TEACHING SOCIOLOGY IN A LAW CLASSROOM
- AJAY MAHERCHANDANI
O. P. JINDAL GLOBAL UNIVERSITY
Sociology is a compulsory subject in taught programs of LL.B in legal classrooms across the country. The sociological underpinnings though require consistent efforts in understanding social locations of the pedagogue, the learner and also the social location of the classroom itself. What then is required to make law students sociologically conscientious as they learn socio-legal texts and approaches to the legal statutes that conform to the ordered understanding of society? There is certainly an acceptance of sociological jurisprudence within the legal academic fraternity, though core sociological concepts haven’t been enough to expose the intersectional trajectories that Indian society particularly is embedded in. Most of the times, teachings are Eurocentric and even if caste-class-gendered frameworks do arise in the sociological curriculum, there is a clear confusion as to how they can be applied on real experiences of clients that find themselves at risk while interacting with the lawyer. How do we make lawyers more engaged in the social acts of lawyer that is supposed to serve the marginalized and the compromised communities in India?
Sociology can give a better understanding of the Courts as Institutions. Debates can arise with respect to the acceptable notions of what are the social norms attached to a morally upright society holding constitutional values – but at its essence, how does the lawyer interact with the ones that needs more empathy and access to their justiciable rights? This in essence, is the loophole that sociology of law and the understanding of it, can theorize better to make law students more aware of their own social locations so as to make law, more accessible as a profession. Sociological understandings of law can go beyond theorizing of what society means, and what do social interactions entail for legal institutions and can actually go ahead to make lawyers more aware of how they impact the access towards justice of communities that are deprived of the same.
This in effect, does mean a more intersectional understanding of society, wherein hierarchies and reproduction of domination of power – be it of language, sexuality, gender, caste, class – is debated in an ideal sociology classroom. We do not have the adequate language today, to do more beyond debate within the classroom. Such sociological positions are imperative as other legal subjects have disciplinic boundations with respect to the kind of theories that are taught within a classroom. The choice of sociological concepts that are taught, to the methods that can be employed need to be unique for a legal classroom. Though we do have Clinical Legal Education at the forefront, and the legal aid cells within Colleges and Universities – a good sociology curriculum can be an introduction to society and the theories that can make the students question institutional challenges for an ordered socio-legal landscape.
Sociology needs to be tempered, for a law students to be able to apply its theories while fighting cases. Understanding social locations and lived realities needs to be a part of the taught curriculum for law students.