Father of modern Indian legal education system, Padma Shri Dr. NR Madhava Menon passes away

Prof NR Madhava Menon, considered as the father of modern legal education system, has passed away at the age of 84.

Dr. Menon is responsible for giving shape to modern Indian legal education as he conceptualised the 5-year integrated LLB course. The whole notion of Legal career being the last resort as one’s career choice changed with the establishment of NLSIU, Bangalore, of which he was the Founder Director. He was also the Founder Director the National Judicial Academy, Bhopal and the founder Vice Chancellor of NUJS, West Bengal. He was honoured and awarded the Padma Shri in the year 2003. The Supreme Court of India then asked him to take over the responsibility as the first director of the newly formed National Judicial Academy a training centre for judges where he worked till his retirement in 2006. Post-retirement, he became a member of several commissions, committees and continues to advise many government organisations and NGOs.

Born in 1935, Dr. Menon had his B.Sc. and B.L. degrees from Kerala University, LL.M. and Ph.D.  from Aligarh Muslim University and M.A. Degree from Punjab University. He started his career in 1955 as an apprentice to a local lawyer after completing his completing his legal education from Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram. He then got enrolled as an Advocate in Kerala High Court in 1956 at the early age of 20.

He later joined the Central Secretariat Services and continued his Post graduation alongside. He was the first PhD of Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University and later joined the institute as a Professor. He then moved to Delhi University where he became a member of the Delhi University panel which liaised with universities from the United States such as Harvard, Columbia, Michigan and Yale. It was during this period that Dr. Menon published his first book, Law Relating to Government Control Over Private Enterprise, co-authored by his colleague, G. Narasimhaswamy, published through Eastern Book Company. Dr. Menon has narrated the journey of his life in his autobiography, The Story of a Law Teacher: Turning Point.

Dr. Menon’s Socratic Method of teaching, involving participation of law students in legal clinics, is considered by many as an innovation. Menon Institute of Legal Advocacy Training (MILAT), a non-governmental organization founded by him, is involved in promoting human rights values and judicial reforms and conducting advance training programs for lawyers. There is an annual Best Law Teacher Award of a lakh of rupees and a plaque instituted in Dr. Menon’s name by the Society of Indian Law Firms to commemorate his services to the legal profession and legal education for more than half a century.

With the huge legacy that Dr. Menon had created, he has left behind a great map for not just legal educators but for all legal professionals to follow. In the words of Dr. Menon himself[1],

“What the nation needs now is an organised movement involving legal educators, lawyers and judges, not only to learn the practice of law but to transform law and legal institutions to maximise justice in society and to put legal education at the centre for better governance under democracy and rule of law.”


[1] Dr. NR Madhava Menon, To go from mediocrity to excellence, published in The Hindu on 18.06.2010 (https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/To-go-from-mediocrity-to-excellence/article16256292.ece)

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