“I always believe that litigation is akin to a game of chess where you must anticipate three to four steps of your opponent’s preparation accordingly”-Gaurav Varma, Founding Partner – Integricon Law Offices 

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team

Can you share some insights into your journey in the legal profession and how you decided to specialize in dispute resolution, particularly in areas such as arbitrations, insolvency, and regulatory practice?

Being the fourth-generation lawyer in a family of reputed criminal lawyers, it was clear that I will build my career in dispute resolution. During internships at various prestigious law firms in Delhi, I had the opportunity to work in various areas of practice in litigation, including Arbitrations, Company Law and  Securities Law, which eventually opened new horizons for me. I began to realise that with increasing tribunalisation and diversification of the legal field, one cannot have a short-term vision. I believe that in our legal profession, initial three to five years are most crucial for self-development and therefore, in order to gain as much practical exposure as possible in my initial years, I ventured in all practice areas by associating with senior professionals specialising in different areas like Civil Trials, Company Law, Arbitrations, White Collar Crimes, Telecommunication Law, Electricity Law, Securities Law, Service Law and Constitutional Law.             

You have extensive experience representing clients in various high-profile cases before different courts and tribunals. Could you highlight a case that you found particularly challenging or rewarding, and what lessons did you learn from it?

Many of the cases, argued by me, have been widely reported by news and legal journals, ranging from landmark judgments in Arbitration, Insolvency and Commercial Law issues to the judgments granting bail in Delhi Riots case and establishing the principle that ‘holding weapon is not a fundamental right’. I have worked on numerous high-profile cases, including those involving leading FMCG companies, real estate developers, hospitality group, electricity transmission cos., 2G spectrum allocation trial proceedings, challenging constitutionality of provisions of Companies Act, as well as cases related to SFIO, EOW, ED prosecutions involving hundreds of crores, and SEBI and FEMA violation cases. Each of these cases has been a different learning experience, particularly, in forming strategies to build the case in a manner that achieves the desired relief. 

I always believe that litigation is akin to a game of chess where you must anticipate three to four steps of your opponent’s preparation accordingly. With time, I have also learned the importance of identifying the “fulcrum of the case”, that one crucial point in the brief around which the case needs to be built. Proficiency in drafting and research is invaluable in devising the right strategy. However, it’s important to emphasize that in my philosophy, I do not discriminate between cases or compromise my level of commitment based on factors such as monetary value or property valuation, or the stature of the individual / organisation involved.  

Your career includes handling SFIO, EOW, ED prosecutions involving hundreds of crores and SEBI and FEMA violation cases. How do you navigate the complexities of economic offences and regulatory issues while dealing with such cases?

I have handled economic offences, regulatory violation proceedings and white collar crimes ranging from alleged Ponzi Schemes to alleged manipulation of accounts, incomplete disclosures to regulatory authorities and the 2G spectrum allocation process, where the alleged quantum is in multiples of hundred of crores based on initial investigations., These cases are unique as they require an understanding of accounts, commercial law, criminal intent and ultimate loss or injury caused. Additionally, one must gauge the aggrieved party’s nature of loss or injury caused and accordingly analyse the case. When representing clients in such cases, I adopt the simplest approach of assuming the client is placed at the weakest point and start self-questioning regarding the alleged act as presented, level of involvement shown, possible intent and natural consequences or repercussions on others as well as on the client.  

Having worked with various senior advocates and legal luminaries, how has that shaped your professional growth and influenced your approach to legal practice? 

In the past 16 years, I have been fortunate to work closely with many legal luminaries, senior advocates, namely Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mr. Sudipto Sarkar, Mr. Amit Sibal, Mr. Amarjit Singh Chandhiok, Mr. Dhruv Mehta, Mr. Neeraj Kishan Kaul, Mr. Arvind Nigam, Mr. Ashwini Kumar Mata, Mr. Mohit Mathur, Mr. Vikas Pahwa, Mr. Tarun Gulati, Mr. U.K. Chaudhary and my mentors Mr. Meet Malhotra, Mr. Vivek Kohli and Mr. Sumeet Pushkarna.  

From my interactions and close work with all these respected senior advocates, I have learned that one must be a master of the facts of their brief. The entire facts, pages and interconnection of different documents must be mapped in your mind so clearly that you can anticipate the questions from the Bench and opponents and be ready with references in the case file instantaneously. While arguing in Court, you cannot leave grip of the facts because sometimes, you need to frame the argument thinking on your feet. Clarity of thought while preparing the case and explaining the case or arguing in Court is the most crucial aspect to be learned.   

You have worked with government departments such as the Central Government, State Government, departments like Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, Delhi Transport Corporation, Delhi Jal Board, Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation. How has your experience with these government bodies influenced your approach to handling cases and managing client expectations?

Working with Government Regulators and Departments has been an enriching experience for me. I have had the opportunity to handle a variety of issues, ranging from defending constitutionality of Acts / Rules / Regulations to defending discretion in approvals, licensing, allotment of tenders, as well as intent and implementation of policies & schemes and also dealing with service law related issues. 

Being a government lawyer is a position of utmost responsibility. It requires careful handling of confidential files and also defending executive actions, each of which is taken after detailed deliberation and approvals at different levels within the concerned department and ministry. I must commend government departments for their diligence in adhering timelines granted by Courts for preparation of pleadings or compliance with any interim or final decisions. In recent times, government departments have significantly ramped up recruitment of legal officers, leading to an overall improvement in case management at departmental level. 

As an Advocate-on-Record with a significant presence in the Supreme Court, could you share some insights into the dynamics of presenting cases before the highest court in India? How do you approach advocacy in such a distinguished forum?

As an Advocate-on-Record, when filing pleadings or presenting cases before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it is paramount to be thoroughly knowledgeable about the subject matter of the case. Being well-read extends beyond understanding the legal issues at hand, it also entails being familiar with judicial precedents and legal developments pertaining to the relevant statute. 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court plays a pivotal role in the ongoing process of evolution of law, adapting to changing societal norms and refining legal complexities. This includes redefining principles of bail, fundamental rights, shaping jurisprudence of economic offences or commercial laws. Therefore, it is imperative to possess a strong foundation of legal knowledge when assisting the Bench.   

Considering your extensive experience, what advice would you give to law graduates who are entering the legal profession today, especially in terms of specialization and adapting to the ever-changing legal landscape?

As I mentioned earlier, the initial three to five years in the legal profession are extremely crucial for professional development. Certain good practices, such as reading judgments, if cultivated since the beginning, prove invaluable in the long run. When I refer to “reading”, I don’t mean merely skimming legal news or excerpts of judgments available on various portals but reading the entire judgment – the original text. 

Learning should not be confined to assignments alone. It’s only when you immerse yourself in reading and compiling research subject-wise that you can not only identify your areas of interest but also be well-prepared to adapt to the ever-changing legal landscape in any field of law.     

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