Dr. Alok Misra
Dean – NMIMS Kirit P. Mehta School of Law
Dr. Alok Misra, M.Sc., LL.M., Ph.D. (Law) is a Professor of Constitutional Law from India. He graduated from Campus Law Centre of Delhi University. He has Teaching, Research, Administrative and Practicing Experience at Bar of more than three decades. He was the Founder and Chairman of Human Rights Organization and an Associate Member (Indian Section) of Amnesty International (London). He is a Life Member (Non-Practicing) of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Indian Society of International Law and the Indian Law Institute, New Delhi. He has been a Member of International Council of Jurists, London. His area of interest is Constitutional Law. He is a Consultant in the field of Constitutional Law. He is appreciated as a problem solver and a powerful motivator. He has held responsible academic and administrative assignments in Institutes of higher education. He has guided doctoral research works in Law. Presently Dr. Misra is serving as Dean, NMIMS Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, Mumbai & six other Schools of Law in other campuses at Navi Mumbai, Dhule, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Indore and Chandigarh of NMIMS (Deemed to be University) Mumbai, India.
He has been awarded the Enviro-Care International Award – 2016 for his efforts and dedication to the cause of environment. He is also the recipient of Academic Excellence Award-2018 (For Contribution to Legal Fraternity). Recently he received Academic Leadership Award-2020 for recognition of leadership, expertise, contribution, devotion, commitment towards legal academics in India.
What is the scope of law education on cyber safety in India?
There is tremendous scope for the study of cyber law. The laws also need to be updated to some extent, in terms of cyber security or usage of multimedia and technology. The confluence of technology and law had emerged in other countries and in India, it is still developing. Our cyberlaw policy has been aptly kept open-ended by the Government. We believe that making the law too stringent will limit the usage of technology. First, the usage and operations of cell phones must reach millions of people in India, and the Digital India program must succeed. Technology must have a wider reach before laws become too restrictive then the users will become wary of them. Usage of technology will be less and will defeat the purpose. So, the open-ended policy is appropriate for developing countries, and laws have been made suitably.
As more operations related to the internet domain and cyber platforms will come, laws will develop to meet the needs. At NMIMS, the usage of technology is quite advanced. We ensured that we create a curriculum for Cyber Law, with the collaboration of faculty and students. The program covers all recent advancements in the field of law pertaining to cloud computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence, big data, etc. at the undergraduate as well as postgraduate levels. Smart Contracts, which calls for knowledge about blockchain and related technology, is also part of the syllabus. Similarly, Cloud computing, and transition towards Quantum Computing, are also covered well by the program. Hence, it is a rich and wide-reaching syllabus.
I refer to the Cyber Law domain as the ‘magical garden’ of cyber development in India. The journey started with artificial intelligence around 1950, and the first email got shot in 1970. Then the invention of the Internet was the next big step. The optical cables mostly enter India through the sea via Mumbai, making it a nodal point for network distribution in India. The link goes to South East Asia also from here. We have to be a cyber power in the world, from the point of view of academics, banking operations, usage of technology by students, etc. The academic year 2021-22 was declared as the Year for Cyber Law Study at all law schools under NMIMS because this is the space where the scope for future development is there. Cyberlaw will dominate the legal sector and play a significant role in all areas.
The introduction of ICT took institutes with a surprise. But now, looking at the number of pending cases, and the rate at which the cases are increasing around the world, digitization of the legal procedures is vital. Punjab and Haryana high court is the first in the country to go paperless. The documents have to be uploaded through mobile and all information is communicated through an online platform. The results can also be downloaded on mobile. I hope such cyber techniques attain more prevalence and acceptability and become accessible to people as well. This will hasten the justice delivery procedure in India and transparency will increase, reducing the scope of corruption. ICT will develop that arena, and the current government has created a consciousness through better policies.
With the New Education policy, students can opt for law as a subject in Grade XI and XII. That helps them to prepare better and qualify for entrance tests to colleges like ours. They can clear national entrance exams like CLAT, LSAT, etc. Last year approximately 60000 students appeared for CLAT. Accessibility of and consciousness towards legal education has increased in the country and there are many reputed institutes now. So, the scope is wide and expanding evermore.
The sector as a whole is growing. How robust is the academic system for law education in Government colleges?
They are also improving and the government has been providing facilities and technology. Faculty members are very good and efficient. The working approach and ethics need to be modified to some extent. The missionary approach that was there earlier needs to be felt. Students and faculty will have to aim for higher goals, realising that just like medicine, millions of people need justice for an equitable life. The infrastructure has to be used to the optimal extent to make the system robust.
The structure is already existing and the work ethics have to improve. The time durations for classes have to increase, to probably two shifts of eight hours each, to engage students better and have wider activities. The education must be accessible by all sections of society. If the system is not robust then the education will suffer as students will not want to go there. The divide that is present to some extent will grow if remedial measures are not taken. Then the government will have to look at options like taking the Public-Private Partnership route or giving up the ownership of the colleges to the private sector.
What are the newer specialisations that students can pursue under the gamut of law education in India?
The new areas of specialisation are Corporate Laws, within which Company Law is a specialised area. As more companies are set up in India, both from within the country and outside, knowledge of corporate law is becoming necessary. Now there are integrated courses that combine legal and business aspects, like BBA and LLB Honours. We always energize our students and faculty by emphasizing that the BBA program we have is similar to an MBA. Management sciences and legal sciences are merging to make a holistic course.
