Interviews

Apurwa and Vidhatri are currently in the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai and are undergoing training as Lady Cadets. Apurwa has graduated from UPES, Dehradun (2018), did her LLM in Human Rights from Symbiosis Law School, Pune and a postgraduation diploma in Child Rights Law from NLSIU, Bangalore and is also a tri-forces recommended candidate. Vidhatri has graduated from Army Institute of Law, Mohali (2020) and was working with Ernst & Young (EY) until she cracked the SSB.

“Its important to be mentally strong enough to learn that you cannot waste time when your next opportunity is waiting for you.”

“When it comes to mental strain, if you are confident with who you are as a person, it becomes a lot easier.”

They have been interviewed by Bhavna Harsha, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from Army Law School, Mohali.

  1. Do you think instances/situations from everyday life prepare you for an SSB?

    Apurwa: Absolutely. SSS is not an examination, rather it is a personality test. There are 15 officer like qualities (OLQs) they are looking for and those they are very basic qualities. I think basic experiences in life, for example if you have to organise, if you have to take an initiative or if you are in a situation in which you have to react immediately. All these kinds of experiences do prepare you for an SSB. A very logical and thoughtful response is needed.

    Vidharti: As everyone would know and agree, SSB is nothing but a test of your personality and whether it fits the requirements of the armed forces. Our experiences from everyday life, our reactions to situations, our reflexes, stimulus we get in forms of situations/difficulties in life and everyday experiences are what shape us and our personality. We as individuals are nothing but a result of our experiences and hence everyday situations definitely help us prepare for an SSB. Hence, always striving to do the right thing in real life will showcase your good personality there.

  2. How does one identify the areas they need to work on while preparing for an SSB?

    Apurwa: First, you have to be well versed with the procedure. You need to understand what kind of tests are conducted and then accordingly you need to see what qualities you need. The next step is to identify the qualities you have and do not have and work on the latter. If you think physical training is something you need to work on, you can start right there. A lot of questions are asked from current affairs. One should also most definitely do a SWOT analysis, it is extremely helpful in guiding you as an SSB involves a lot of introspection. You will be tested on how you react so you will be putting yourself in your stories and will have to express that in a crisp, logical manner and you can do this only once you have understood it.

    Vidhatri: Introspection is something that is imperative to the SSB preparation. You cannot be a good officer if you are not even aware of your own flaws. Introspection leads to identification of weaknesses and also areas where there is scope of improvement. Knowing that let us say one is a procrastinator will eventually help the person strive to change that and will ultimately lead to a better and disciplined personality. Hence sitting down with a cool mind, analysing yourself through a critical eye but at the same time not being negative is what will help.

  3. When did you know JAG is the area you wanted to pursue?

    Apurwa: I am a person who usually plans ahead and I have always wanted to do law. I did not know how to spell lawyer but I knew I wanted to be one because I had seen my father go off to work as an advocate. He was always so well versed, confident and knowledgeable. I love law because it is so vast, it is unending. I did a postgraduation diploma in child rights law. I also knew I wanted to work for the community, my community of India so I focused on that. I learnt that there is nothing better than being attached to the armed forces and the JAG branch was the perfect combination of the two.

    Vidhatri: Well, I am from a completely civilian background. I always wanted to read law, thought of it to be empowering although I was not too sure about my career prospects. It was only after I took admission in the Army Institute of Law that I came to know about the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch of the Indian Army. I got exposure into how elite the armed forces is as an organisation and credit would go to my alma mater. By the third year of college, knowing that there exists a career option where I will get to exercise my legal acumen as well as adapt a disciplined and adventurous lifestyle, I knew I wanted to pursue it.

  4. What are the 3 must do’s in the everyday life of a candidate preparing for an SSB?

    Apurwa:

    1. Discipline: If you want to join the armed forces discipline is a must. You need to have a routine, a schedule and the discipline to follow it properly. It has to be a well-rounded timetable which gives a holistic growth.
    2. Initiative: Taking initiatives in situations is important and that comes from a daily practice.
    3. Physical fitness: It is absolutely imperative that you keep up with your physical fitness.

