“Strong coordination and regular liaising with law enforcement authorities is the key in initiating swift actions against the counterfeit activities”- Kshitiz Karjee, Managing Partner,  Semita Legal, Advocates & Solicitors 

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

Can you share a bit about your journey into the legal profession? What inspired you to pursue law, and how did you navigate your career to reach your current position as an Advocate-on-Record before the Supreme Court of India?

Being a science student in school, I had no idea about law as a profession until just before the Class 12 Board Exams I happened to read in the newspapers about CLAT which was happening for the first time in 2008. Out of curiosity I began to research about the legal profession in general and it struck to me that I have to be litigator given my persona and aptitude. Moreover, I wanted to enrol in a professional course which would enable me to later have my own practice. Though I cracked a few of the prestigious engineering entrance exams, I was firm in my mind that I would study law. Accordingly, I studied law in Delhi during 2008-13.

Being a first-generation litigation lawyer, I was fortunate to be placed at Economic Laws Practice (ELP) a top tier full-service law firm. I met some amazing professionals and colleagues at ELP who moulded my thought processes and the inherent need of the profession to put in the extra hours. Post gaining experience on commercial matters and client interactions, I set up my independent practice in 2015 in the fields of commercial laws, white-collar crimes and IPR enforcement and litigation under the name SEMITA LEGAL, Advocates & Solicitors.

While in independent practice, I happened to be guided and groomed by a senior Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court who inspired me to keep working without expecting any rewards. Due to his blessings and the support of my entire family, I became an Advocate-on-Record before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The constant support of seniors, colleagues and juniors through my professional life have played a key part in my practice.

Your experience covers a wide range of legal areas, from corporate commercial disputes to white-collar crimes and regulatory litigation. What drew you to specialize in these specific fields, and what challenges have you encountered along the way?

Being trained at ELP in commercial disputes and white-collar crimes, I gravitated towards this branch of law. Our team at ELP focussed on a wide variety of disputes primarily concerning commercial and regulatory issues for large corporate clients. Apart from this, I also happened to be involved in advisory and litigation regarding two of the biggest scams of the times – 2G Spectrum Scam case and the Coal Block Allocation Scam case. Exposure to such matters strengthened my confidence as a lawyer to take up independent mandates.

Primary challenges for young professionals in commercial disputes and white-collar crimes are instilling trust in the minds of the senior in-house legal counsels in multi-national companies that you can ably assist on the legal challenges and confidently brief senior counsels wherever required. Coupled with this is the challenge to deliver top notch advisory and representation and at the same time hustle for new mandates and clients while keeping abreast with the legal developments wherein currently a lot of regulatory updates flows in every day.

You’ve been involved in high-stakes litigations and arbitrations, including cases related to government contracts, telecom, and power sectors. Could you share a particularly memorable case or experience from your career and how it shaped your approach to litigation and dispute resolution?

A corporate client was blacklisted by a PSU, which enjoys a 100% dominance in the railways ticketing and allied services, from participating in any future tenders due to a fault attributable to the railways and the PSU itself. From the time the client got the debarment order, we prepared the petition overnight, filed the petition the next morning and got the matter listed urgently. We were able to secure immediate relief for the client from the Delhi High Court within approx. 24 hours of the debarment. Post this matter, I did a couple of similar matters on blacklisting; however, was not able to secure interim stay in those matters since the clients in those matters had not understood the fact that while approaching the constitutional courts in writ matters, timing was of utmost importance and the alacrity in taking steps weighs in with the judges while deciding interim applications.

As a member of various legal associations and with extensive experience representing clients before different tribunals and courts, what are some key lessons you’ve learned about effective advocacy and navigating the complexities of the legal system in India?

