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“Litigation is more than just a career and livelihood source. I believe that by this work I can contribute positively to society and bring about good changes in lives which I come in touch with.” – Amit Dwivedi, Supreme Court Litigator and Pegasus Scholar

This interview has been published by Namrata Singh and The SuperLawyer Team

Amit, could you take us through your journey and share how you embarked on your career in law? What inspired you to pursue this path, and how did your early experiences shape your professional trajectory?

I come from a humble village background. I pursued my schooling from the government residential school of rural Madhya Pradesh, Navodaya Vidyalaya. Thereafter, I studied in the North campus of Delhi University for six years i.e., my graduation and law degree. These years have, indeed, been trans-formative for me. I made friends coming from myriads backgrounds and learnt to adjust in different environments. I started to participate in extracurricular activities including debating competitions during my graduation and soon found that I would like to spend the rest of my life doing the same as a litigation Lawyer.

For the last six years, I have been working in various Courts and Tribunals of Delhi and across India. For me litigation is more than just a career and livelihood source. I believe that by this work I can contribute positively to society and bring about good changes in lives which I come in touch with. Since September 2022, I have been working independently.

Having worked extensively in various legal domains, from real estate disputes to representing marginalized sections of society, what drives your passion for justice and advocacy?

Besides being an Advocate, I am a citizen of this country. There are so many things which bother me on a day-to-day basis. Lack of access to quality healthcare services to most of the population of our country troubles me a lot. However, there is little I could do about it. 

At the same time, this profession gives me an opportunity to right a wrong. Be it a street vendor harassed by police officials, a homebuyer robbed by a builder or a contractual employee working without any job security, I can feel their pain and wrong committed upon them agitates me a lot. Being a lawyer gives me a position to do something for them and it is my primary motivation to strive for another day. On some occasions, raising a voice means everything!    

You’ve recently returned from the UK after participating in the Pegasus Scholarship program. How did this international experience influence your perspective on legal practice, especially in comparison to your work in India?

My inspirational senior Ms. Namita Wali nudged me to apply in the first place, she deserves the complete credit. After the initial screening process, I was interviewed by Senior Advocate Aman Hingorani and seasoned Mediator Dr. Shweta Hingorani. Thankfully, I was selected as a KNH Foundation-Pegasus Scholar for the year 2023. I was the only lawyer with five years standing who was selected for the said scholarship in the year 2023 from India. This scholarship is a world-renowned international lawyer exchange program run by Hon’ble Society of Inner Temple, England. My fellow scholars came from different jurisdictions like the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. As a scholar, I spent Eight weeks in England and Scotland working in esteemed Barrister chambers like Blackstone, Lamb and 39 Essex. I attended court hearings in the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Court of Appeal, High Court, Crown Courts, and County courts. I participated in conferences held among barristers, solicitors, and clients. I interacted with judges, jurists, and policy makers. It was a life-changing experience, and I could see a different way of life and working.

The United Kingdom has a comparatively small population and for that reason alone, they do not encounter a lot of nagging logistical issues as we in India do. The number of cases listed per day before a judge is not in two digits most of the time in the UK and in India, you might even see a three-digit cause list peculiarly on the criminal side in High Courts and consequent crisis of pendency, matters not getting heard and a bit of chaos. However, the zeal of the advocate community keeps the access to justice smooth in India and that is indeed a great achievement.

In your role as a Panel Advocate with Counsel to Secure Justice (CSJ), you’ve been advocating for child survivors of sexual violence. What unique challenges do you face in such cases, and how do you navigate them?

CSJ has taught me a lot. Sexual violence against a child is not only inhumane, barbaric, and brutal but it also creates multidimensional problems. The child suffers physically and emotionally. Family also finds it difficult to handle the situation. There are a lot of social stigmas attached to it as well. So, meeting a survivor and his/her family requires a lot of preparation. Most of these people have suffered at the hands of the system also so making a connection with them requires some genuine effort. However, when they see your sincerity, they rely on you, and you start working as a team. It was my affectionate senior Ms. Arushi Anthwal who guided me on this pro bono panel. She heads the CSJ’s lawyer’s team. Her commitment to the welfare of women and children is unimpeachable.    

I have observed an unfortunate pattern in such cases. Reporting from poor strata of society against child sexual violence is good but the middle and upper classes are still finding it difficult to report this violence and they try their ‘best’ to save their shallow ‘honor’ as in these cases, usually, the perpetrator is a person of trust. Efforts to encourage reporting of child sexual violence are needed on a large scale. It is a silent pandemic!

You’ve authored articles and participated in webinars on diverse legal topics. What motivates you to share your expertise through writing and speaking engagements?