    Vidhatri:

    1. General awareness: Reading the paper, analysing events around the globe especially India and the defence forces. 50% of the SSB will revolve around this
    2. Physical fitness: This goes without saying, basic fitness levels are a must. An everyday workout routine helps. The other 30% can be easily tackled with a fit body.
    3. Stable mental health: Mediating or even self-talk. Basically, engaging your mind to work towards your goals and having a positive outlook and having confidence in yourself and your preparation helps you work towards the rest 20%.

  5. Give us a general view of what you would be doing as a JAG officer.

    Apurwa: I am also looking forward to it so the basic knowledge that I have is that all the legal administrative work is handled by us. We will be advising and assisting on General Court Martial and JAG officers are present here. JAG branch handles the day-to-day activities centred around law.

    Vidhatri: JAG officers are basically aware all things law for the army. Assisting with court martials and advisory responsibilities are a major part of job. While a CO convening the court martial may not know the legal procedure and we, as lawyers, know the rule of law and how legal procedures work so we assist in the smooth convening of the court martials and the written drafts.

  6. Exactly how much legal knowledge is needed for a JAG SSB?

    Apurwa: Your legal knowledge is tested only in your interview. So it really depends, you might not even be asked a lot of legal questions. However, you must have basic knowledge of the Constitution, IPC, CPC, Evidence Act. Irrespective of you being a fresher or a repeater, you must know about the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) and what matters it handles, etc. You will be given examples to analyse and answer from a legal perspective. It helps to be updated on recent Supreme Court judgments and a decent analysis of the same.

    Vidhatri: It is only during the interview that we get to interact one on one with the testing officer. Your knowledge of everything, be it law or otherwise is directly tested here. For JAG and as per my experience, 50% of my interview has revolved around my legal knowledge and experience. A lot also depends on what your PIQ (personal information questionnaire, filled by all candidates screened in) contains, most of the questions that you are asked in the interview are directly related to what and how you have answered questions in the PIQ. Of course, you are expected to know more than a layman especially about subjects you have read throughout your law degree, questions that are situation based and analytical are also asked. Now that there is also a CLAT entrance requirement for future entrants, it goes on to show how important legal knowledge really is for a JAG officer.

  7. The physical and mental strain during the five-day SSB is considered extreme. How does one work on their mental and physical fitness?

    Apurwa: You need to have a basic physical routine in place to be able to handle the physical tests. Make sure you run every day, work on your arm strength and focus on the parts of your body which need work. When it comes to mental strain, if you are confident with who you are as a person, it becomes a lot easier. If you are disciplined, organised, well versed with your knowledge and current affairs then you are equally prepared to take on those tests and it is all about confidence. It is difficult to process the merit out but you have to stay optimistic and hard work always pays off.

    Vidhatri: To be honest, I do not think it is that much of a stress. For me, SSBs have been a very enriching experience. With respect to the physical strain, if you are physically active and have a good body clock, you would not feel any. Hence like I said earlier you need to have an active workout schedule if not anything, running a few km everyday will help. As far as the mental stress is concerned, you should never overburden yourself with studying and overanalysing things. As this is a test of personality your concentration should be on being your best self, being generally aware, positive and confident. Make friends, have a good time and take SSB as an experience and not a tough examination albeit having your ultimate goal in mind is necessary.

  8. Do you think people are not aware about the JAG branch as they should be? How can this be changed?

    Apurwa: People are not as aware of the JAG branch as they would be about the combat roles but I do think times have changed. It is very important that colleges take the initiative to make the students known about the various career options by the 1st or 2nd year. A basic orientation can be given on what the JAG branch is and students can start making career plans accordingly. There are plenty articles available now too so you are just one click away from learning about it.

