“Today our societal norms and values are seeing rapid changes and thanks to technological advances and social media, people are voicing their concerns more openly and are constantly connected”- Ashish Kumar, Partner, Jurisperitus Law Offices

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

Your academic journey includes studying law both in India and the USA. How did these diverse educational experiences shape your perspective on the legal profession, and how do you think it contributed to your success in the field?

While the principles of law are more or less the same everywhere, the manner in which the law is taught varies. It is however the overall experience that enriches you. In India, we studied law from the perspective of the statute and its applicability in different kinds of situations; in the USA we did case studies and advanced our reasoning of the applied law on such cases. What was different was the vast networking opportunities offered even at the institutional level in the USA when compared to India. Some of the friends I made then are now well established and recognized in the legal field and at senior positions in some of the top law firms and in-house. 

With expertise spanning commercial litigation, arbitration, consumer protection, real estate, and more, how did you decide on such a diverse legal practice? Can you share a pivotal moment or experience that influenced your decision to specialize in these areas?

My initial interest as a student of law was on the corporate side. I was during the time fascinated (like many students) of the work that corporate lawyers did, the transactions, the numbers etc. But as destiny would have it, after enrolling at the Bar and working for one year as a corporate lawyer, one day in court was all it took. Since that first day in court, I have not looked back while I may admit that I still do general corporate work as well. With respect to specialization, while there was no specific pivotal moment as such, I never wanted to be limited to only one particular area. I have enjoyed all that the learning that the profession has had to offer me. While some may argue a specialization has its own advantages, which I do not doubt, I know that there are many people who feel limited in their ability/outreach because of the specialization whereas I on the other hand am very comfortable appearing before various judicial and quasi judicial fora in different kinds of matters. I am as comfortable appearing before a Consumer Commission in a consumer matter as I would be before the National Green Tribunal in an environment related issue or before the High Court or Supreme Court for a commercial/contractual dispute. 

As the head of the “Japan Desk” at your Firm, you handle the firm’s Japanese practice. Could you elaborate on the challenges and rewards of managing international legal matters, and how does it tie into your broader practice areas?

Japan has been very close to my heart for a number of reasons. Not only is the country a close ally of India, the two nations have seen significant growth in bilateral relations through trade and commerce, culture and in the recent few years – cuisine. Anyone who has had the good fortune of being connected or has worked with Japan one way or the other would agree that the experience completely changes the person for the better. From the time I started more than 10 years ago to now, I can confidently say that it has been a rewarding experience. The Japanese build their relationships on trust and respect. If you can earn the respect of a Japanese person, you have earned yourself a lifelong friend. They are very thorough and extremely professional in their approach, which is what is also expected by them from their counsel. Unlike in India, where being late by 10 – 15 minutes for a business meeting and by almost an hour at parties is considered normal, Japanese value and respect your time. You will always see them arrive 10 minutes before the scheduled time so as to timely start the meetings. In case you require assistance, they will go out of their way to ensure that they can help you. Every trip to Japan or my interaction with a Japanese person has taught me something new. At the Firm we follow the policy of ‘Kaizen’ which means continuous improvement. We believe in the combined and collective talents of all our team members irrespective of position or rank, to propel growth of the Firm and to continuously improve ourselves in order to better cater to the needs of our clients. We advise and represent from time to time many Japanese companies including the sogo soshas in their business activities in India apart from hand holding companies that wish to come to India. Japan has a significant investment in the Indian market which is only going to grow with time and we are proud to be a part of this growth story.      

You’ve had notable achievements, such as being one of the youngest Additional Advocate Generals and receiving recognitions like the 40 Under 40 Rising Star (2023) by Legal Era and 40 Under 40 (2022) recognized lawyer by BW Legal World. How do you balance leadership responsibilities with the demands of your legal practice, and how has this contributed to your professional growth?

What I am today is the blessing of my seniors who mentored me and my peers who gave me their wholehearted support. Like you cannot clap with one hand, similarly every success story cannot involve only one individual. I have been very fortunate to have been honed by some of the best mentors and seniors in the profession. Growth is never constant and every turn brings with it a new meaning. I was taught to take responsibilities head on from a young age and with such responsibilities also came leadership positions. After a certain stage in life, professional growth does not remain limited only to how well you can execute or how much business you can develop. Professional growth is how you are perceived by your peers and seniors in the profession, by your clients and friends from various walks of life, how much you have contributed back to society and how well you trained your juniors. Ultimately all these and more factors will shape and determine the growth of an individual.

