We are extremely delighted to have you with us for this interview. To start, could you please introduce yourself and share the inspiration behind establishing Pravah Law Offices?
Thank you for having me. I have been a Delhi-based practising lawyer since 2017. The bulk of my practise is at the Supreme Court, which is also the forum where I learnt the maximum work as an associate with my mentors, Ms. Haripriya Padmanabhan and Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan.
‘Pravah Law’ is the official designation of my law chambers. The primary motivation behind establishing it was to foster a distinct professional identity that resonates with my core values and expertise, to enhance the efficiency and organization of my practice.
Being awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Gold Medal for ‘Best Male Student’ is a remarkable achievement. How has your academic journey, including your time at National Law University, Delhi, influenced your approach to law and legal practice?
Getting the Vice-Chancellor’s Gold Medal was a big confidence booster because of what it signifies: it is awarded to two students from each batch, male and female, who graduate with the best all-round performance. Incidentally, even at my school’s farewell function, I was awarded the ‘Best All-Rounder’ trophy—something I cherish more than any other recognition I’ve received. I enjoy being able to handle multiple activities and projects together. In college, I was an avid sportsperson, musician and mooter (in that order) with an interest in many other extra-curricular activities.
As regards academics, those five years were formative. My teachers at NLU Delhi were outstanding in terms of how much they pushed us. For instance, we were made to prepare bulky, complex judgments and other texts within tight deadlines—not just read the material, but also form polished opinions about it. This seemed impossible back then. We kept complaining about being forced to meet unrealistic standards! But I realise with every passing day as to how much edge those exercises can give you in a profession where reading is everything and everything is to be read. I owe a lot to NLU Delhi.
Your LL.M. at the University of Michigan Law School was accompanied by the prestigious Michigan Grotius Fellowship. How did this international exposure shape your perspective on law, and what key lessons did you bring back to your practice in India?
It was a terrific experience. UMich gives you the freedom to design your course by choosing any combination of subjects. So, besides my law subjects (media law, freedom of speech & religion, equality law etc.), I selected a few subjects situated at the intersection of law and philosophy, which significantly contributed to my intellectual growth. My teachers were excellent and my classmates were intelligent and accomplished, which made classes engaging and challenging. It was exactly the kind of quality I wanted in my higher education.
Looking back, my most important learning in Ann Arbor was that there’s always another way—to think of a legal problem, articulate an argument, research case law, and even draft a memorandum—if only one is willing. I find that many colleagues here are used to old methods that may no longer work, at least not as effectively as one would like. The mere willingness to try another way can produce great results. And it requires no earth-shattering effort; sometimes, it is as simple as learning a new technological tool, shortening your drafts, using visual representations (graphs instead of paragraphs), making a LinkedIn profile, or even writing an email that you thought would be futile.
Law Vaarta is a unique blend of Hindi and English, making legal discussions more accessible. What inspired you to start this podcast, and how has the response been from your audience?
I believe that law is not as elusive as it is made out to be. Every citizen is capable of understanding the law, provided it is explained in simple language. Unfortunately, discussions around the law on TV and other media are either superficial or too technical-sounding. That is why I felt that a platform is required where complex legal issues are explained in straightforward language without losing their complexity.
I am delighted with the response the podcast has received. People have been kind in their appreciation as well as criticism, both of which are aimed at improving the quality of the content. I’m learning new things about content creation on the go. In 2024, I intend to increase the reach of the podcast through interactive content that will cater specifically to law students and young litigators, in the hope that litigation can become a more accessible profession.
Your research covers various topics, from constitutional rights to online gaming legislation. What upcoming research projects or areas of interest are you currently exploring?
Over the past couple of years, I have picked up an interest in empirical research on judicial behaviour. I am currently working on two projects relating to preventive detention and one on India’s abortion law. All three projects are geared towards understanding the behaviour of the Supreme Court and High Courts in cases involving the fundamental rights of citizens. For instance, in the preventive detention research, I am trying to map the speed with which our constitutional courts act in habeas corpus petitions against illegal detentions.
The Right to Receive Information is an upcoming publication. Can you give our readers a sneak peek into what conceptual problems you explore in this piece?
In the post-emergency years, the Supreme Court infused many fundamental rights with expansive content. The right to receive information was a product of this exercise. The Supreme Court held that the right to “speak” under Article 19 of the Constitution includes the right to “know”. I find this to be somewhat of a logical jump. There is no doubt that an informed citizen will exercise their right to free speech more meaningfully, but it is hard to agree with the proposition that there is no right to free speech without full or proper information about the subject matter. Anyway, the paper mainly explores the judicial approach to the right to receive information over the years, first, on whether the right is horizontal or vertical, and second, on whether there are any additional grounds on which the right to receive information can be restricted over and above the grounds listed in Article 19(2). The paper finds that the judicial approach on both counts has been thoroughly inconsistent and requires clarity.
On a personal note, outside the legal realm, what are your hobbies or activities that bring you joy and relaxation?
I try and do everything that interests me: poetry, sports, music and beyond. Lately, I have been exploring coding to automate some of my daily tasks as a litigator, which would help me save time on clerical work and focus on the more substantive aspects of the law.
Looking ahead, what are your future goals or aspirations for Pravah Law Offices
As the chamber’s work grows, increasing the size of the team has been on my mind. In fact, Pravah Law recently finished one round of hiring. To my good fortune, I have generous mentors and supportive clients, and I am sure the chamber will grow rapidly with their blessings.
Other than that, I endeavor that Pravah Law remains ahead of the curve in terms of technological infrastructure and awareness. I believe lawyers must upgrade and upskill every year. Artificial intelligence is making path-breaking advances by the minute, and I do not doubt that lawyers will have to catch up to stay relevant.
Considering your multifaceted journey, what advice would you offer to aspiring lawyers, especially those who are interested in a diverse legal practice or engaging in legal academia?
‘Advice’ is a tricky concept. Everyone comes from a different context and must figure out their own ways. But I would pass on the following helpful pieces of advice that I have followed:
- “Litigation is 10% intelligence and 90% diligence.”
- “Don’t settle for mediocrity.”
- “Writing is thinking.”
Get in touch with Shrutanjaya Bhardwaj-