    Vidhatri: This statement would have been true, maybe a few years back but now I think there is a lot of awareness with respect to this entry in the legal field. A proof of the same is the number of people we see for our screening at the SSB. There are at least 200 women reporting on a given day with about 3-4 date slots for a JAG SSB. The primary reason for not everybody being aware of the same is just the limited number of vacancies. Having just about 2-3 vacancies for women and 5-6 for men often also discourages people for taking this examination. I could have suggested the increase in the vacancies but it is important to understand that it is a specialised field and vacancies can only be subject to the requirement.

  9. How did you bounce back after your previous SSBs and get yourself to prepare for the upcoming ones?

    Apurwa: I think I knew when I was not about to make it in the merit so most times I would have just gotten that news and I would also have just a few days to prepare for my next one. It is heart breaking to be screened out or conferenced out but I think life is just like that and you have to stay positive. It is important to be mentally strong enough to learn that you cannot waste time when your next opportunity is waiting for you. You should know how to detach from what has happened and focus on what is next. Meditation is also something that helped me through the whole process.

    Vidhatri: I got recommended at my first attempt but unfortunately (or fortunately) I was Rank 8 while there were only 3 vacancies. When I got recommended as a fresher, I had a lot of previously recommended women with me and it was new for me to know the concept of merit. I did understand slowly and eventually took up a job so when the merit actually came, though I was disheartened, I did have something in my hand. I was drained of confidence and was screened out in my second attempt. However, I was absolutely prepared for my third attempt because I knew lack of self-confidence is the last thing I wanted and I knew that I just did not have to perform better than others and get recommended but perform my best and be in the top two ranks. Preparation for my upcoming SSBs involved me not sitting idle and regretting anything and so taking up a job helped a lot. The busy work schedules did make it difficult to manage the SSB sometimes but support from family helped.

  10. Considering the vacancies for women candidates is so limited, is there any advice for all the women preparing for JAG?

    Apurwa: Yes, it is less but then nothing is impossible. And if you set your heart on it and you work hard, there is nothing which you cannot get.

    Vidhatri: I would suggest that give your all for your first attempt but never have blind expectations, in case you want to go for a coaching or not take up a job during this time you can do that but in case of a failure do not sit back. Never lose faith after a failed attempt, always look back and think of why you wanted this and the limited vacancies and difficulty should make you want to do it even more.

Interviews

   

Dr Vijay Kumar Singh is presently the Dean at UPES School of Law. He is a lawyer by training with LLM in business laws (gold medalist). He is a certified trainer on “managing disputes and difficult conversations on the board” by Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), as a Course Director, he has conducted training in commercial mediation and negotiation, IBC, NCLT, etc. for senior professionals. He has participated, organised and presented papers in a number of national and international seminars/conferences/workshops. He had been a faculty at Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU) Raipur and has worked with the competition regulator (CCI) for 5 years. 

He has been interviewed by Aditi Sharma, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from UPES, Dehradun.

  1. To begin with, for the interest of our readers would you be kind enough to tell us something about yourself, your journey in the profession and your early years?

It is always a humbling experience when you are asked to introduce yourself or speak about your achievements. However, for the new readers I am a student of law currently discharging the responsibility of Professor and Dean at School of Law, UPES Dehradun.  My journey as a professional has seen many twists and turns and on each of these turns I learnt a lot which makes me what I am.  I had a humble background which necessitated me to work and support myself.  Being eldest in the family, I had many responsibilities as well.  At the hindsight, I think these made me a self-made person.  I had worked as a law clerk, a medical transcriptionist, and many would not know that I have even worked in a security company of my uncle in Nagpur.  I got my permanent teaching break with HNLU Raipur and a lot of honing of my professional skills happened with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) in Delhi-NCR, before I joined UPES.

  1. What motivated you towards the field of legal education? Do you recall any specific episode of your life that made you choose law as a career?