As far as balancing leadership responsibilities with demands of the legal practice is concerned, it is all inter connected and you cannot fix timelines in a day for either one of them. As the great Mr. Fali Nariman, Ld. Sr. Advocate has said, for lawyers there is no start and end time. You cannot look at the watch and say it is time to go home.

Given your involvement in diverse leadership roles and professional activities, including being a former Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community and young leader of the Science & Technology in Society Forum (STS Forum) of Japan, how do you see the intersection of law and broader societal issues? How has this influenced your approach to your legal practice?

Law is one of the most noble professions, second only to that of medicine/doctor. To a great extent our legal system is based on our societal values and beliefs. Today our societal norms and values are seeing rapid changes and thanks to technological advances and social media, people are voicing their concerns more openly and are constantly connected. The Judiciary plays a very critical role in keeping a fine balance between past, present and future requirements of the evolving society. As officers of the court, it is our duty to the best of our ability, to represent and raise the voices of concern of our society, to be the voice of those who are unheard or have limited or no access to justice. The World Economic Forum as well as the STS Forum act as a strategic partner and platforms respectively for world leaders, policy makers, members of the business and professional community to come together, discuss and debate on a host of issues concerning our global society as a whole. The Global Shapers Community was promoted by Klaus Schwab to encourage and train the young leaders of tomorrow. We discussed, debated, raised concerns, held key discussions and representations with those in power, on a number of issues. The result was that we as individuals also got more sensitized to the ills of society and in one way or the other pledged to ourselves to try to make a difference. Similarly, the STS Forum is an excellent platform which discusses the environment, carbon footprint and the rapid growth of technology and AI all of which require regulations and safeguards. These discussions are important from a legal perspective as well as we are able to look at law concerning these areas not only from the point of view of what the law says but holistically for the larger good of society. 

You’ve successfully represented the State of Rajasthan before the Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Delhi. Can you share a challenging case you’ve worked on and the strategies you employed to secure a favorable outcome for your client?

You need to do your best for the client. The outcome is the destiny of the client. There have been many challenging cases. But to briefly share, two in specific –  one of the first cases that I had handled and was led by Dr. Manish Singhvi, Ld. Sr. Advocate, pertained to the exercise of powers of the Government in creation / demarcation/ reorganization of the boundaries of gram panchayats and panchayat samities under the provisions of the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994. A constitutional question was involved as the Hon’ble High Court, contrary to the clear bar under Article 243(O), had interfered with the powers of the State Government to perform such exercise. As there was more than one notification, however all notifications connected with each other, the Hon’ble High Court in the impugned order while taking cognizance of the bar under Article 243(O) for one notification, held the other notifications to be void, therefore making the impugned judgment mutually contradictory. We had successfully argued in the Supreme Court that the constitutional bar would equally apply to all notifications and since the elections were around the corner had also obtained a stay on the order of the Hon’ble High Court. This was a matter of critical importance given the significance as well as the timelines. I remember the entire team had worked day and night to get the SLP ready and filed before the winter vacations of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Another interesting matter inter alia involved the argument on the applicability of the doctrine of “proof beyond reasonable doubt” / rules of evidence which govern a criminal trial, in a disciplinary/departmental enquiry. On behalf of the State, I had argued that unlike in a criminal trial, a disciplinary enquiry was not mandated to be governed by the rigor of the said doctrine and that only “preponderance of probabilities” was sufficient to establish guilt in a departmental enquiry. It was argued by the Respondent that since he was acquitted in a criminal trial therefore he should be reinstated in the services. On behalf of the State, while arguing on the applicability of the doctrine above mentioned to departmental enquiries a distinction was also made on the basis of an acquittal which was “honorable” and one which was on the basis of “benefit of doubt”. On the basis of law and arguments on facts, a favourable order was obtained for the State. 