We all are part of a shared world. We do not exist in isolation and interdependence is the order of our society. I believe in a democratic society; exchanges of ideas have potential to bring much needed changes in society. The Right to Information (RTI) Act was born out of such efforts and it has served society so well. An ordinary citizen can file a simple application and ask for information which might unearth wrongdoings in public offices. So, I make it a point to speak and write about issues which are important and need our attention like universal access to healthcare and misery of undertrial prisoners. I believe and hope these discussions are small steps which will bring about great changes.  

Your journey includes working with different legal mentors and chambers. How have these experiences contributed to your growth as a lawyer, and what valuable lessons have you learned along the way?

As a first-generation lawyer, I had great difficulty finding mentors. Formally, I worked as an associate with two Advocates. My first senior was Mr. Amit Bhagat. He works on the Civil and Commercial side. He taught me how to navigate hearings and insist on reliefs. His energy was unmatchable.

My Second senior was Advocate on record Mr. Joel. He taught me how to keep patience in tough situations and client handling. He has exceptional skills to mediate a complex dispute and I found his calm approach imitable.

I interned under Mr. Madhav Khurana in 2017 and since then, he has always been there to support and guide me. He is very organized and conducts his cases with plans and strategies. Working with him as a briefing counsel is always a delight.

Advocate on record Mr. Vikram Hegde is a known lawyer and his writing skills keep twitter and newspapers warm. In my independent practice, he has been a constant guide. If I lose a case in high court, then I know he would help me to take it to the Supreme Court and get the necessary relief.  

Mr. Adarsh Priyadarshi is a guide on the criminal side. His skills to puncture a prosecution’s story is great and he has been kind enough to allow me to argue his criminal matters in Delhi High Court.  

As a Pegasus Scholar, you had the opportunity to immerse yourself in the legal system of the United Kingdom. Were there any striking differences or similarities you observed between the UK and Indian legal systems that surprised you?

Legal systems in both the countries are similar and have been made by the same people for obvious reasons. So, on paper we are almost the same. But, on the grounds, the situation is different. Their courts are strictly formal at all levels and in India, the informal nature of trial courts gives a breathing space to Indian masses. 

In the UK, Civil trials get completed in three to five days, I witnessed an eviction trial getting completed and judgement pronounced in four days in Central London County Court. With due respect, such expeditious disposal in India is nearly impossible. Due to the strict cost rules, frivolous litigations and appeals get discouraged a lot there. Due to lax rules, in India litigation, at times, becomes an adventure and all disputes eventually reach the supreme court, destroying decades of people’s lives and leading to docket explosion.  

With the rapid advancement of technology, how do you see the role of AI and automation shaping the future of legal practice, and what implications do you foresee for young lawyers entering the profession?

Let’s look at the past to appreciate the future developments. When Covid came, almost no one was relying on e-filing and virtual court hearings were not even part of our imagination. But a small virus nudged us to use technology which was already with us. Soon, we all were filing online and appearing online. This transition has been significant.

As far as filing and defects in court registries are concerned, I hope AI will make life easier for lawyers and court staff. I hope there will be a day when ‘defect in file’ will be a thing of the past. At the same time, I believe that there will never be a substitute for earned human experience and wisdom. So, technology will help us but eventually, human prudence will decide how it will be used.  

Balancing personal interests and professional responsibilities can be demanding. How do you manage to find time for hobbies or leisure activities amidst your busy schedule?

Being self-employed is not as rosy as it sounds. Being away from work means a loss of income in that situation. So, working slowly becomes a part of your life. And this is how eventually things start to find a place in your life. I like stories. I have become a bit lazy to read books for leisure, so I watch movies and tv series and these things happen at the end of day most of the time. I like watching theater and Delhi offers a good variety for the same. Being a foodie gives me the opportunity to explore new places and tastes.

Finally, Amit, if you could offer one piece of advice to the upcoming generation of lawyers, what would it be, considering the evolving landscape of the legal industry and societal challenges?

Decide your priorities. If you come from a humble background, then joining a law firm and having a steady income is a fairly good idea in the initial years. Such a way of functioning ensures exposure and income for you. The way litigation is structured in India, it is not very welcoming for an outsider without significant resources and infrastructural support. So, calculating and managing expectations is important. 

The position of legal researcher in High Courts and Supreme Court is something to aspire to. It gives you a steady income in the initial years and the exposure is unparallelled. These places are likely to motivate you to pursue academic endeavors abroad on scholarships. 

Arbitration is here to stay as India has become the focus of global trade due to its huge population. World creates and India consumes, as the joke goes! So, there would be a lot of disputes, even of an international nature, in such a setup. This field could show you the world and teach you how to look beyond your self-created boundaries. Opportunities to work abroad may also cross your way and the sky’s the limit.

So, my advice would be to plan your way out and be brave to walk on that path!

Get in touch with Amit Dwivedi-

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