During my college days of LLB 3 years course at Dr. Ambedkar College, Deekshabhoomi, I discovered that I enjoy teaching while I was making my first presentation to an audience at a national seminar on child rights.  For this seminar, I recollect interviewing the children at the streets and their conditions in Nagpur.  Later this thought got further strengthened with my PG at PG Department wherein I discharged the role of contributory lecturer along with my responsibility as a law clerk.  I had a brief stint of professional practice in Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court and tribunals, but ultimately it was legal education which took over.  I had the privilege of teaching information technology law at a very young age to the judicial officers at JOTI as well as to a batch of air warriors immediately after my LLM. I would only say my professors and mentors have been very kind to provide me with best of the opportunities.  I was a BSc student and after my BSc I did medical transcription for a year to support myself.  While doing my job, I enrolled in the LLB course and after attending few classes of torts and Constitution, I made up my mind that I belong to law.

  1. You are a lawyer by training and a doctorate in law with gold medals in LLM and LLB examinations. Could you please enlighten our readers about your college life experience and how law schools have evolved over time compared to what it was 20 years back then?

I studied law through the traditional 3-year LLB format from Dr. Ambedkar College, Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur.  We were the privileged ones to get legal education under the precincts of Deekshabhoomi wherein Dr Ambedkar got his “diksha”.  Some of the teachers like Dr Hema Menon, Dr Varsha Deshpande, Dr Thrity Patel and Dr Gopal Sharma (late) seeded inside me a thought to excel in the legal field and in particular legal education.  There is a difference between the cohort you have in 3-year LLB and 5-year LLB.  In 3-year course, you generally have experienced people doing law.  Along with me there were many of my colleagues who were working professionals.  This provided a different approach to learning law.  In the present day context, the students decide doing law after 12th itself, which is in a way good, as they save one year which they can devote to PG (LLM) if they want to continue.  Standalone law schools with a specialised focus on law have definitely changed the way legal education used to be looked at.  It is no more a part-time education, it has evolved over the years as a separate stream in its own right.  Now Bar Council has come up with India International University of Legal Education and Research (IIULER) which is further raising the bar of legal education in India.  It is now going international.  Facility wise, I envy the young students and wish I could travel back in time to do law once again.

  1. Research paper publications are an integral part of a law student’s career but in the early stages, students often tend to indulge in other co-curricular activities. How important is it for a law student to realise the value of publications as you yourself have published and presented papers in several recognised journals/seminars/conferences/workshops, etc.?

We call it KSA framework i.e. knowledge, skills and attitude.  A law student shall not only earn the knowledge of legal subjects but acquire skills and attitude of a legal professional.  A law professional is a lifetime researcher, research skills shall flow like blood in the blood vessels of a law student.  Developing research temperament shall begin early in the career, it is like developing a habit to read, research and write.  The more you do, the more you enjoy and more skilful you become.  Nowadays law schools mandate project writing and research by students, this is towards the objective of building research culture.  Presenting papers at the conferences and seminar helps not only showcase your researching and oratory skills, but also to network, which is again very important.  I never missed an opportunity to attend conferences/seminars during my college days.  Though initial objective was to visit different places and meet different people, I realised over time how helpful it was in my career.  I became an associate member of Indian Society of International Law very early.  Many conferences sponsor students, I got one to present my paper at IIT Kanpur.  First time I travelled in AC 2 tier sponsored by the organisers for presenting my paper.  If you are interested in higher studies having good publications is an important key to success.  In short, I would say publishing in the life of a law student is a must, either it may be a journal, blog post, book chapter or even twitter posts.  Publish for staying relevant in the profession.  I also feel that any publication project forces you to update yourself, read new things and critically think, which keeps your mental faculty alive and going.  You may like to read more about my publications at <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=1113018>.

  1. Please tell us about your book titled Corporate Power to Corporate Crimes: Understanding Corporate Criminal Liability in India which is an enhancement of your PhD thesis and your journey to this accomplishment.

