Could you share a bit about your journey into law and how you decided to pursue it as a career, especially with your educational background at National Law Institute University and Symbiosis Law School?
My father played a significant role in guiding me to pursue law considering my personality. Then, I was always keen to pursue law since my school days and at that time law was not sought for profession as it is now. We did not have CLAT in the year 2003 and had to fill up individual forms for each college. I was fortunate enough to get through B.A.LL. B course in Symbiosis Law School, Pune. I was inclined for post graduate education and thereafter, I appeared for CLAT LLM and I got through National Law Institute University, Bhopal. It’s a wonderful experience to independently live in a hostel which makes you a confident individual to deal with every situation in your life without the support of family. I not only got to polish my legal and individual skills at the law schools but also got to make great friends during both the courses who are budding colleagues and make the legal practice feel like home.
You’ve had a diverse experience, from working in top legal firms to founding your own practice at Samaya Law. What inspired you to take the entrepreneurial route, and how has this journey been for you?
I am thankful to all the law firms, their partners, and senior advocates who I worked with through my journey. I got immense experience and guidance from them which helped me build my independent practice. Since beginning, I always wanted to have my independent practice as it gives a sense of accomplishment to me, however, working in a firm setup can be equally beneficial considering the fact that the initial few years of independent practice take a toll on you mentally and financially. I was lucky enough to have my own set of clients who trusted in me and helped keep afloat in initial years of practice which is significant to keep you going. The journey of independent practice is full of peaks and valleys as its both demanding and rewarding profession. You have a thrill of victory which is unmatched and gives you a sense of pride and satisfaction and doing public interest litigation can give added satisfaction by making a difference in the lives of people. The downfall being the stress and expectation not only towards yourself but also to Clients and Judges. However, this profession can teach you resilience, perseverance and the importance of hard work which makes you a valuable legal professional.
Your practice involves appearing before various courts and tribunals, including the and the National Company Law Tribunal and Supreme Court of India. Could you highlight a memorable or challenging case you’ve handled and the key takeaways from that experience?
After my stint with law firms, I started my independent practice and after a few years started our law firm Samaya Law along with my partner Sourabh Gupta, Advocate and we completed 10 years in June, 2023. We appear before all courts, tribunal across India. However, being based in Delhi gives an opportunity to physically appear before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and Appellate Tribunals. Although, now the Supreme Court also works on Hybrid mode which helps all the counsels across India to get remote access to appear and argue their cases. We recently argued a case under the maternity benefit act wherein the Petitioner was being denied maternity benefit as her contract with the government body had come to an end. In a landmark judgment, a three Judge bench of the Supreme Court in Dr. Kavita Yadav v The Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Department & Others (17 August 2023) held that if a woman has worked in an establishment for 80 days, she would be eligible for full maternity benefits, even if such benefits exceed the term of contract. We also made a significant petition for post-graduate doctors during the COVID-19 period when they were being sent across states for their practical examination as per National Medical Commission and Diplomate of National Board guidelines. The Supreme Court intervened and directed the NMC and NBE to conduct examinations within the state so that the post graduate doctors do not have to cross state as per directives of the government of India. This brought relief to more than 1 lakhs doctors who were appearing for the examination. Each forum has its own way of working, before the Supreme Court you only get 2-3 minutes to explain your brief at the admission hearing so you need to prepare your list of dates and synopsis thoroughly and be precise with your arguments on factual and legal aspects to catch the eye of the Judge.
With a significant focus on drafting and vetting petitions across different legal domains, could you share some insights into your approach to crafting effective legal documents and the importance of precision in this aspect of your work?