The strategy adopted for every matter is simple. Know your facts well. Read every document line to line, word to word and understand the implication. Once the facts have been mastered, read and analyze the law and then the judgments both in favour as well as against. Once all three things have been done, you will be in a better position to frame your arguments. I have always made hand written notes for my arguments by bifurcating various arguments and supporting each argument with relevant facts and case law. As an officer of the court it is also your duty to inform the court of any law (judgment) which may be against you and also to do our best to try to distinguish the facts of that matter from yours. Additionally, I always look at the Supreme Court first for judicial precedents. Being the top most court, the decisions are binding on all courts below. Further, in case you are relying on a judgment/order of a High Court or a Tribunal/Commission for matters before such forums, it is imperative to do a check on whether the order/judgment relied upon has been challenged/appealed or stayed or upheld. You do not want to be caught in a situation where you are relying on some law which is no longer applicable. But the first principle is to know your facts. If you are not fully aware of your facts you cannot apply the law. Last but not the least, you have to wear the hat of your client and think why certain contracts/clauses (in case of a commercial matter) were drafted. What was the intention? Once you understand this, you will be able to better understand and appreciate a document in the context of the issue at hand. 

In addition to your legal pursuits, you are passionate about technology, automobiles, AI, and space science. How do these interests intersect with your legal career, and do they influence your approach to handling cases or advising clients in specific industries?

Not everything of interest or passion needs to intersect with the career. Having said that, AI is fast gaining importance in the legal field and we all need to be updated with the rapid changes in the field of technology as well as adopt them. AI is a great facilitator with respect to time management, case management and research. However, in the argument of AI vs the human brain, the latter will always prevail. Through technology, it has become easier to get more information to keep one better informed and better prepared. Since time is precious, we have consciously been using various interfaces for virtual conferences to avoid the need to travel either for the client or for the Firm’s counsels, unless absolutely necessary. The Chief Justice of India is a great source of inspiration and encouragement when it comes to technology. Thanks to his persistent efforts to make our judicial system technologically sound, we are able to represent more clients in multiple forums in a timely manner, clients sitting in far away places can participate in the proceedings and see first hand how their matter is progressing instead of solely relying on the word of the counsel, the pressure on physical infrastructure will also with time ease as more and more judicial and quasi judicial fora get technologically sound. With respect to advising clients in specific industries, since I like to understand about technology, I make a special effort to study and understand how my client’s business, machines, industry etc. works. If you are a commercial practice lawyer, it is very important for you to first understand your client’s business and its functioning. Once this is understood you will find yourself in a better position to represent the facts before a court. My other passions, such as automobiles or space science have nothing to do with the profession. I love cars from classic to modern. But I feel that automobile designers in their pursuit for making something different are losing the touch of designing beautiful cars that are pleasing to the eyes as they once were. The study of space and life beyond what we know, the thought that there are other life forms somewhere far away more advanced in every sense than us, has always fascinated me.   

Finally, drawing from your diverse experiences and achievements, what advice would you give to law graduates entering the field today, especially those interested in pursuing a path similar to yours?

No path is easy or difficult. You need to have patience and give yourself time to grow. Today I see a trend where law graduates tend to quickly shift from one place to another within a span of 6 months to a year if not less. There is an assumption that one has learned everything one could in this time span. This is not correct. Knowing a particular section or 10 cases for reference is not knowing the law. To evolve as a lawyer you need to be consistent and stable. The sections will always remain, what will change is how you interpret and apply them to different fact situations. That is when you will derive a new meaning. Litigation is an exciting field. Everyday is a new day to learn, to absorb, to experience. My advice to the law graduates looking to enter into this practice would therefore be that they do not restrict themselves to only one court. They should gain experience in all courts. If someday you do not have a matter assigned, take out time and just sit in a courtroom and absorb the proceedings. Understand how the Courts are seeking clarity/asking questions, how the counsels are arguing, how the law is being applied. Specially sit in your respective High Court’s and if possible the Supreme Court and hear the arguments of some celebrated Senior Counsel’s. There is a great deal of learning. The more hands-on experience you will have the better you will learn. In addition to this, never stop reading. We have very good reference books on all areas of practice and subjects which explain concepts clearly. Take out at least one hour every day to spend on reading reference books as well as new cases to enhance your knowledge. Further and most importantly, practice your oratory and legal writing. No amount of knowledge will be beneficial if you cannot fluently put it on paper or argue in court. Last but not the least, take criticism or review in a positive way. The fact that your mentor/senior/colleague has taken out time to point out mistakes is a blessing in disguise meant for you to reflect on and improve.

Get in touch with Ashish Kumar-

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top