In conversation with Dr. Mukund Sarda, a well known legal academician who transformed a lesser-known law college to a leading law school of India in a short period of time.
Q: You are the youngest appointed Principal of a law college in India. Could you please share with our readers your experience on being offered the position of a Principal?
A: Throughout my career as a law student, I loved reading law books, landmark cases and craved for an in-depth legal research which helped me earn three gold medals during Bachelor of Laws (LL.B), Master of Laws (LL.M.) and eventually Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Laws. Indeed, I was very fortunate to be mentored by legendary law professors who guided my way to the noble profession of law teaching.
Following my intuition, I applied for the position of a lecturer and waited for a positive reply from the authorities. Soon, I was summoned for my interview before the learned panellists on the scheduled day. Though a bit nervous, I was determined to do well keeping in my mind that the first impression always lasts forever. I could not believe my luck when I learnt that I was selected for the position of Principal, whereas I just applied for the lectureship. Initially, I thought it was a mistake by the panellists, but later to my surprise, it was confirmed to me that I was indeed deemed fit for the job! On that day, I realized that I was shouldered with a great responsibility to make a difference in the world of legal education.
Q: Could you please take us through the journey of transforming New Law College from a lesser known institution to a top ranked law college of India?
A: Well, I strongly believe that people may come and go, but the institution’s integrity, name and pride echoes in perpetuity. Soon after I assumed the office, I pledged to make the institution’s presence felt across the country by undertaking small steps with a big difference. Bharati Vidyapeeth University’s New Law College, which has grown from a mere sapling to an ark, has traversed a remarkable journey of 38 years which were full of never-ending challenges, cerebral glory and academic excellence.
It is often said that amidst the difficulties there lies an opportunity. This holds true when one wonders about the unprecedented growth of this institution where we have turned every challenge into an opportunity. Today, the college offers innovative inter-disciplinary programmes like B.B.A LL.B, LL.M (1/2 year), Diploma Courses, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Skill Development Courses.
Regular guidance from the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, paramount importance to legal research, promising faculty members, world class infrastructure, excellent record in global placements and internships, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) enabled teaching and learning process are some of the key features which makes our institute indeed, a special one.
Q: As a member of the Bar Council of India (BCI), what are your concerns about the legal education system with reference to colleges focussing more on creating litigators instead of academicians?
A; As a representative of change in the world of legal academics, I always stress upon building a balanced and unique professional ambiance in which there should be minimum litigation and maximum opportunities for alternate methods of settling disputes by arbitration, mediation, conciliation, negotiation etc.
We at New Law College aim for a well-balanced approach while guiding the students when it comes to their preference of a career path. We encourage our post-graduate students to pursue careers in legal academics by assigning them specific teaching tasks. The Career Guidance Cell play an important role in this area to encourage the students to choose the right career which matches their goals and interests.
Q: What is the difference between running a start-up business entity and a young law school? What challenges did you face?
A: I think a start-up business entity and a young law school share the same boat with different challenges depending on the waves and an individual’s capacity to row the boat efficiently. Initially, I faced many obstacles which tested my entrepreneurship abilities; starting from low resources, poor infrastructure, inadequate enrolment of students, paucity of funds, availability of qualified teachers and what not. But, one needs to be patient while facing difficulties, as Rome was not built in a day!
Someone has rightly said that light can devour the darkness, but darkness cannot consume the light. I firmly believed in my strengths and started dealing with these problems one by one to realize that when you get tough, the tough gets going.
(Dr. Sarda in a candid interaction with the students of New Law College)
Q: On a lighter note, several of your New Law College’s alumni have mentioned that you have the unique ability to connect with the students through Urdu couplets. Could you please share more on that?
Yes. I suppose this has indeed become my signature style. This really helps when you wish to communicate something effectively to the students. Urdu couplets are often remembered by my former students when they need to interpret or improvise their arguments in casual way. This also adds the elements of fun and humour in teaching and learning process.
Q: What is the future of legal education system?
A: Gone are the days when physical presence of students was required to acquire knowledge of law.
With the outbreak of the revolution in technology and internet, we have ushered in a new era of open access to knowledge and information. Online legal education is the future for sure. However, one needs to be cautious with the risks associated with technology. It is equally true that today we are drowning in information, but starving for wisdom.