High Court stays Mumbai University's '60:40 assessment' plan for law students
The Bombay High Court, in an interim order passed Monday, restrained Mumbai University from implementing its new '60:40 assessment system' for law students in the current academic year. A bench of Justices BR Gavai and MS Karnik directed the University to ensure that examinations for all law courses in the 2018-19 academic year be conducted under the prevailing system that entails a semester-end written exam for 100 marks.
The new evaluation system was introduced "mid-session" for all law colleges between August and September this year. It comprises a semester-end exam for 60 marks, and 40 marks for internal assessments, attendance, student's conduct in class, projects, etc.
The bench, however, said that while the new system was a more dynamic one and was aimed at improving the standards of legal education in the state, it had been introduced by the University in haste. It said that the University's decision to introduce the new system all of a sudden, without giving prior notice to students and without training the faculty members or issuing guidelines to regulate the internal assessment methods, could prejudice the interest of the students.
The bench was hearing two writ petitions filed by two final year students of law and a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a practising lawyer, who is also a faculty member in one of the law colleges in the city, challenging the new system. The petitioners submitted that while they were not opposed to the new evaluation system, they were only objecting to the way it was being implemented.
By the University's own admission, for the 53 law colleges in the state, there existed only 43 permanent faculty members. While there were enough number of part-time faculty members available, they were not adequately trained to evaluate the students based on the internal assessments, projects and their conduct etc, the petitioners said.
The University's counsel Rui Rodrigues argued that the new evaluation system was recognised worldwide, and was aimed at improving the standards of legal education in the state.
He added that the University had taken all stakeholders on board before issuing a circular on August 24 this year, informing principals of all law colleges in the state that henceforth, the new 60:40 system would be implemented in their colleges. The bench, however, asked Rodrigues what was the need to introduce the new system "in a sudden manner?"
"Why not introduce it in the 2019-20 academic year?" the bench asked. "Remember that Rome was not built in one day. So, if you are taking such a big decision, it has to be introduced systematically. Students should have been put on notice, faculty members should have been trained," it said.
The bench also noted that while the University issued the circular notifying the new system in August, some colleges published an exam timetable earlier this month based on the old 100 percent written examination system. This showed that there remained much confusion about the new evaluation system, the court said.
"While the new evaluation system is dynamic and commendable, and any efforts to better the standards of legal education and future lawyers must be appreciated, the fact can't be ignored that leaving 40 percent of the assessment to the discretion of untrained faculty will prove contrary to the interest of the students," it said.