My book on corporate crimes is an updated version of my PhD thesis.  I had always in mind that your publications shall not be kept in a closet rather shall be made available to the interested readers at large.  Foreword to my book was written by Justice Sirpurkar and was launched at NLU Delhi with the blessings of Prof. Ranbir Singh and Prof. Srikrishna Dev Rao.  This book is a comprehensive literature on corporate criminal liability in Indian context and contains copious references for scholars who want to do further studies.  My work in this area allowed me to further advise on corporate frauds, ponzi schemes and securities fraud, which goes on unabated.  Update of the book is due which I intent to take up as my next project.  You can find more about the book at <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2973719>.

  1. With a humongous increase in the number of applicants for law entrance exams in India, the practice of law has become very competitive, and the competition for jobs has intensified in recent years, what advice would you like to give to the law enthusiasts who find it difficult to cope with such competition.

Law as a career options has indeed seen an increase over the last few years, especially given the multifarious opportunities a law graduate has, students are now opting it over plain engineering or plain graduation.  Though the competition is stiff for getting into the few top law schools, students ultimately are able to get admission in private institutions of repute, some of which are better than the last rung law schools which are yet to come up with their own infrastructure or have good permanent faculty.  However, competition is in every field, this is due to the population of youth we have.  While young population provides us with a demographic dividend, on other hand an unskilled and unguided dividend becomes a cost later.  My suggestion for the youngsters is that they shall not limit themselves in acquiring skills and attitude.  Standing out in competition is important and this can be done by thinking innovatively.  Youngsters should think about entrepreneurship as an option, where they become “job givers than job seekers”.  Serving rural India could be an option.  We still do not have good law professionals in hinterland.  There are plenty of opportunities, it is about crafting your own journey towards one of them.  Plan early and execute the action plan.

  1. What recommendations and guidance would you like to give to students who wish to make a career the same as yours i.e. academia and what do you think are the factors which should be taken into account before pursuing postgraduation (LLM)?

It is heartening to know that many youngsters are attracted to legal education as their career.  Life of an educator is a service and the job is that of a passion, if the mindset is to earn money, it is not the right profession.  Anyone interested in academia shall have a temperament of patience and empathy.  Continuous passion of learning and teaching and research is a must.  My suggestion would be to spend some time in industry/practice before one does their postgraduation.  Nowadays legal academicians are expected to know practical dimension of theory they teach.  Working with a law and policy firm could be a great asset.

  1. What is the significance of doing proper legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills? Also, what is your view on the concept of “exhaustion of a search” as many people are not aware of it?

I think I have already elaborated upon the importance of research in legal profession and especially for legal educators.  As regards status of legal research in India, I find still a lot has not changed and legal research takes a backseat, especially when you compare them with scientific and social science research.  Legal research as a domain has not progressed well.  The concept of “exhaustion of a search” is very important, as until you complete your review of literature you cannot find something new.  In my role as a PhD supervisor and during my guidance on projects, seminars and dissertations, I observe, the students often take the shortcut and do not consult the original literature.  Often, they do not read the original judgment, rather rely on the headnotes.  Headline research may not be the right approach to research.  In-depth understanding of literature already available is important to lay down a new theory or perspective.  It is also important to save oneself from falling into the traps of plagiarism.

  1. What is the most challenging part of your job as an academician and how do you overcome it?

Challenges make your work exciting and interesting.  As an academician there are few challenges than an administrator.  In fact I would say there are no challenges for a true academician, every challenge is a learning opportunity and also an opportunity to contribute something to the existing body of knowledge and academic practice.  In terms of students and scholars as well as introduction of technology has changed the role of an academician.  It is no more about providing information, rather it is about engaging in critical analysis and evolving tools to deal with the technological challenges posed by the information burst.