During the initial years of advocacy, an advocate must spend some time with the Court clerk to understand the nuances of filing of petitions and removal of defects apart from the drafting of petitions. This helps with getting to know about the intricacies of working at different tribunals and courts and gives an idea about the listing procedure. There are courts which list fresh matters the same afternoon, while there are courts and tribunals which list matters after a week or fortnight of the matters being filed and the defects being removed. Having a clear picture about the same, goes a long way in devising the strategy and appraising the clients.

The nomenclature and the short names for landmark judgments cited before a particular tribunal and court are to be noted for an effective practice at such forums and to give a sense to the Bench that you are adept with the developments in that particular branch of law.

Your work also extends to advising clients on regulatory actions and compliance issues, as well as defending against investigations by agencies such as the CBI and ED. What strategies do you employ when representing clients facing such challenges, and how do you ensure the protection of their interests?

I advise clients to keep records of all transactions and possible leakages/ ramifications flowing therefrom. Drawing down a list of potential threats on liberty and property arising from actions by investigation agencies helps in strategizing the course to be followed while defending the interests of the clients. Pointing out pros and cons to the senior counsels during conferences helps to charter a clear course to be adopted at appropriate stages of trial.

With your expertise in IPR enforcement and brand protection, could you discuss some notable cases or strategies you’ve employed to combat counterfeiting and piracy issues? How do you stay ahead of emerging threats in this area?

My practice of IPR enforcement and brand protection at Semita Legal, Advocates & Solicitors, which I spearhead along with my wife involves a multifaceted approach:

·         Monitoring and surveillance – employment of advanced tools and services such as keyword monitoring etc to track online mentions on social media and e-commerce platforms

·         Collaboration with online marketplaces for reporting counterfeit listings and consequent takedowns

·         Legal measures to actively monitor infringements and take legal action against counterfeiters to protect brand’s goodwill and market share

·         Consumer awareness to identify genuine products and distinguish them from counterfeit ones; provision of information on official websites and packaging about authentication methods etc.

·         Supply chain transparency and security to prevent unauthorized access to products or intellectual property. Implementation of technologies such as blockchain to track and authenticate products from manufacturing to distribution

·         Engagement with law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute counterfeiters

·         Regularly review and update the brand protection strategies to stay ahead of emerging threats and technologies used by counterfeiters.

Strong coordination and regular liaising with law enforcement authorities is the key in initiating swift actions against the counterfeit activities. The most effective way to handle this is to always be prompt and responsive to any support being sought from the authorities, whether understanding the law, conducting regular training, providing prompt responses to notices, all of which ultimately aids in timely filing of chargesheets. Once the authorities develop confidence that proper support has been provided, they equally support in nabbing down the counterfeiters. Basically, it’s two-way traffic and to foster a positive roadmap to curb this menace, we need to be transparent and responsive to each other’s requirements.

Your involvement in both domestic and international legal matters is impressive. How do you adapt your approach when dealing with clients from diverse backgrounds and legal systems? Are there any unique challenges or opportunities that arise in such cases?

My IPR enforcement practice helps me interact with foreign clients quite frequently. While most of them by now are abreast with the Indian legal system, the pace at which the system works really bothers most of them. My interaction with the marketing/ sales team of the corporates seeking enforcement actions on the counterfeiters allow me to break down the processes and present a seamless scenario so as to help them navigate challenges of dealing with enforcement authorities without being bothered about possible harassment at their hands.

Finally, considering your extensive experience and success in the legal field, what advice would you offer to recent law graduates aspiring to follow in your footsteps? What key skills or qualities do you believe are essential for success in the legal profession, especially in today’s rapidly evolving legal landscape?

Read law and non-law matters every day for some time. With technology in place, this is sorted and only requires a routine to be followed. Interact with senior lawyers and watch Court proceedings to learn the nuances. In the initial years, work with lawyers in different stages of their careers to learn from each phase of a lawyer regarding how to approach a case. Explore different branches of law. The professional has endless opportunities – if you are patient and keep working and associating with the senior professionals, rewards will flow naturally.

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