Maharashtra: Admissions delayed, 1st-year law classes to begin in March
Classes for first-year batches of professional courses have begun but the seat allotment process for law aspirants is yet to be finished. With the state common entrance test (CET) cell still in the process of allotting seats, classes for first-year batch in law colleges will commence only in March this year.
“Law students are used to delayed admissions and a shorter academic calendar, but this year seems to be the worst. Once again teachers will be expected to complete a full year’s syllabus in four or five months and students will be expected to rote learn,” said the principal of a reputed law college in Mumbai.
Admissions to most professional courses were delayed by a few months this year, first due to the lockdown and then due to a petition filed in the Bombay high court for clarity on the status of the Maratha quota. In December, the registration process for most professional courses including law, engineering, architecture and pharmacy had to be delayed by a few weeks to give students time to make necessary changes to their admission form after the state government decided to continue admissions without the inclusion of socially and educationally backward class (SEBC) quota.
After much delay, the first list of three-year and five-year law courses were scheduled to be released in the first week of February, but the same had to be postponed again after the state CET cell received complaints of error in student information. CET cell then had to conduct a third party audit to re-check information shared by students at the time of registration, leading to further delay. The first seat allocation list was finally released in the third week of February.
“This is not the first time that admissions to law courses have been delayed, or the fact the basic process of registration and seat allocation have been marred with technical glitches. Year after year the state government talks about enhancing and upgrading the education system but basic admission process has not been streamlined,” said Sachin Pawar, president of Student Law Council.
He further pointed at how delay in admissions also leads to a condensed academic period for first-year law students, leaving many grappling with too much to cope. “A curriculum meant to be taught over nine-10 months is covered in five months or less, and students are expected to cope up. This is one of the main reasons why more and more first-year students end up failing in one or more subjects in the first two semesters itself,” added Pawar. He added that this year, the delay also forced many law aspirants to opt for admissions in law institutes in neighbouring states, which could lead to higher seat vacancy in state Institutes.
As per information shared by the state CET cell, seat vacancy in law colleges for the five-year course stood between 48%-60% over the past five years. The seat vacancy in the past five years was highest in 2016-17 academic year when almost 60% seats had no takers, while seat vacancy stood at 48%, 53% and 51% in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively.
Many experts feel mushrooming of law institutes on a yearly basis could be one of the reasons for the high number of seat vacancy year after year.
In August 2019, in a meeting of the general council of the Bar Council of India (BCI), it was decided to impose a three-year moratorium or a temporary suspension on grant of approval of affiliation to new legal education institutes, universities or deemed to be universities. It further had decided that only pending proposals, and no fresh applications, will be entertained for a period of three years minimum.
“This decision of the bar council was taken mainly to address the issue of the large number of private law institutes mushrooming all over the country. Some states were witnessing high seat vacancy and Maharashtra is facing the same problem,” said a senior official from the University of Mumbai on condition of anonymity.
Others pointed out that students too are very clear about their education and future prospects and many choose to drop a year in hopes of bagging a seat in an institute of their choice in the next academic year.
“There are several law institutes spread across the state of Maharashtra and with every passing year, students are becoming very selective about their choice. A law institute in rural Maharashtra might be imparting good quality education but someone from tier 1 or tier 2 cities would not opt for the institute simply because of its location. This could be another reason for growing seat vacancy,” said Narayan Rajadhyaksh, former principal of New Law College, Matunga.