  1. Any advice you would like to give to the readers of the SCC blog? Or is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

SCC blog is a reputed blog in the area of tracking legal developments and also providing a platform for its readers to engage and network with professionals. As it tagline goes “bringing you the best analytical legal news”, readers of SCC blog shall enjoy the benefits of this platform by contributing and commenting on the threads and engage in a discussion with the author.  Also readers are encouraged to contribute to the platform as sustainability of a blog depends upon good content, analysis and engagement by its readers.  My best wishes to SCC blog for continued success.

Interviews

A science student turned advocate, Mr. Sanjay Bhasin is a designated Senior Advocate at the Allahabad High Court. Apart from having a 36 year long standing before the Court, he is a leading Arbitration Counsel in India.

He has been interviewed by Ayush Shukla, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from TNNLU.

 

1. What motivated you to pursue law as a discipline and a career. Was it an obvious choice for you, given that your father was an advocate?

No, it was not my obvious choice at all. I was a science student throughout and was interested in the same, but because I did not do well in my MSc, my father said I had no other option but to go for law. But while pursuing my law, I developed a great liking for it. So yes, it was not my first choice and was only my second-best choice, I did not want to get into the hassles of law, but somehow, I got involved in it.

Based on my interest in Science, I wanted to be a scientist or a lecturer. Still, destiny brought me here, and I have relished this period spanning from 1986-1987 that I have spent in the field of law.

2. Could you tell our readers about your experience in law school and what lessons you have learned in your law school that have been an integral part of your journey as a practitioner?

I was not that serious during my law school. I did my law at DAV College, where we only had two morning classes. So, I spent the rest of my day in labour courts, as I used to be a chauffeur to my father, who used to practise in the labour courts. So, throughout the day, I watched the proceedings before various authorities of the Labour Court. If one does this religiously, one will start picking up things from there itself.

But here, I always remembered my father’s lessons during those days, which have been with me throughout my life. He told me to maintain the profession’s integrity, always be honest and dedicated to the judicial system, and create your image through your hard work. He used to tell me that if you are hardworking, you will succeed. Whether or not you are going to succeed in that particular case or not, will depend on the merits of the case, but in any case, you should not be found in a situation where you did not do enough labour, or you did not present it well enough.

My teachers also taught the same lessons. They said that lawyers are otherwise taken to be liars, but they are not so, as whatever they say or present is based on the strength of the affidavits and documents exchanged between the parties, and based on those, only a lawyer takes its stand. So, integrity and honesty are the things that have been imbibed in me by my father and teachers, and I have been following that very religiously.

One more thing that I would like to advise all the students that my father used to tell me is to work on your oratory skills. One needs to practise oration. That practice of oration could only be for a short duration, like 5 minutes or 10 minutes a day. Like just read a newspaper aloud, as that will provide thrust to your voice, it will give clarity to what you speak, it will improve your pronunciation, and it will change your overall personality. So, everybody, who wants to be a practicing lawyer, should practice this.

Here I also remember the advice given to me by my senior, Justice Bhalla, who, as and when I joined him, was an Additional Chief Standing Counsel, and later on, he went on to become a Judge. He taught me that I should read one judgment a day and make notes of the same. So, I had a diary, where I used to note all the important points of the judgment, and I used to observe how those points have been dealt with in the judgment.

3. During your initial days in the field, how did you do research on a case? Today we have research tools like SCC Online, which has to an extent, made our job more manageable. And what can our generation learn from your initial days’ experience of researching, which we can inculcate in today’s time?

In the absence of present time research tools, we were solely dependent upon the digests and the commentaries. We had those yearly digests of Supreme Court, labour and industrial court cases, factory law journals, etc. Those digests and commentaries were prepared so that you could reach the particular case law you are looking for by referring to the index itself.

