IDIA Research and Policy Wing

IRAP is a wing of IDIA that focuses on high level research and policy advocacy, in order to create a more diverse and inclusive ecosystem overall. To this end, it continually engages with stakeholders such as universities, law firms, and government agencies.  

Introduction

The IDIA Research and Policy (IRAP) wing has carved out a niche for itself by acting as the brains behind several IDIA policies. It seeks to evolve a more optimal framework for legal education in the country. The initiatives undertaken by IDIA are backed by research conducted by the team at IRAP, which relies on primary and secondary research materials, and other methods of information collection such as petitions and complaints.

While IDIA focuses on providing solutions by working within the contours of the current framework, IRAP intends to bring about much required change in the system by acting on IDIA’s initiatives and other policy issues that will benefit the cause in the long term. To this end, IRAP undertakes a research based approach to develop a more inclusive policy for future legal education.

Being in its nascent stage, IRAP has undertaken limited projects but the impact of such projects has been far reaching. For instance, an initiative undertaken by IRAP in the form of a note lead to an overhaul of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), 2011 which gave higher weightage to legal reasoning and current awareness, as opposed to static knowledge of laws and history.

In addition, IRAP also conducts diversity surveys in order to record and review the socio-economic composition and diversity of law schools. The survey highlights the under-representation of students from the economically and socially backward classes, the disabled communities, minority communities, ethnic groups, etc.

Reforming CLAT
  1. Note on Reforming CLAT

The Common Law Admission Test or CLAT, which was aimed at creating a uniform basis for selection into Indian National Law Universities (NLUs), has failed to achieve this basic goal. Pursuant to the note by IDIA (authored by late Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer, Debanshu Khettry and Shambo Nandy), West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS), the CLAT conducting institution in 2011, announced a change in the detailed syllabus and did away with ‘legal knowledge’ and static general knowledge (GK) questions. We hope that in the coming years, the proportion of marks given to GK (which is now the joint highest: 50 out of 200 marks) will also reduce, as we strongly believe that GK is not the most important component to test for one’s aptitude for the study of law. Prof. Basheer highlighted the key problems with the exam and advocated for reform in an Indian Express editorial here.

  1. Disability-friendly Entrance Examination 

IRAP has also advocated for a disabled – friendly entrance examination and made representations before the CLAT Committee highlighting the disadvantages faced by students with disability. Click here for the copy of an email sent by Prof. Basheer in 2012 to the then CLAT Core Committee Convenor and then National Law University, Jodhpur Vice-Chancellor Justice N.N. Mathur, urging him to allow differently-abled candidates to be allowed the use of scribes while attempting CLAT. This representation was accompanied by a case note outlining the existing legal framework and judicial pronouncements within which the right of the visually impaired to scribes can be placed, and a draft policy in this regard for CLAT. The CLAT Core Committee agreed to our suggestions, and allowed differently-abled candidates to avail of scribes.

 

  1. CLAT PIL

Prof. (Dr.) Shamnad Basheer, Founder and Managing Trustee of IDIA, filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court seeking, among others, the establishment of a permanent body for conducting CLAT each year, as well as greater transparency in the process. The Promoting Public Interest Lawyering (P-PIL) team has been pursuing the matter before the Court which is ongoing. Read more.

Study of Law Firms

Study of ‘Big Five’ Law Firms 

The IRAP team also conducted a study on the statistics relating to recruitment by the ‘Big Five’ law firms from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 batches of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research University (NALSAR) and West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (WBNUJS), and the presence of diversity markers within the students recruited. The study showed that there is a marginal presence of students from low-income backgrounds and students from reserved categories among those recruited by the Big Five law firms.

Diversity Surveys

The National Law Universities have become increasingly elitist over the years. A variety of factors have contributed to this, including the extremely high fees charged at these institutions, an entrance examination that requires extensive and expensive coaching as a pre-requisite, and most importantly, a lamentable lack of awareness about law as a career amongst low income students in small towns, rural areas and other non-affluent backgrounds.

The net result is that the current student composition in many of these law schools lacks any serious diversity and comprises mainly of English-medium educated students from middle class or upper middle class families. The numbers from rural areas, small towns or non-English medium schools are deplorably low. Apart from this, the composition also suffers from under-representation from the economically and socially backward classes, the disabled communities, minority communities, ethnic groups, etc.

Prof. Basheer and others have argued in their paper that unless we fix the diversity deficit at the law schools soon, we’ll be faced with a serious diversity crisis within the top echelons of the legal profession as well (to the extent that some of these layers at the top will be fed in large parts by NLU candidates).

The above is more than borne out by the various IDIA ‘diversity’ surveys at the various national law schools, the results of which are set out below.

  1. Diversity Survey Report: 2013-14

Please see the report here.

We would like to thank Swethaa Ballakrishnen, Tarunabh Khaitan and Bobby Kunhu for their valuable inputs on the diversity questionnaire that was administered to the law schools.

  1. Diversity Survey Report: 2014-15

Please see the report here.

We would like to thank the entire team of IDIA directors and student volunteers who’ve helped put together this report under the guidance of Prof. (Dr) Shamnad Basheer, Founder and former Managing Trustee, IDIA.

  1. Diversity Survey Report: 2016-17

Please see the report here.

We would like to thank the entire team of IDIA directors and student volunteers who’ve helped put together this report under the guidance of Prof. (Dr) Shamnad Basheer, Founder and former Managing Trustee, IDIA.

  1. Diversity Survey Report: 2018-19

Please see the report here.

We would like to that the entire team of IDIA directors and student volunteers who’ve helped put together this report under the guidance of Prof (Dr) Shamnad Basheer, Founder and former Managing Trustee, IDIA.

Others

Please see below a brief overview of the other initiatives/ work undertaken by the IRAP Wing:

  1. Legal Position in India on Leeway granted to Dyslexic Students during Competitive Examinations

The IRAP team had the opportunity to answer a query regarding leeway granted to students with disabilities (with specific emphasis on dyslexic students) during examinations such as the IIM-Indore IPM Aptitude Test, CLAT, NMIMS-NPAT (BBA), and Symbiosis-SET. We looked into the legal position on the issue, investigating specifically whether a dyslexic student is entitled to demand (i) additional time, and (ii) access to calculators. Read more.

  1. NLSIU, Bangalore, announces Scholarship Policy for the Underprivileged

The National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, set an example by pioneering one of the most progressive scholarship policies for underprivileged students. Read more.

  1. IDIA makes Recommendations to TRAI on its Consultation Paper on ‘Making ICT Accessible for Persons with Disabilities’

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a consultation paper (view) on making information and communication technology (ICT) more accessible for persons with disabilities, and sought recommendations on the same from stakeholders. IDIA submitted its recommendations to TRAI which can be accessed here. This was a joint effort by the IDAP and IRAP teams at IDIA.