Mr Vivek Narayan Sharma, Advocate-on-Record, Senior Counsel for Union of India and State of Uttar Pradesh, Standing Counsel (Addl) for New Delhi Municipal Council, Standing Counsel for National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Senior Counsel for NHPC, U.P. Power Corpn. Ltd., Coal India Ltd., Standing Counsel for Uttarakhand (Year 2012-2013).
Mr Sharma is Hon. Member, Information Technology Committee (IT Cell), Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) and Joint Secretary of Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (2018-2020).
He is pro bono counsel at Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee (DHCLSC). Mr Sharma is also an accredited mediator, arbitrator and litigation strategist and has handled litigations pertaining to politics, corporate, constitution, energy, consumer, environment, property, real estate apart from dealing in conventional civil, criminal and indirect tax appellate practice at Supreme Court, High Court of Delhi and Tribunals and Commissions. He is involved in dealing with commercial and engineering arbitrations.
He has been interviewed by Divya C. Vattikutti, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from DSNLU.
1. Sir, kindly introduce yourself for the benefit of our readers and apprise us about your journey so far? Also please share your interests.
“What sun is to light, knowledge is to wisdom!
Its unwise to ignore such a dictum
I am what I am not, but I will be what I will be
You are what you are, but you will not be what I will be
The secrets of happiness lie in failing to understand them
The secrets of life lie in the unknown
Boast of knowing them and I will fail you
Bring yourself to learning and I will fall for you!!”
My journey of law has been a modulated up-graph and continues to be the same. I experience the twists and turns of my journey being an advocate, utilizing the opportunities of innovation, strategizing and presentation. The profession of law provides stimulus to evolve your intellectual substance and as an outcome you become better equipped in acknowledging the mortalities of society along with its issues. Henceforth, you are enormously accoutered to provide structured and feasible solutions.
The journey of the legal career of anyone entwines with the discovery, invention and reinvention of the solutions to mend or refashion the social fabric. The future of civilizations depends on the thought provocation of its living beings, especially the legal beings in the contemporary context. The legal entity of our eco-system, when encounters troubles, it does not remain limited to the legal entity but works as a trigger to find solutions for the eco-bubble. We confront problems, we invent and reinvent the solutions to those problems and eventually, device a way that varied societies live together that’s what law is and that’s what my journey has been.
As a large percentage of our readers are currently students of law, I would like to jog your memory back to almost over a decade ago. Would you please tell us about your law school life and what inspired you to pursue law?
I was always deeply motivated to serve the nation and that inkling took me to the Pilot Aptitude Battery Test (PABT) conducted by the Indian Air Force after clearing the CDS Exam. It was the rejection from the test that changed my trajectory towards the legal career. I redirected my dream from ‘fight through planes’ to ‘fight through law, wit and intellect’ for my country.
I joined Law education in 1996,for earning part time money, I pursued my hobby of being a ‘Fashion Model’ in the world of glamour.
As I pursued law in college, my conviction grew stronger that legal field not only provided me the needed cerebral stimulation but also reverberated with my passion to serve the country.
What are the cases that you dealt which are most challenging in your career in law?
The fluidic and intricate circumstances may demand expeditious solutions. While delivering the most suitable alternative we all go through some critical churning which might be complicated and internal. This process becomes challenging at times when you have a strong conscience and grit to press against the social disparities. Since I am the ardent follower of the teachings of Lord Krishna and Swami Vivekanand, dispensing my challenges aid me expand and enlighten my horizons at great lengths. Though there have been numerous challenges in my career in law, but none of them would yet qualify as ‘most challenging’ yet. There are day to day occurring challenges, for instance, challenge of research on complicated issues, challenge of good drafting,arguing several matters physically on a given day in different Courts & Tribunals etc.,work life balance challenge, maintaining equilibrium during tight situations etc.
All these may pose as a challenge on a given day.‘Innovation and Method’ work as antidote to my challenges.While dealing with a beginner’s challenge, chances of failure remain good if not high, so I like to learn while I propagate. For recurring similar challenges, I like to innovate and evolve methods, so that I could master such challenges.
What are your thoughts on pro bono legal work? You are known to do a lot of pro bono matters. Tell us about the three most important pro bono matters you are working on currently?
With the kind of pendency of cases, we have in Indian Courts, Mediation and Pro-bono structures would have to be made robust to not only deal with past pendency but future cases too. Then any structure would not serve its purpose, if proper and effective checks and balances are not provided in regard to the same. India has not only large youth population but I also feel that youth is best equipped with idealism, honest endeavors, capacity to work long hours. Therefore, youth can be effectively utilized for making these processes robust and effective. Align the youth legal work force with right and experienced guidance, and we would see the pendency fall like a structure made of cards. The challenge is in building such a structure. The structure can’t be fulfilling unless all the stakeholders i.e. government, judiciary, legal minds and executive sit together and plan this, as fund and effective execution plan hold the biggest key.
I like to take pro-bono cases. It’s my developed habit now to keep taking up pro-bono cases alongside my work. I feel that being humans, we are blessed with the capability to think and use limbs in the best possible manner unlike most living bodies on earth. What differentiates humans from animals is the consciousness ‘to help’. Humans are best built to help, with their minds, limbs and ability to articulate. So, I believe, whatever we do, there should always be an element of pro-bono. I bear it as a recurring habit. Society is best served, when more and more able minds provide pro-bono services in different fields, be it law, medical, education etc. The culture is fast developing in India, but a lot is required to be done yet and that’s what my message is to the youth – mere self-consumption is animalistic, one must justify being human!
Lawyers are infamous for complaining about the lack of a work-life balance. What would be your take on the “work-life balance” complaint?
