In Conversation With Prof. Dr. G. S. Bajpai, Vice Chancellor, NLU Delhi

In this conversation with BW Legal World, Dr. Bajpai spoke on his journey in the field of academics in law, his goals to strengthen NLU Delhi and adapting to artifical intelligence for assistance in research

Dr. Bajpai, what motivated you to pursue academics in law? How has your journey been? 

I pursued the study of interdisciplinary law mainly because this field offers both intellectual satisfaction and a pragmatic attainment for the cause of social and political justice.   It serves as the backbone of our civilisation, providing a framework for justice, order, and protection for individuals and communities. It addresses a wide range of issues, ensuring fairness, equality, and accountability. As societal norms, values, and challenges evolve, the law adapts, making it a dynamic and ever-relevant field. Being passionate about the intersection of law and society, I was drawn to the opportunity to contribute to positive change, uphold justice, and make a meaningful impact on people's lives. Moreover, as our world becomes increasingly interconnected and complex, the significance and influence of law will only continue to grow, making it an exciting and fulfilling choice to dedicate my life to.  

My journey till now has been filled with diverse experiences and notable achievements. Throughout my career, I had the occasion of serving at various positions.   

Currently, I am honoured to hold the position of Vice Chancellor at the National Law University Delhi after having served as the Registrar of the same for many years before going to serve as the Vice Chancellor of RGNUL, Patiala. With over thirty years of professional experience as an author, researcher, teacher, and administrator, I have dedicated myself to the study and advancement of law. 

During my tenure, I have been actively involved in shaping legal education and the criminal justice system in India. As the Chairperson of the Centre for Criminology & Victimology, I have contributed significantly to the field of victim justice and have authored numerous books and papers on the subject. I have also pioneered the concept of "Critical Criminal Law" in India, which has now become an LL.M. course in several universities. 

I have had the privilege of working on important committees and commissions, including the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. As a Member of the Committee for conferring statutory status to the 'Right to Repair' under the Consumer Protection Act 2019, I have been actively involved in shaping legislation to protect consumer rights. 

Furthermore, I have been recognised for my contributions through various awards and honours. The G. B. Pant Award, the Prof. S. Srivastava Memorial Award, and the Best Social Scientist Award of the Indian Society of Criminology are among the accolades I have received. 

My passion for research and teaching has taken me to prestigious institutions and conferences around the world. I have had the opportunity to deliver lectures, conduct research, and collaborate with renowned universities and organisations in countries like France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, and the United States. I have also served as the editor of esteemed international journals in the field of victimology and criminology. 

Overall, my journey in the field of law has been a fulfilling and rewarding one. It has allowed me to make significant contributions to legal scholarship, victim justice, and criminal law reform. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to shape legal education, influence policy, and inspire the next generation of legal professionals. I look forward to continuing my journey, contributing to the advancement of the legal field, and making a lasting impact on society. 

What is your vision for NLU Delhi? 

NLU Delhi, has a distinguished history of high-quality research, publications, and international collaborations. My main goal will be to advance empirical research, broaden research fields, and promote national and international collaboration. In terms of curriculum, I want to make it more interdisciplinary and in line with the National Education Policy 2020’s guiding principles. Another priority is to change legal pedagogy and improve engagement with all parties. I envision making NLU, Delhi, a new-age institution and pioneer in its field; through various conferences, panel discussions and guest lectures, the discourse would be encouraged. This would particularly benefit our students, who form a core part of any university. Our students are exposed to an environment where they can learn skills through practical experience in upcoming fields, providing them with an edge to be future pioneers. The university, being located in Delhi, offers exposure to the Supreme Court, National Tribunals, Top Law Firms, Senior Practitioners and corporate houses. I aim to utilise this to the maximum extent for our students and facilitate engagement through collaborative opportunities.  

In the short term, priorities include better resource allocation within the university, rationalisation, better use of funds, updating the curriculum, and introducing new projects in cutting-edge fields. My long-term goal is to strengthen NLU Delhi's position as a leading law school by focusing on research and publications, as well as developing new-age pedagogy and a curriculum that is connected to the community and industry. Since its inception, NLU Delhi has been at the forefront of research. Our autonomous faculty-led research centres have done outstanding work on socially and internationally important issues such as Criminology & Victimology, Capital Punishment, Climate Change, Cyberlaw, Transnational commercial laws, Insolvency laws, Intellectual Property Rights, regulatory studies, Artificial Intelligence, Technology, and Data Protection. Our goal will be to include new fields and diversify the corpus of publications. Furthermore, in order to have a greater impact, we would like to expand our collaboration with foreign universities, think tanks, and civil society organisations.  

We have started taking concrete steps to achieve our goals. I have started the Abhyaas Scheme to foster research and initiated a Law Practicum Programme series as a regular part of classroom teaching to impart practical knowledge to our students. Among the many other initiatives, the university is establishing an Alternate Dispute Resolution Centre, which will offer legal support and a platform to those in need. These are just some of the many reforms, programmes and initiatives underway; we aim to introduce many more in the next academic year.  

What are your plans to make NLU Delhi the best legal institution and reach the heights in terms of NAAC and NIRF rankings? 

