ChatGPT, fee hike & law education — Interview with new VC of National Law University (NLU), Delhi, Prof GS Bajpai

"I feel that the strength of NLU Delhi lies in its students who are drawn from diverse backgrounds and are highly committed and motivated," he says
Here's what he said | (Pic: NLU, Delhi and EdexLive)
Here's what he said | (Pic: NLU, Delhi and EdexLive)

The National Law University (NLU), Delhi has a new Vice-Chancellor and its Professor (Dr) GS Bajpai. The former Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Punjab, has taken his long association with NLU, Delhi even further by assuming charge of the premier law university as VC on February 28, 2023. 

With over 30 years of experience, over 20 books and editor of two journals, Prof Bajpai was also been the Member Secretary on the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 

EdexLive got in touch with the professor to ask a range of questions. The list, of course, included ChatGPT as well! “It is an interesting development!” he exclaimed when we shared that at the University of Minnesota Law School, USA, the AI chatbot was asked to answer legal questions and how, though it answered all, it could achieve only passing marks. But how will it affect academics? It remains to be seen he says and he adds, “But as with any new technology, if utilised well, it inadvertently acts as a boon, but if used for nefarious activities, then it brings nothing but doom.” Words to live by, we say!
Excerpts from the conversation. 

You’ve been with NLU for a long time. What have been the strengths of the university over the years and what would you like to build on during your tenure as the VC?
I have been associated with NLU Delhi since its early years, first in my capacity as a professor and then later as Registrar (2014-2020). I have been fortunate to witness the rise of NLU Delhi, from a nascent law university to one of the best in the country. 

I feel that the strength of NLU Delhi lies in its students who are drawn from diverse backgrounds and are highly committed and motivated. They have gone on to do exceedingly well in the professional world as lawyers, judges, entrepreneurs and legal scholars, and have always been our flag-bearers. 

Another important factor that has made NLU Delhi what it is today is the fact that it has always championed innovative and quality academic research. We host over 20 research centres that have done commendable work over the years. The centres work on diverse topics ranging from death penalty, communication governance, artificial intelligence, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to gender studies, labour law, regulatory studies and so on. They work with think tanks, non-profits, state and central government and some have even received international recognition for their work. 

It is needless to say that NLU Delhi’s faculty members, who are experts in their domain and possess a wealth of experience, and our dedicated staff have been instrumental in the making of NLU Delhi.

As Vice-Chancellor, my aim will be to take forward the work that my predecessors have done with a fresh perspective. I would like to ensure that our academic and research traditions are maintained and strengthened and that we are able to provide our students with every opportunity to flourish and become thinking, responsible and reflective citizens.

Could you address the concerns around the fee hike at NLU?
As has been said before in the media, the fee structure at NLU Delhi has remained unchanged since the academic year 2013-14 and this is the first real change in fees in a decade. It is our view that this increase is justified in light of increased costs and expenses over the last decade, wherein, our fee structure has remained unchanged. 

However, I would like to make it very clear that our university doors are always open to students from all financial backgrounds. We will ensure that no deserving candidate withdraws candidature on account of unaffordability of fee.

Apart from empathy (which the CJI said is an essential ingredient that separates a just society from an unjust one), what else do tomorrow's lawyers need to cultivate?
I believe the law is not just about statutes and interpretation of rules. It has a human side to it, which is often ignored. Lawyers need to be aware of their milieu and be socially sensitive.

The law affects one and all. It should affect all equally, but we know that no society is perfect and that not everybody is able to access or make use of the law to their advantage. There are many reasons for this divide, literacy, lack of awareness of the law in general, lack of financial resources and so on. These are the things which we need to fix as a society, but it begins with those who practice, study or teach law. Our aim is to make our students socially relevant and community-driven so that they become not just excellent at their profession, but agents of change as well.

What do you think is the status of law education in India today and what will it be in the future?  
I think we are at a crucial stage as far as the ambit of legal education goes. With the changing world, there are emerging areas which still do not have a well-defined legal framework or regulation. For example, fields like cyber security, data protection, regulatory law and so on.

The way we dispense justice is also changing, for example, with the increasing awareness around mental health, we now have started looking at crime from a mental health lens. Thus, dynamism is intrinsic to law because of its inter-relatedness to society. And we as academicians are duty-bound to ensure that our students are made aware of these changes and are made to think critically and be responsive to them.

What can we expect from NLU in the coming days?
NLU Delhi is at an exciting juncture. We have only recently acquired new land where construction of our new campus has already begun. This will add much-needed space and help us build better infrastructure which translates into a better learning environment for our students. 

We have also increased our batch strength, hired more than 15 new faculty members and have launched the academic fellows programme. We have forged new partnerships with leading international law schools and only recently we signed an MoU with the University of Melbourne, Australia and the University of Waikato, New Zealand. 

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