whose names come out on the list which and that is put up the internet. There is complete transparency in making that list.
Do you think CLAT scores are the right parameter to judge a student's aptitude for law course?
You have to keep some parameter. There has to be a uniform test to measure the aptitude of a student. Each test has its own pros and cons.
What is your take on students joining law firms' right after college? Do you think that they should they start practicing for a few years and then join a law firm?
Certainly. I would say that out of my own experience. I went to the court for 10 years while also teaching in Punjab University. What one learns in a courtroom they cannot learn that in the classroom. So I would suggest, one should get firsthand experience of the court before joining any law firm.
CLAT has been criticized on various ground, one of them being that if one does not come from an English medium background one would find it extremely difficult to clear the exam. Do you think such criticisms are valid?
As I said earlier, I studied in a Hindi medium school till 12th standard. Even during graduation I did not have English as a subject. But I am having a pretty good conversation in English with you right now, right (laughs)? The fact where you are doing your schooling from definitely has some advantage and disadvantage. The Convent school going people do have some better grip on the English language than the others. But sometimes, even they fail to crack CLAT. I barely studied English for two years, but it definitely does not impact one's aptitude for law. In fact, last year we had a student who came from a hindi medium school and did really well in CLAT.
Do you see any difference or similarity between students across the NLUs in India?
One similarity would be that all of them are extremely computer savvy and technology driven. They are very well connected through social networking sites and know how to use the internet for their research. Also, almost all national law universities are focusing on practical teaching. Placements may differ as some NLUs like Bangalore, Hyderabad, NLU-Delhi have been there for a long time. But now even the newer ones are catching up.
What are your opinions on student elections in college?
The election system in the national law Universities are totally different. There are direct and indirect elections. Here at RJNLU, we have committees like moot committee, cultural committee etc and each committee chooses its own leader. We give students complete freedom to frame their own guidelines and policies.
Quality faculty crunch is one of the biggest issues facing education institutes in India today. How do you tackle the same at RGNUL which is a fairly new college?
Absolutely. It is a major issue not only confined within national law universities but all educational institutes around. As far as RGNLU is concerned, we are inviting expert visiting professors to teach here and also exchanging quality teachers amongst all NLUs. I got a letter from Gandhinagar National Law Univeristy (GNLU) a few days back where a list of our professor names was mentioned. They requested if those professors can go to GNLU and teach there sometime.
The fee structure is so high across all NLUs. What is your take on that? Does your college offer any sort of scholarship?
We do offer scholarships. Compared to other NLUs our fee structure is on the lower side. We provide really good facility to the students. If you compare the fee structure of private law colleges, you will notice that they are 4 to 5 times more than the fees at RGNUL. After I joined here, we introduced two scholarships for two deserving students on the basis of merit and financial condition, that is given out every year.
For the batch of 2012-2017 what are the changes in course pedagogy and structure?
The course by and large is regulated by the Bar Council of India which we follow in totality and we cannot change that. But we try to integrate practical approaches like moots and project work so that the thrust is on practical learning.
How do moots help a law student?
Earlier we had paucity of funds because of which we couldn't conduct our own moots. This is the first year when we conducted our very own moot, where nearly 23 teams had participated from all over the country. Our students also attend moots at national and international levels. Last year, one student bagged around 17 awards in various moot competitions, the most memorable one being the moot conducted at NLU-Delhi, where we bagged the top 3 prizes out of four. Our students are doing great in mooting.
Do you think that submitting 5 projects every semester is a huge burden on the students?
(smiles) Well, if you have to excel you have to work more. The projects are a part of what is being taught to them in the class and not something outside the syllabus. It is a training ground of how to write a project and how to work hard. This prepares them for their future especially if they want to enter the corporate world.
Tell us about the internships that a student must do while being at RGNLU and how does it help a student in the course.
We have a placement and internship cell. We encourage students to take up internships twice a year, during the winters (December to January) and summers (June to July). There are over 20 firms to choose from. Some also intern with the Supreme Court and High Court judges and lawyers. I remember that last year one of our students Bhumika, even won a cash prize worth Rs 15,000 for being the 'Best Intern'.
What are the major characteristic features that a person should have as a good lawyer?
One should be confident, have good knowledge, have good communication skills and the ability to converse.
What advantage do students from RGNUL have over other national law schools/universities?
Our library is one of the best and that gives our students an edge over the others. We have rare collection of books and materials that no one has. Also, the hostels are well equipped and have air-conditioned rooms and are best among all the other NLU hostels. Thus, our infrastructure and teaching set us apart from the rest.
What are your hobbies and how do you spend your free time?
I barely get free time but I like to listen to old classical instrumental music and read law books and judgments.
What is your advice to those young, aspiring lawyers out there?
Work hard and try to learn as much as you can. When you pass out of the University, do not take away just the degree but also the knowledge. It is the best period of your life where you can work maximum, learn maximum, imbibe maximum, exploit your potential to maximum and retain maximum.
Meet Prof. (Dr.) Paramjit S. Jaswal, Vice-Chancellor of RGNUL, Punjab FeaturedBy : Ushnota Paul
Professor (Dr.) Paramjit S. Jaswal is currently Vice Chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab (RGNUL). In this exclusive interview with GyanCentral's Ushnota Paul, Prof. Jaswal, who is also a member of the CLAT core committee, speaks about life at RGNUL, how exciting law is as a profession, his love for teaching and his take on CLAT.