Mr. Sanjay Vashishtha is a Partner at Vashishtha Law Office’s and a practising attorney at the Supreme Court of India. He pursued his B.A.,LLB (Hons) from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, followed with a LL.M in Comparative Law from McGill University Canada and a MSc in Criminology & Criminal Justice from the University of Oxford. Mr Vashishtha specialises in Criminal & Commercial Litigation and regularly appears before the Supreme Court of India, Courts of Higher Judicature, NCLT, NCLAT and trial courts to conduct sensitive pro bono and high profile trials.
1. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
My name is Sanjay Vashishtha and I am a practicing attorney before various Courts and Tribunals across India – including but not limited to Supreme Court, Courts of Higher Judicature, NCLAT, NCLT, Trials – commercial and criminal etc. I am a Partner at Vashishtha Law Office’s with its head office at South Delhi and a branch office at Mumbai. We also specialize in commercial law, arbitrations and criminal litigation including various special legislations like PMLA, POCSO, MPID etc.
I have had the privilege of representing several high profile entities and individuals including Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan Awardees and commercial claims / disputes amounting running into several thousand crores and more and have succesfully appeared for and defended clients in key matters including special and general penal laws. In terms of public institutions I have also represented/represents Delhi Police as a Consultant Legal, Consultant/Counsel to Rajiv Gandhi National Law University, Patiala, Standing Counsel for South Delhi Municipal Corporation, MCD, Special Counsel to National Law University, Delhi, Counsel for Delhi Development Authority etc. Saket Bar Association (body of 12000 lawyers). I had the privilege of serving as a consultant to Penal Law Reform Committee of India constituted by Ministry of Home Affairs to amend penal laws in India and presently serve as an expert member of a Committee constituted by the Government of India to study law relating to “right to repair in India” as a part of an amendment to the consumer law.. I am also a board member of Dr BR Ambedkar University, Delhi (on Criminology) other than an active academic blogger and author having extensively published at several notable blogs/journals including Oxford, York (Canada) etc. I am also a guest Faculty at several public and private institutions including law enforcement agencies like Delhi Police and a member of the governing council at the Indian Police Foundation.
2. What drew your curiosity to the field of law?
My curiosity in the field of law was fueled by my upbringing where some life events and experiences left me with a sense of being wronged coupled with some helplessness at that juncture. A TV series called Boston Legal paved way that fueled my proclivity in the profession and gave me my first insight into the litigation world – albeit through western lens. I had immigrated to Canada at a young age with my family and really loved watching this TV series. Gradually I could not conceive any other discipline other than medicine (family proclivity). Somehow by 12th grade I was sure that I was destined to be a lawyer and started to prepare for entrance exams accordingly on my return to India. There was a lot of encouragement from my father who happens to be a bureaucrat turned lawyer and a major source of encouragement during my initial years at Bar a decade ago.
3. Kindly tell us about your formative years pursuing your Bachelor’s degree. Please also tell us about your postgraduate experience at the coveted McGill University and University of Oxford.
Formative years while pursuing bachelors of law were crucial and allowed me to contemplate on the way forward in the profession. I attended my first moot Court competition while I was a student of 2nd semester or 1st year itself. Then the notion was that non-nlu’s are non starters which I had a reason to then believe owing to our limited logistics and resources. However that ignited my passion for litigation as I was determined to overcome this notion. With support from my professors, family and of course wonderful seniors, I never looked back and won competition after another, no matter how prestigious. I always made it a point to publish articles on contemporary topics and would urge all law students to undertake research work for peer reviewed journals. This goes a long way towards enhancing communication and drafting skills.
Anyhow, I somehow knew that litigation was my way ahead in life. But then I wanted to first pursue my higher studies before returning to active practice. McGill University in Canada had a unique LLM curriculum in Comparative Law taught by Justices of the Court of Appeal, Lawyers and Professors of law of course. I was allowed to handpick courses of my interest and design my own LL.M. McGill, Faculty of Law had a renowned reputation for its air and space law globally, hence I applied at Mcgill and was lucky to be accepted. It was a challenging task as McGill was a bilingual university (French & English) and the sudden change in academic environment was initially a little difficult, however the difficulties gradually subsided until I started to really enjoy my courses and subjects. Hon’ble Justice Patrick Healy, who at present is a Court of Appeal Judge was then a Trial Court Judge and my mentor who encouraged me to pursue my second masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Oxford. With this determination and encouragement I applied at Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford and was lucky to be accepted. It was a life changing experience – as I was exposed to a enriching multidisciplinary legal education. Although I had a glimpse of this at McGill, this was polished at the University of Oxford. With a cohort representative of the world, I couldn’t have imagined a better programme along with weekly guest seminars and other lectures. My 2nd masters programme encouraged me to return this valuable experience to my society, hence my return to India.
4. How was your time working in academia at various universities? Would you recommend litigating lawyers to venture into teaching?
I continue to be guest faculty at several public and private institutions, like NLU’s, Delhi Police Training Academy etc along with my active practice. I personally feel that every lawyer should have an academic heart and mind. Teaching always gives me an insight into critical thinking and of course prompts me to stay updated on individual provisions of law. I therefore encourage litigating lawyers to certainly venture and explore their academic interest – which could range from teaching to blogging and now more to vlogging!
5. What do you think is the importance of legal research and using the right tools? How can law students equip themselves to become good researchers?
Importance of Legal research and identifying right research tools are like food to a human body without which one cannot possibly excel in this profession. Elementary legal education and holistic understanding of concepts play an important role in one’s ability to undertake effective research – therefore its important that law school lectures are taken seriously. In my opinion, any research is to commence with a general research surrounding the question of law and by thereafter zooming into the issue with help of commentaries, online search portals etc along with case laws. Critical thinking – analytical skills are not acquired overnight but through constant learning.
6. How was your experience serving as the counsel for the MCD, DDA, SDMC and NLU Delhi, RGNUL Patiala?
The experience has been very enriching. I have represented these institutions in several diverse issues such as horizontal and vertical reservations, appointments, tenders etc in litigation of national importance. It is important that a counsel gets an opportunity to serve the government too so as to gain an insight into intricacies of our bureaucratic functioning. Each of these institutions are different and offer different and diverse experiences.I would say there is no better way to serve our nation!
7. Please enlighten us about your work with the Indian Police Institute, as well as, the Delhi Police Department?
The experience has been very insightful with these institutions too. With Delhi Police, I have worked closely on matters pertaining to crime branch (Delhi Riots) and general policing other than being a faculty at specialized training centre, Delhi Police for several years now. If one was to work with these institutions, the general perception about law enforcement would certainly change as I personally learned about the hardships faced IO’s and officers of the law enforcement agencies – who serve us selflessly 24 x 7. Indian Police Foundation & Institute while it collaborates with law enforcement agencies is a think tank that promotes Evidence based policing etc has taught me about different models of policing and its contribution in development of a better policing world is commendable under Mr N Ramachandran, IPS (Retd).
8. Having gained such varied professional experiences, what motivated you to accept the Partnership at Vashishtha Law Offices? What have your key takeaways from the experience been so far?
I chose to work with my ways – which are aligned to the reasons that prompted my return to India as highlighted before. Nothing else could have motivated me to build Vashishtha Law Office’s which has come a long way merely in 18 years of its existence. We are proud of our pro bono endeavors too and take lead in taking up pro bono matters.
9. Do you have any other advice for our readers?
Maintain a work-life balance!