In Conversation With Prof.(Dr.) Nirmal Kanti Chakrabarti, Vice-Chancellor, The WBNUJS, Kolkata
In this fireside chat with Chandril Chattopadhyay, Junior Correspondent, BW Legal World, Prof. Chakrabarti talks about his glorious journey in legal academia and teaching. He talks about his humble beginnings to being academic in the field of Criminology and Criminal Sciences and much more.
Please walk us through your journey in the field of Law. When did you realize that Law was your life’s calling?
NKC: When I passed my LL.B. and M.A. I have noticed The Public Service Commission had release repeated notifications for LAW teachers who were called Lecturers back in the day. I realized that the repeat notification from PSC meant that there was a dearth of law teachers. There was only private LL.M. available back then and I took that up along with my own elder brother who was already a Judicial Officer in West Bengal by then and took up specialization in Tort and Crime, I realized that I have to continue with Law and make a career in law teaching.
What had motivated you towards a career focused on teaching and researching in Law? How has the journey been for all these years?
NKC: As I mentioned, my interest in Criminology and Criminal Sciences grew during my masters in Law from Calcutta University. Since very few took up law teaching back in the day, I was offered an ad-hoc position at Hooghly Mohsin College, where the contract used to be renewed every six months. Professor NL Mitra, the name that comes only second to Prof. Madhava Menon as one of the pioneers of Modern Legal Academia in India was Head of the Department of Law in the University of Burdwan was in the Selection Committee and inspired me to teach and research in the field of crime and criminology. I decided finally to start my career in law teaching on 5th July, 1985 as a Lecturer at Hooghly Mohsin College in West Bengal Education Service.
I joined as a PhD scholar under Prof. NL Mitra at the University of Burdwan. My two other colleagues were Dr. S. S.Singh who taught at the Department of Law, The University of Burdwan and Dr. Hassem Mondal served also as MLA of Memary, Burwan from Trinamul Congress later in his life. It is pertinent to mention that Prof. BB Pande and Prof. Pillai were my examiners of my Thesis. The University of Burdwan . I was happy to be among the first batch of PhD scholars from here.
I moved from Hooghly Mohsin College to Calcutta University in 1996 and continued till June 2009. Then I went to KIIT School of Law as the Director taking lien from Calcutta University. I finally came to WBNUJS as the Vice-Chancellor in July 2019. So it seems like a very long journey for me from 1985 to 2029 and I always tried to serve best of my ability. During this long journey I have learned and able to change my vision, skills and performance as demanded by the respective institution. Even at this age I am constantly transforming my vision of legal education in global as well as Indian perspective.
Who have been your mentors in this journey?
NKC: I would like to mention Justice Mukul Gopal Mukhopadhyay, my Guru and mentor who introduced me to the Indian Society of Criminology. I joined it as a member in 1989 and I have been elected as the President most recently. I also want to acknowledge Prof. NL Mitra for being the guiding force behind my successful career in law teaching and research. I will also acknowledge influence of Professor B.B. Pande, the great Criminal Law Teacher and former President of Indian Society of Criminology in framing of my thoughts and writings in the field of criminal justice and criminal law.
How different has the experience been while heading a top Private Law School and then a top Public Law School?
NKC: Fortunately or unfortunately I had to take charge of Headship (Officer -in-Charge) in the Law Department of Hooghly Mohsin College, a Government institution. My Headship at Department of Law, Calcutta University also a great help in enriching my administrative perceptions and decision making process. I have learnt the art of taking quick decisions during my tenure as the Director of KIIT School of Law. I follow the process even till today and it helps me in my administrative works.
Private Schools and National Law Schools function differently according to me. I saw that the Law School was given lesser importance in a general University set-up. But at National Law University, the VC is to take all decisions pertaining to framing of rules, regulations, infrastructure, finance to all academic matters. Here law and only law is the most important and relevant thing.
VCs of NLUS can bring in new changes and take independent decisions, bring in all Professors, Stakeholders like representatives from Government and the Judiciary together and usher in revolutionary changes for the benefit of legal education, law students and social justice . This has happened in my case that is WBNUJS. The liberty and independence is tremendous here. When I joined here, Prof. Madhava Menon gave me a lot of valuable advice. He told me that there was some unfinished work and I made it a point to take them up.
What are the new courses being introduced in The WBNUJS for young professionals?
NKC: After I joined at NUJS, I have introduced three new specialization areas- Criminal Law, Technology and Law and IPR. I have also introduced MSc. in Forensic Sciences and from this year we will have BSc. LL.B. in Criminology and Forensic Sciences. During my tenure, many courses like Nano-technology and Law, Fintech and AI, Earth Jurisprudence and few other Elective papers have been introduced at WBNUJS and soon I wish to develop courses in Data Science and Law and for which discussions with IIITs, IISERs have been around for some time now.
Please briefly walk us through the GI Tag Plea that has been filed by The WBNUJS?
NKC: We have been trying to help artisans from the marginal section of society and helping the disadvantaged community in this way. The National GI Drive Mission is an important step and WBNUJS has already catered to 11 such GI tag plea is on the list, including Alpona, Khalsi Honey of Sundarbans, Ektara, sweets from various parts of West Bengal and so on. I am going to meet representatives from Cambridge University to take this drive forward and bring the art of our local artists and artisans to the world stage.
As a parting note, would you please recommend a book that has left a lasting impression on you?
NKC: I would recommend Prof. Upendra Baxi’s Crisis of the Indian Legal System. Such powerful writing shall shape all minds and I have used the lessons while conducting research, writing and while I am teaching.
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