Mr Amitabh Srivastava is a distinguished professional currently serving as the Deputy Manager (Legal) at Power Grid Corporation of India Limited, heading the Legal Department for the north-eastern region of Corporation, overseeing jurisdiction in the seven sister States. He has cultivated a profound legal expertise that spans various facets of the legal domain. Mr Srivastava’s academic journey commenced with his graduation from the esteemed Faculty of Law, University of Lucknow, where he was honoured with the prestigious Chancellor’s Gold Medal for his outstanding achievements. Building upon this strong academic foundation, he pursued his LLM in corporate law at the prestigious National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, further honing his legal acumen. With a profound background in corporate law, Mr Srivastava’s expertise now centers on the intricate domain of energy law, where he contributes his valuable insights and legal acumen to the Corporation. His commitment to the field and dedication to the Corporation make him an asset in the realm of legal affairs in the energy sector.
1. To start with, please tell us about your journey in the legal field, starting from a State University to rank 10 in CLAT PG, then securing admission in the most prestigious institution of law in country.
Though till 10+2 , I was a student of science stream, however, since inception, I had keen interest in law. Since I belong to Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh and in 2010, CLAT was just started, there was no coaching available for CLAT there. So, I appeared for CLAT UG Exam in 2010, but honestly speaking, I could not get through any of the top 5 National Law Universities (NLUs), so I took admission in Faculty of Law, University of Lucknow. Simultaneously, I got selected in BSc (Hons.) in Geology at Banaras Hindu University. Though I had made up my mind for pursuing law, but my parents, teachers and friends suggested me to pursue BSc from Banaras Hindu University since it was very reputed course of that time. So, I joined there and remained there for two weeks. However, I did not experience a sense of alignment with the subjects, and I found that my passion did not lie in this particular field. So, I left that course and joined Faculty of Law, University of Lucknow for pursuing LLB (Hons). Till 10+2, I was a Hindi medium student, but since we all know that scope in legal arena narrows if you are a Hindi medium student, I decided to adopt English medium, which was not that easy. I took it as a challenge, I got result in very 1st Semester only, as I topped in the university. Thereafter, I started enjoying studying law. At that time, most of the students, who were enrolled for law course, had a definite goal of clearing judiciary exam, and moot courts, internships, seminar, legal research, paper publications, MUN, etc. were not prevalent that much in Lucknow University. I was not an exception to that until I met Dr Ashish Srivastava Sir who joined the University as Assistant Professor of Law in 2011. He used to tell and explain us that legal field is not confined only to judicial services exam, it is much more than that and we should explore this ocean. Thereafter, I started taking part in moot courts, seminars, etc. Later along with other seniors, we started Lucknow University Moot Court Association (LUMA) for organising moot court competitions and other events at various levels. When I took part in various prestigious national and international moot court competitions, I used to interact with students from different law colleges, and students from top NLUs were always on higher side in terms of legal research, presentation and exposure. Therefore, when I was in final year of law, I decided to get my unfulfilled desire of studying in NLSIU, Bangalore and with hard work and blessings of my parents and teachers, I cleared CLAT PG exam and got admission in NLSIU Bangalore.
2. What inspired you to pursue a career in the legal profession and subsequently in the energy sector?
My father is working as Court Commissioner (Admin.) in District and Sessions Court, Faizabad. Since childhood, I used to hear the gossips and stories of court from my father and his friends, and thus, I developed interest in law. I used to love reading case studies particularly pertaining to criminal law and whenever I got time, I used to visit District Court with my father. That is how I decided to pursue my career in law. Like others, I got admission in LLB with the aim of clearling lower judiciary exam. However, as I started exploring the scope of legal filed, I realised that there is much more to it. After taking admission in LLM (Business Laws) at NLSIU, Bangalore, I decided to join corporate sector. I cleared UGC NET and Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) during my LLM and got opportunities for teaching in reputed law colleges of the country. However, I opted to join Ramco Systems, Chennai an MNC dealing in Enterprise rResource Planning (ERP) and Human Capital Management (HCM). Joining energy sector particularly was not my aim. However, I got interview call from Power Grid Corporation of India based on my CLAT PG ranking in September 2016 and got selected here.
3. As a legal professional in the energy sector, how do you balance the need for innovation and flexibility with the requirement for legal stability and contractual obligations?
Honestly speaking, balancing the need for innovation and flexibility with the requirement for legal stability and contractual obligations in the energy sector is a complex and challenging task. Sharing my strategy, firstly, I continuously monitor developments in the energy sector, including technological advancements, regulatory changes, and market trends. Secondly, I work closely with my colleagues in technical, engineering, and business departments in order to foster collaboration and ensure that legal considerations are integrated into the innovation process from the outset. For working effectively in a corporation, you need to understand its business first. You cannot run a legal department in isolation. Further, you should draft contractual clauses in such a way that allow for adaptation to changing circumstances.