Several new programs and initiatives have been launched to boost research in the university, with a particular emphasis on expanding and diversifying the publication profile. We have increased our PhD student intake and will provide them with the best facilities, resources, and guidance to help them with their research. We recently expanded our PhD topics to include a broader range of topics and launched programs in Social Sciences to promote the university's interdisciplinary research exposure. We are attempting to form partnerships with foreign and other universities in order to offer special joint programs. A special program on climate change has recently begun in collaboration with SOAS University London, as has a criminal law program in collaboration with Ambedkar University Delhi.  

Our university has nearly two dozen faculty-led research centres that are regularly involved in various research, outreach, and project activities. As previously stated, the diversity of research conducted at these centres is a strength of both our faculty and students. They are given opportunities to work on projects and offer courses that make a substantial contribution to the field in collaboration with the government of India, foreign countries, their universities, and professors.  

What are your views on the advent of Artificial Intelligence in legal academia? How do you plan to utilize Artificial Intelligence in NLUD? 

AI-based tools are extremely useful and powerful; it is up to us to use them wisely. Academia, particularly in the legal field, differs from other fields of work since at the core is research, analysis, and writing. When an experienced researcher makes an argument, they draw on their extensive knowledge and experience in the field, which they have gained over time. It will be extremely difficult and detrimental to replace these with machines that lack the human touch. The law does not exist in a vacuum; it is inextricably linked to society and human beings, which necessitates understanding it from a human perspective. So, while I believe that AI cannot and should not replace experts in the field of legal academia, it can and should be utilised to assist research. I am in favour of conducting research with the assistance of AI-based software. There was a time when neither the popular electronic legal databases nor the powerful search engines were available. Their existence has significantly aided the field of research, increased access to knowledge, and international exposure. Similarly, an application of artificial intelligence can be to process, analyse, and gather large amounts of data, which would otherwise be a massive task and a significant limitation for conducting empirical research.  

NLU Delhi has already taken steps and reforms to adapt to AI, such as changing our Academic Regulations, pedagogy, and research. We now consider submitting AI-generated work as your own to be an Unfair Means, and plagiarism detection software has been updated to reflect the percentage of AI-generated work as well. In line with this, we have modified our already practical and analytical approach to projects by allowing the weightage of marks to be shifted from the written component to the Viva or oral presentation portion. Faculty members and students are both encouraged to develop innovative projects and assessment schemes. We have already held conferences on technology in law, library sciences, and artificial intelligence, and we are going to have our third edition of the flagship conference, 'International Conference on Data Technology,' with the theme 'Education 4.0 and Beyond - Learning through Digital Pathways,' this year. We are constantly utilising the most recent software, programs, and legal databases to provide the best resources in the most efficient manner. The field is evolving, and we are as well, taking a cautious yet forward-thinking approach.  

Is ChatGPT a threat to academic writing and integrity? 

ChatGPT and other similar platforms have increasingly gained relevance and also attracted the ire of many for valid reasons. People have taken advantage of the power by giving commands that lead to responses that are structured and seem full of information. Students are using this as a way to get out of doing their academic research and writing projects. They just type in their questions and copy the answers that AI gives them. This goes against the objective of an assignment, which is to get students to learn more about a topic and help them come up with answers by understanding the main ideas. You can't be sure that the answers are right or good. AI is good at making facts that sound like they could be true, but it often gives false data, made-up references, and wrong information. When students rely on this kind of information, they hurt their learning, creativity, critical thinking, cognitive skills, and writing skills. These are some of the concerns which exist and there are practical limitations to prevent students from abusing this.  

Even among all these issues, as I mentioned previously ChatGPT or any other AI will not be able to replace legal research or writing absolutely. I have personally tried most of the AI-based platforms and given prompts on legal questions; it excels at descriptive answers but makes glaring mistakes. It can certainly give an answer to most questions, but that does not necessarily result in a correct or well-written answer. To deal with written answers from AI, teachers will need to change how they give assignments and how they do their work. The topic, the questions, and the way the assignment is evaluated must all be based on real-world applications. Teachers can tell if the work is real by keeping an eye on how the assignment is going and asking the students questions about what they mean. 

What reforms are required in legal education to make students future-ready? 

It is often said that we cannot have a future if we do not think about it. We must be prepared for the fast-paced shifts that are taking place around the world in the legal field as well as its employment opportunities. There is a constant need to improve and expand the curriculum while also providing niche elective courses so that students can learn in a field of their particular interest. Our students should have a strong fundamental understanding of the field, allowing them to pivot as needed in a dynamic world. Collaborative learning across institutions and disciplines is required to facilitate such opportunities, as the exposure gained and connections formed are lifelong assets. Law firms, offices, and even courts have largely gone digital and use tools to help them with their work. Institutions must ensure that students do not fall behind and are able to catch up.  

With the entry of foreign law firms and our students working abroad, we must stay up to date on global developments. Firms and businesses would prefer to hire people who are familiar with their system or who can easily integrate and adapt to it by drawing on their prior knowledge. The emphasis should be on encouraging students to pursue emerging fields of legal, social, and international importance, such as climate change, environmental laws, data privacy, artificial intelligence, block-chain technologies, and so on.  

What would be your one piece of advice for law students? 

My advice would be to study the fundamentals of law, foundational concepts, and classic legal books and gain practical knowledge in this field. It is critical to learn and improve your legal research, analysis, and writing skills. This can be accomplished by becoming familiar with the various legal databases, research tools, and methodologies. Once a student has a firm grasp on these, they will be able to soar to great heights in the future.  

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