My advice would be to keep your focus on the facts of the case because facts forming part of the pleadings can never change and highlighting relevant facts of the case can bring life into a dead brief. It is crucial to draft pleadings that are short, persuasive, point blank and not overstated. It’s best to work on all kinds of pleadings before the trial court and High Court in the initial years of your practice which can be beneficial when you handle matters before the Appellate Courts and Supreme Court. Most part of building up a case happens at the trial court and if the pleadings are not drafted, covering the facts accurately can bring significant damage to the case as it becomes difficult to introduce new facts or legal grounds in support of the brief at appellate stage of the proceedings. The pleadings should ensure that all the relevant facts are covered on the issues to be framed and lead evidence on the said issues to support your case. In a case done by us the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in a suit (CS(OS) No.553 /2016 order dated 21.05.2019) dealing with recovery of possession of an immovable property and a counterclaim for recovery of over Rs. 5 crore had due to lacuna in the drafting and not claiming the relief for recovery of possession made an observation “This is a classic textbook case of, how not to draft a plaint, which should be taught in law colleges and to young lawyers so that such bloopers in drafting of pleadings, damaging to one’s own client, are avoided.”. The pleadings have to be factually fortified and legally formulated to bring forth your best case.
Having engaged in extensive research across civil, criminal, and commercial laws, could you discuss a specific area of law that you find particularly intriguing or challenging, and why?
The latest insolvency and bankruptcy code, 2016 has brought a fresh dimension to the insolvency law including bringing new questions of law which need to be answered both by the Lawyers and Judges. The fact that the code has been modified five times in the last five years including several judgments which have been passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court itself shows the way it is evolving and which makes it challenging. The IBC is a significant reform and its successful implementation can bring resolution to the stress situation in the country’s financial system. We constantly support the Insolvency Resolution Professionals and companies on advising them on the intricacies of the Code and its implementation.
Your involvement in arbitration, both domestic and international, is notable. Can you share a bit about your experiences with arbitration cases and any unique challenges or differences you’ve encountered in handling international arbitrations?
With the introduction of Arbitration and Conciliation Amendment Act, 2015 the arbitration proceedings must be completed within a time bound manner and which has brought drastic improvement in the overall process of arbitration. The constant queries of the clients as to the time limit within which dispute would be resolved has been answered by way of the said amendment and also by bringing in Schedule IV with the amendment of 2015 the fee being charged by an arbitrator has been regulated making the whole process efficient and cost effective for the client. Thus, we advise clients to keep arbitration clauses in the agreement so that the disputes, if any, can be resolved in an efficient and timely manner. However, it is particularly important where the parties (or their assets) are in different jurisdictions or where the disputes might give rise to complex and technical issues. We recently did an international commercial arbitration under the ICC rules where the seat of arbitration was Narobi, Kenya. The arbitrators in such arbitrations are chosen by the arbitration rules which provide for a method of appointment of arbitrators in case the agreement does not name the arbitration. The cost between a sole arbitrator and three arbitrations can vary considerably in international arbitration including the efficiency within which arbitration can be completed as there is lesser need for coordination between the arbitration. However, high value and complex arbitration would be better with the panel of 3 arbitrators as they can give more insight into the decision-making process. The timelines set in the international arbitrations are strictly adhered to and any deviations are subject to high cost awarded against the defaulting party including closing their rights if no reasonable reasons have been given by the parties. In choosing the seat of arbitration, the parties should consider the effect that this might have upon the conduct of the arbitration and the potential enforceability of the ultimate award and selecting a state which is party to the New York Convention as the seat of any arbitration, provides parties considerable scope for the enforcement of their awards.
Given your wealth of experience, what advice would you offer to law graduates who are just starting their careers in the legal field? What key lessons have you learned that you believe could benefit those embarking on their legal journey?
I would advise all the young graduates to learn the basic skills of drafting and research in their initial years along with arguing matters before the courts whenever they get an opportunity. The key would be to accumulate as much knowledge as possible from your seniors, arguing counsels and observing proceedings before the courts. In addition, always keep yourself abreast of the times by reading the latest judgments and updates of law in every field. Always be nice to your opposite side, you will have to face them every day in court and not the clients. Never lie to the court, better lose a client than your respect and trust before the court. Lastly, always take care of your health and follow stress management by having work life harmony.
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