The other domain is Intellectual Property rights. The advancement of patents, trademarks, software, copyright, etc. has emerged hugely after the development in technical fields. So, intellectual property has come up as an innovative space in India and is articulating itself. It is another area of specialisation.
Health laws are also an important area of study. Laws related to carriages are again an area of focus. The air space is opening up, with the open sky policy of the government. Motor vehicle act and shipping laws have also undergone amendments. Transportation has changed a lot over the years.
International Law has also become quite popular because of boundaries opening up for trade and multi-nation transactions taking place. So, trade and law are blending.
The intervention of science and technology with the law is being evidenced in recent years. Bar Council of India permits innovative courses like B. Sc LLB Honours program. We are also designing such hybrid programs, combining the various facets. The recent developments in science and technology stay regulated by law.
For instance, if Artificial Intelligence is used in medical space and hospitals are managed by robots, replacing para-medical staff, then some regulatory laws are needed. The new programs will meet the requirements of such changes. We are addressing new dimensions of science through academics. Pharmaceutical with LLB is another viable area to study.
Energy laws, petroleum laws are also there. Students can study the laws pertaining to nuclear energy too, probably with guidance from the Bhabha Atomic research centre. Our focus is there on these emerging areas. We can work a lot here.
Please tell us about the accreditation system for law colleges. How easy or tough is it to attain accreditation?
From the 1970s onwards, a lot of concerns have been voiced regarding the laws related to the environment, wildlife, air quality, water pollution, climate change, and conservation. The UN also noted this and developed the Millennium Development Goals aimed at Sustainable Development. The laws related to environmental safety started floating in. We also realised that colleges and universities were the right places to start ingraining the correct mindset, as young students have some awareness towards a sustainable future. The policies of liberalisation have also opened up several job opportunities.
Hence, educational institutions should also take care of the Millennium Development Goals. Globally, as well as in India, it was decided that accreditation and ranking of institutions should take care of this aspect. They will be assessed on the SDG parameters and benchmarking of the processes will be done. Thus, a new system started and students, as well as parents, are made parties to this.
We have to take care of quality and quantity. While we need to spread our reach and teach more students, and at the same time develop certain qualities in them. They are our end product and have to reflect the values. Students must be employer-ready from day one. Employers must be sure that if a student is coming from a reputed institute like NMIMS, then these are the traits that he/ she will imbibe.
The ranking of an educational institution reflects what the institution is at its core. It tells about the academic standards, facilities, and ideology of the institute. Apart from the official rankings by government agencies, institutes are also assessed by reputed independent bodies like magazines. But more than such ranking, what matters to us is the ranking of the institution in the hearts of the parents and students, because they are the brand ambassadors. So, their satisfaction is paramount and they must hold a good image of the institute. The happiness quotient of students, and faculty is important, apart from professional success.
NMIMS has been a leader in higher education. Please tell us about the expansion plans of the institute.
The law school under the baton of NMIMS was established in 2013, and this year our fourth batch passed out with over 90% placement every year. Being a placement-driven university, we believe that the students must be job-ready before they leave us. They get first-hand holding from our side. Our target is to get every student placed by the 30th of June, and we have been able to achieve it consistently.
There are two undergraduate programs and we have over 1400 students on the law college campus. In the post-graduate law program, we have over 140 students. The first expansion of the institute was done in Navi Mumbai four years back. In 2019, our campuses in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Indore, Chandigarh, and Dhule. Over 2700 students are studying Law on our campuses. Notably, Dhule is a place in northern Maharashtra, that’s a cotton belt and faces water scarcity. The water harvesting model was developed by our chancellor and the place has become lush green due to his efforts. We are soon going to announce our Noida campus, for which the land has been allocated by the government.
Now we have over 50 faculty members and 7 associate deans looking after different campuses. Moreover, 100 plus visiting faculty, hailing from the industry and bar councils, teach our students. we invite experts to guide our students and share hands-on experience in clinical papers and corporate subjects. From the industry, many Chartered Accountants, Company Secretaries, as well as members of NGOs and law firms take classes for our students. so, there is a variety of knowledge sharing by different profiles. Every Saturday we hold a placement talk also so that people from the industry can interact with students.
We have revisited the entire syllabus and the best of legal education from different sources has been amalgamated with our course structure. Law firm heads are associated with our college. Even internationally, we are working to have a meaningful association with reputed faculty, to ensure that every Law college, even in the backward areas of India, has a good law teacher. We are connected with teachers who are passionate about educating students and have done remarkable work in their careers.
How does a student prepare for international education after attaining a degree in law from a college in India?
Students can take up an LLM program abroad, which was earlier of two years’ duration and was then reduced to one year. Moving on the same lines, in India too, a one-year LLM program was introduced, but it was quite narrow with limited teaching. From this year, we will have 2 years LLM program and 3 years Executive LLM program.
If someone wants to do LLM from a foreign university, some conditions have been imposed. To work in India, he will have to qualify on certain parameters. If he wants to teach Law in India then he will have to prove the qualification according to the stringent standards of Indian law education. The Bar Council of India takes care of the educational standards in India as far as legal academics are concerned.