Personally, I think that the manual thing was quite beneficial because it gave us insights into the complete aspect of the section we were researching. Moreover, when going through these commentaries, you will find judgments from both sides, so you can always read the other view. Once you do that, you get an obvious idea of the provision because you must have read judgments from both sides. At present, I agree we can reach the judgment faster, but that much off reading is missing among the youngsters. As by that additional reading, we used to learn ten more things besides what you were searching for, which perhaps is now missing. So, I feel this is what the upcoming generation can inculcate in themselves.

4. You have had an illustrious career in the field of arbitration, so according to you, what are the reforms or changes that should be introduced in the current regime of arbitration in India to make it a more viable option for the resolution of disputes by parties in India?

A4. Coming to arbitration, you see, I started with labour courts, then ventured to service matters. I was appointed in the Service Tribunal for a brief moment and then appointed as Standing Counsel in High Court, where I served the State for 20 years with different Governments. The first arbitration case that came to me was somewhere in 2003, so for the last 20 years, I have been dealing with arbitration, contracts, and other matters.

What I have found in arbitration is that the arbitrator has been given unfettered powers, and there are very limited grounds, as have been enumerated in Section 34, based on which the arbitrator’s award can be challenged. The award cannot be challenged on merits, so the arbitrator’s words are final on merits. I find this one thing very arbitrary, as this gives unfettered powers to the arbitrator because if he gives an award in his prudence, it is to be accepted as it is unless there are any legal flaws in it or it is not in conflict with the public policy then it is binding upon the parties. So, he can go overboard; he can do anything without any framework to stop him. I agree there is this entire legislation, but despite that, he has so much power in him without any checks and balances. This, I feel, needs a little consideration and deliberation. Personally, I think there should be some sort of an appellate authority, like, for instance, NCLT where we have an appellate authority, NCLAT, so whatever happens in NCLT, there is a provision for appeal in NCLAT. Here, in the arbitration act, there is no such forum available. Of course, the act states that you can seek setting aside of the award under Section 34, but that is based on some limited grounds only.

Moreover, invariably every award is challenged. Like in almost 90% of the cases, the award is challenged. So, we are having litigation, and the idea behind arbitration was to reduce litigation, but we are actually added to the litigation because the case goes before the District Court in the first place, then it comes to the High Court, and at times people even come to the court in between the proceedings. Very recently, there was a challenge to the arbitrator’s order, invoking Article 227 of the Constitution of India, which is related to the power of superintendence, and the inherent power of the court, which we are still dealing with this matter, and the judgment has been reserved. So, there should be an appellate forum provided by the act, which is the one thing I would like to suggest.

The second thing that I would like to suggest is that the parties should be given some sort of right to seek a change of arbitrator. You see, an arbitrator is somebody who is supposed to be Caesar’s wife, beyond all doubts; here, I am not questioning the integrity of the arbitrator, but due to the unfettered power given to them by the act, there can be an angle of bias in the proceedings. Although an arbitrator is supposed to make disclosures, like he is not related to any of the parties in any way, but suppose one of the parties thinks that the arbitrator, who throughout the proceedings will be the same person, is biased or has developed a bias towards particular party during the proceedings. Then the award passed by him could be maligned by his prejudices, which he may have developed during the course of proceedings itself. So, for this, there should be some cure. That cure can be given in the form of some sort of rights to the parties for seeking a change of the arbitrator or institutionalising the whole thing. Once it gets institutionalised, the case does not go to the same person with whom the party could have some grounds (not in all cases). In this way, the parties will not feel that they have been deprived of justice. So, that is the little grey area, where the party, even during the proceedings, may feel that they will not receive justice from the arbitrator, and besides that, they are forced to continue. So, these are the two areas where I feel some work needs to be done on the legislative side.

5. Recently Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana inaugurated the International Mediation and Arbitration Centre in Hyderabad, so could you tell our readers about the need for institutional arbitration, as inaugurated in Hyderabad, and how is institutional arbitration different from ad hoc arbitration?