4. In cases where disputes or legal challenges arise regarding right of way, what legal strategies have proven effective in resolving these issues while maintaining project progress?
Power Grid Corporation mainly deals with transmission of electricity throughout the country and is one of the biggest transmission utilities in the world. The main challenge in constructing transmission line is to clear right of way (RoW). RoW is not defined but it can be understood as the right of a transmission licensee to lay down the transmission line from the land not belonging to it. Though the landowners are compensated as per the norms of Government, they create hindrances very often. Construction of transmission lines are to be within the strict timelines, otherwise, a company has to face tariff disallowances and liquidated damages. In this complex scenario, as a legal professional I have to identify the risk and file caveats before various courts under whose jurisdiction the construction is taking place. Further, if any case of injunction is filed, we have to defend it in the most effective manner so that no interim injunction or stay is granted on the construction of transmission line. Sometimes, along with district administration, we conduct public meetings with affected landowners and make them understand the benefit of projects and government guidelines on compensation.
5. Energy projects often involve multiple stakeholders, from investors to regulators. How do you draft contracts that accurately reflect the expectations and responsibilities of all parties involved?
Energy projects do involve multiple stakeholders, but the legal relationship with all of them is not necessarily contractual in nature. For example, the relationship with public or regulator is not based upon any contract. Contractual relationship exists mainly with agencies/contractors to whom a portion of work is awarded through tender. Further, in tariff based competitive bidding (TBCB) projects, the relationship with owner of project and the Corporation is based upon the contract. Furthermore, a single contract does not govern the relationship with all the stakeholders. In transmission line projects, various contracts are entered with various type of vendors and service providers with peculiar terms of contract, keeping in view the work to be executed through that contract. However, in all these contracts, project scope, project timeline, dispute resolution, etc. are to be drafted in such a way that these are not inconsistent with the main transmission project. Furthermore, provisions for termination of contract, limitation of liability, insurance, IP protection, etc. are the clauses which require special care and attention while drafting them.
6. In situations where landowners resist compensation offers or dispute the valuation of their land, what alternative dispute mechanisms have proven effective in resolving these conflicts while minimising project delays?
Construction of transmission lines in India is mainly governed by the Electricity Act, 2003 and Telegraph Act, 1885. Section 164 of the Electricity Act authorises the appropriate Government to vest the transmission licensee with the powers of Telegraph Authority. As per Section 10(d) of the Telegraph Act, 1885, Telegraph Authority is required to pay full damages to a landowner for the damage occurred during the construction of transmission line. It is pertinent to mention here that the Land Acquisition Act is not applicable in the case of transmission lines, and compensation is awarded as per the Electricity and Telegraph Act only. Since the new land acquisition legislation provides handsome compensation amount, landowners often demand compensation on a par with it. Though Ministry of Power, Government of India has framed guidelines for additional compensation through a notification dated 15-10-20151, yet, landowners hardly satisfy with this additional compensation.
A private transmission company can resort to alternate dispute mechanism in such cases by entering into settlement, etc., but Power Grid Corporation comes within the ambit of Article 12 of the Indian Constitution, and thus, cannot discriminate in awarding compensation to landowners. Therefore, when any landowner is not satisfied with the awarded compensation, defence of Section 16(3) of the Telegraph Act, 1885 is taken, which grants the right to unsatisfied landowners to file an application for enhancement of compensation before District Judge. Furthermore, the Supreme Court in Power Grid Corpn. of India Ltd. v. Century Textile and Industries Ltd.2 and various High Courts have observed that India is an energy deficit country, and therefore, work for construction of transmission line cannot be stopped for want of compensation as these transmission lines are constructed for the benefit of public at large and are of national importance.
7. With your experience in the energy industry, what advice would you give to law students or legal professionals who are interested in specialising in energy and regulatory law?
With my experience, I would like to suggest that first of all, it is very booming and demanding sector nowadays. Many new regulations are coming with innovation and technological advancement in this field. But before entering into it, one must have basic understanding of technical terms and business, because facts are not as easy to understand as in criminal law. It requires a lot of reading capacity as the contracts run into thousand pages, understanding scientific terminology and business. Credit courses and diploma programmes are available in various law colleges pertaining to energy sector and one who is interested in making career in the same may opt it. Further, any law student who is willing to join the energy sector may design his internships accordingly in MNCs, public sector undertakings and law firms dealing in the energy sector.
1. Government of India, Ministry of Power, Guidelines for Payment of Compensation towards Damages in Regard to Right of Way for Transmission Lines, Notification No. 3/7/2015-Trans dated 15-10-2015 <https://powermin.gov.in/sites/default/files/uploads/RoW_Guidelines_15102015.pdf>