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Professor NR Madhava Menon, Who Breathed Life into Modern Legal Education in India, Dies at 84

Menon, who practised law in the Kerala High Court, founded the National Law School of India University in Bengaluru and the National Judicial Academy in Bhopal.

Debayan Roy | News18.com

Updated:May 8, 2019, 4:42 PM IST
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Professor NR Madhava Menon, Who Breathed Life into Modern Legal Education in India, Dies at 84
File photo of NR Madhava Menon.

New Delhi: Although legal luminaries like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr BR Ambedkar had proved the strength of law in a country like India, it was Dr NR Madhava Menon who envisioned a platform for law students where they would be treated at par with those pursuing education in medical, engineering and science streams.

When it was difficult for Indians to look beyond the landscape of state departments and universities in the field of legal education, it was this doyen who founded the National Law School of India University in Bengaluru and the National Judicial Academy in Bhopal.

After completing his graduation in 1955, Menon began practising law at the Kerala High Court a year later and also worked at the Central Secretariat. Menon shifted base to New Delhi after joining the faculty of Aligarh Muslim University in 1960. He then moved to the Delhi University in 1965 where he became professor and head of the Campus Law Centre. A few years later, he completed his LL.M and Ph.D from the Aligarh Muslim University.

Menon moved to Bengaluru in 1986 at the invitation of the Bar Council of India to set up the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) and initiate a new model of legal education -- the five-year Integrated LL.B. programme.

After his retirement, Menon settled in Thiruvananthapuram and served as chairman of the prestigious Centre for Development Studies (CDS) for two terms before calling it a day a few years back.

In his career, Menon also served as the president of the Bar Council of India and the founder vice-chancellor of the West Bengal National University of Judicial sciences. He set a precedent by running legal clinics to provide free legal aid to the poor.

Author MJ Aslam fondly remembers Menon. “He was a great legal luminary. The first edition of my book on ‘Law of Contract’ was formally inaugurated by him at a huge gathering of men from bench and bar and law students at the Central University of Kashmir in May 2015. I still remember the brilliant speech he gave on environmental laws and spoke very highly about my book. The success of the book was huge, which led me and its publishers (Thomson Reuters) to come out with a second edition in 2017,” said Aslam in a comment post.

Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, a former student of the Bengaluru-based NLSIU, also has warm words for Menon.

“Dr Menon not only made law a sought after discipline but also created a new order in the legal profession, moving it away from the fiefdom of a few to an equal-opportunity profession,” Krishnan wrote.

In his message, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Menon modernised legal education. “He gave a new direction to the legal education sector. His achievements would make any Malayali proud,” Vijayan added.

Even G Parameshwara Jois, a senior advocate in the Karnataka High Court, said, “Though India has produced great legal luminaries, legal education was in the doldrums. Law colleges were without qualified faculty and bereft of infrastructure. Mr Menon gave new direction to legal education in India, implementing the concept of national law schools.”

Menon, 84, died in the early hours of Wednesday at a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. He had been unwell and was admitted to a city hospital for the last few days.

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