Work-life balance doesn’t come with the profession, it has to be created. I am a perfectionist, be it work or fitness or my family life, I like to deliver my 100% to it and the limitation of time is the biggest hurdle. As it’s said, where “there is a will, there is a way”, I have developed maneuverings, spontaneity and resourcefulness required to be able to chase my satisfaction of perfection. It’s true, I miss on one aspect or other at times but I keep bouncing back with fresh and positive energy. I believe in whatever we sow each day, reaps out and shows in future. Life is not easy and with the demanding professional life, I cannot live with a fixation on the clock. Each day is a different day. Hence, work-life balance, cannot be achieved with a time table but can be experienced entwined with my professional life. The two intrinsic things are that I open my day with 15-20 minutes of meditation and finish my day at home with my family, rest everything else remain an on-spot decision based on energy level inside me at that moment. One very important thing I do is that I don’t become consumer of social media but use it as my tool to voice or reflect my idea of existence. I make sure not to see my cellphone for hours before sleep and after I get up. I like to evolve die-hard good habits.
My fitness routine varies as per my day schedule, conferences, client meetings &overnight case preparations. I go for tennis, golf, running & stretch workouts or home yoga with family. I listen to my body and chart out for my food and activities accordingly.
You contributed to several newspapers and publishing houses. Recently you wrote a book on Elections in India. How is your experience of being a coloumnist and author differ from being a practitioner?
Election machinery of the largest democracy of the world is complex beyond imagination. The book attempts to define the Election process in a very simple way so every common person can understand it. I have used the ancientness and spiritualism of King Dhritrashthra as a satire to describe our current Election process along with its legal fabric. The book is not just the economics of the election but it’s a comprehensive Election Science (चुनावशास्त्र).
The book presents the complications of Indian Democracy and elections through the anecdotes, statistics, the legal provisions, position of courts and any resultant discomfort of the readers have been offered solace by way of 24 shlokas from Shrimad Bhagvad Gita. The wisdom of Krishna is used to advise the young generation on how to survive in the adverse times, the book “Electionomics” comes out as a Mythological Satire on the complex Election scenario in India. It’s a fusion of reality and fiction awarding wisdom and ease to the readers to deal with harsh life. The book has attracted accolades like the only book of its kind, an accompaniment of Bhagwad Geeta, Mythological Satire, the tale of elections from the eyes of Sanjay and ears of Dhritrashtra etc.
As law students, we are time and again told how theoretical knowledge of substantive law alone is not sufficient to be able to practise law. Having experience as a litigator, what are your views and your personal experience of this notion? And does an LLM affect the practice?
Like the are two sides of a coin, theory and practical are essential to understand and develop good law practice. One is incomplete without the other. Litigation practice has several components like client interaction, preparation of initial case notes, research, reading and understating of legal provisions, development of strategy, comprehending the probable attack or defense of opposite side, drafting of pleading, argument or briefing notes, senior’s briefing and arguments before the court. Few components of these are theoretical while most are based on practical experience. The more the experience, the better the lawyer. Further, understanding of the nuances of the litigation practice, judges’ attitudes and understandings, opposite counsel manners and wisdom, court craft can only be learnt through practical experiences at courts. And still a theorist can become very good research and drafting counsel.
LLM has the effect of increasing the domain knowledge of particular legal subject and its effectiveness would essentially depend on the area of practice, an individual may have, whether such special knowledge supplements the area of practice or the same is done for the sake of it. Elements of knowledge acquired, if directly proportional to area of practice, would surely benefit the individual. Even otherwise, some benefit may be reaped in terms of developing resources, clients and buzz.
How important is doing proper legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills. Not many people are familiar with the concept of “exhaustion of a search”. What are your views on it?
Proper or exhaustive research is an elementary tool of litigation practice but it is elementary for those only who desire to reap due benefits for their clients or the justice delivery. A big chunk of litigation practitioners are not well versed in research and many would not even know what is exhaustion of a search. The new breed of lawyers are more research friendly as moot propositions are elementarily research based and internships being the norm. So, those who are taking law studies and internships seriously, garner skill of research well in law colleges only. Law is best understood and propagated when it is exposed after being on anvil. Precedents therefore become the main source of legal understanding than the law itself. Many of the interpretations change with time and give way to new interpretations. Litigators, being officers of the court, are under ominous duty to provide proper information of precedents to the courts. Therefore, “exhaustion of search” becomes essential tool to lay down or gauge proper legal position or the subject knowledge. It assumes higher significance for judges of causes, as neglecting or applying incorrect precedents could not only amount to improper conduct but may also damage the proper cause of a litigant.
How much, according to you, is the impact of “exhaustion of research” in the fields of litigation and dispute resolution?
Clarity of legal position or the subject knowledge is as important as fuel for car. The process of exhaustion of research becomes crucial in relation to complicated or new subject-matters under adjudication before the courts of law. The primary impacts are better and timely justice delivery.
What advice would you like to give to young lawyers who are interested in this field and are looking forward to practise in this field?
Being in the nick of a thing is great, but being the master is super. The field of law is very wide in its embrace and requires knowledge of non-legal subjects too, therefore, garnering of knowledge in non-legal subjects works as a boon. To know the minds of Judges and understand application and interpretations of law, eating the tablet of three Supreme Court judgments daily keeps the domain knowledge racing and growing. Reading judgments without reading provisions of law is like eating half-baked food. Respect of peers, colleagues and seniors brings you closer to success. Give due time for cases preparation and do not rush or hush up. Work hard and workout (play a sport) harder. Keep control of life and yet respect the fact that life is beyond control. Honesty brings you satisfaction, courage brings smile and good communication makes you win a case.