GLC: Let No Evil Exit?

I finished my LLB somewhat recently. The years seem to have flown past, and I’m not nostalgic about them in the slightest.

When the law entrance test results came out, I knew I would get to pick any college from my pre-ordained list of choices – which being in Maharashtra had to be either Government Law College, Mumbai or ILS Law College, Pune.

I had heard good things about both, but GLC, which was founded in 1855, took obvious precedence. 

What follows could be viewed as a biased view of a single individual. Depending on where you stand on GLC and the experience it provides to its students, you may find it spot on, slanderous or anywhere in between.

It’s an open secret that Government Law College is now a mere husk of its glorious past self. But only upon actually attending it does one realise that the situation is, in fact, more dire than one would have thought.

An excerpt from a book by GLC alumni and legal scholar Abhinav Chandrachud sheds some light on the college’s ‘past glory’:

“Yet another myth – the Government Law College was, during the colonial period, a prestigious school at which one could study. Quite the opposite, I found that even in 1889, the Government Law School (as it was then called) was termed ‘little better than a farce, a sham and a delusion’, and its own alumni tended to distance themselves from it. Indians who wanted a prestigious legal education went to England to get called to the Bar at one of the Inns of Court, and to get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge.”

Colour me surprised.

Let us start with the most important and the most obvious aspect – the teaching, an atrocity of such proportions that it deserves its own section in the Indian Penal Code.

Adequate full-time teaching staff? Don’t be silly. Of the ones that are there full-time, most are incompetent and arrogant, and a few are drunk on power (whatever little they wield or imagine to wield).

When they actually show up and are not involved in petty politics, they produce gems likes this. The ‘teaching’ methods range from dictating the topic’s bare act verbatim to ferociously interrogating students.

Their interest in teaching well is also inversely proportional to guarding the attendance register. Worse, the most incompetent of the lot expect the ground they walk on to be kissed; and always kissing the said real estate is a coterie of servile students.

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There are, however, two exceptional and beloved professors – well-known across generations of students. Ironically, complaints against these two made by other staff members are common. How dare they spend more time doing a better job at teaching students?

The part-time teaching staff is a separate topic that would require in-depth treatment. But this little incident gives a little taste – a part-time ‘teacher’, himself a thoroughly average ex-student, once made two entire batches wait for seven hours on a Saturday to conduct an exam that was struck down by the Bombay high court two days after. 

The office staff is also largely equally condescending and inept. Ensconced in their permanent jobs, they treat you with contempt lest you should forget it is a government institution, and regularly make students practically beg for a signature or a stamp.

A few of them live right behind the college and yet even students coming from Dahisar-Bhayander (around 45 km away) are shown very little understanding. To top this delightful sundae, the cherry is that a principal that changes twice a year and each one comes in with a set of ideas on how to run or not run a college. 

Now to the infrastructure: I hear the college is in the process of removing the entire annexe (with substitute arrangement in place you ask? Don’t be too sure about that).

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Without commenting on the wisdom behind that move, I would like to just say that clean desks isn’t a big ask. It is undoubtedly cool that GLC pre-dates the Indian revolt of 1857, but does the state of the library really have to show that? The washrooms also seem to have been maintained in a way to prepare students for drought-time conditions.

The brutalist appearance of GLC’s structure may be too much to change, but it can at least be a college that does not suck all the happiness out of you. 

A lot of GLC’s problems stem from the fact that it’s a government institution and a part of the notoriously substandard Mumbai University – which makes any improvement unlikely.

However, the college had a chance to upend this status quo and be part of a new cluster university that was to be set up in South Bombay – a small unit with funding from the Central government, and things could have finally taken a turn for the better. For reasons unknown, the college withdrew. Now the Dr. Homi Bhabha Cluster University is up and running; at GLC, it’s business as usual.

In keeping with the unofficial motto of all Indian colleges – ‘attendance, at any cost’ – GLC prides itself on being whimsical about attendance. Apparently, there is going to be a biometric attendance system instated soon.

Your worth as a student is measured against your attendance of the farce that are college lectures. That legal adults could be allowed to make decisions regarding attending a lecture based on its quality is a concept perhaps yet to foreign for Indian colleges.

In the same vein of focusing on wrong and unimportant things, GLC staff is very keen that students wear the ID cards at all times. It is in areas like these where you will finally see efficiency in action.

The students have to be the saving grace. I met interesting people and made good friends. Whatever brand value GLC might still have is definitely due to the self-motivated few who do well during and beyond college.

Of course, all the trappings of any other law college are there – student politics, hero worship culture, regional and class divides, incessant gossip about NLUs, corp-law packages and third-rate committees more focused on skimming the sponsorship money than providing value.

Did I learn anything of value at this college?

Yes, but I doubt the college had any part in that.

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