So, you talked about mediation and arbitration centres. We also have it here in the High Court. Here, court-annexed mediations are referred to the centre. We also have arbitration chambers, but they are meant only to hold the arbitration proceedings. When I say institutionalisation, it actually means something like an arbitral court, where we have a number of arbitrators. When the matter is referred to the institution, it provides an arbitrator, and those arbitration proceedings are also held there.

Moreover, these institutions on the administrative side work upon and ensure that arbitration is carried out free from any biases and prejudices. In such an institution, there ought to be a facility for transferring arbitration matters conducted by one arbitrator to another arbitrator within the same institution. Here, the institution itself can be taken as an arbitral forum. The institution itself provides the arbitrator, who will not be static for one arbitration, facilitating the same arbitration matter before different arbitrators based on modus operandi, rules, and regulations.

6. The extravagant cost involved in arbitration proceedings has often been criticised, so what are your views on this issue, and what can be some possible solutions?

Yes, the cost involved in the disputes is stupendous. What is there in Schedule 4 was only indicative. Until Schedule 4 was inserted, the arbitrator was free to decide its fee. But now, once this schedule has been introduced, everyone has to stick with it. When we talk about Schedule 4, I am yet to understand its impact, as the schedule gives slabs of fees depending upon the sum of the dispute, and just below the schedule, you will find that 25% extra has to be paid in case there is only one arbitrator. Now, what does this mean, is the fees as have been specified in the schedule related to the cost of the whole arbitral panel, or is it the cost of one arbitrator. Based on the intent behind this provision, it actually means that if there is a panel of three arbitrators, then only the slab amount is to be given to the whole panel, which perhaps has to be divided among the three arbitrators. Otherwise, the type of fees given to an arbitrator, let’s suppose ten crores, if is to be given to an individual arbitrator, then it is a huge amount. Therefore, I do not find these figures irrational, as when High Court under Section 11 states that the fees have to be decided in accordance with the schedule, then it is also binding on the parties to follow it, and as far as the negotiation with the arbitrator on fees is concerned, that thing is not possible.

A possible solution to this can be that there should be some declaration that the fee prescribed in the schedule should be for the whole panel of three arbitrators. And in case there is only one arbitrator, then his fees should be one-third of what is prescribed in the schedule plus 25% of that amount.

7. What will be your advice to law students and practitioners looking forward to a career in arbitration?

A7. There is a lot of scope in arbitration. The law students and practitioners looking forward to a career in arbitration should be thorough with the Contract Act and the Arbitration Act. Nowadays, the Government has made it mandatory that every government contract invariably has to have an arbitration clause, so with this, the Government is trying to lighten the burden of the courts. Still, the Government has not been successful, which is one thing. There is another thing which I would like to say regarding the lawyers. Being a lawyer is a job; he has to handle the court, handle the clients, and handle the people around him to increase his clientele. It is a very engaging profession. The lawyer will find significantly less time for his family or any miscellaneous job. Moreover, for a young lawyer to get arbitration matters is in itself a job. So, I would suggest that young lawyers should first establish themselves in the eyes of their seniors so that their senior has confidence in them and give out cases of arbitration and others to young lawyers. Once this confidence is developed, they have to prove their worth by their dint of labour. Otherwise, what I perceive is that getting arbitration matters for a young lawyer is not an easy job.

8. We all know that you have been in the legal industry for over three decades, so what, according to you, are the skill sets that are essential for this profession, and how can a law student utilise their time in the law school to develop these skills?

I have talked about certain skills like oration practice and reading one judgment a day, which are some skill sets that one should develop. One more thing I may have missed out on, and it will cover up, is that you need to carry a smile throughout. You see, half of your job is done with politeness and smile; if you are polite in your submissions, if you are submissive in your arguments, half of your job is done. When I entered this profession, I was told by my teachers, my guru, my father, and others that you should learn three words, “Ji Sir; Yes Sir; Ha Sir”, nothing beyond this. Whenever a Judge says something, it must be any of these three things. One should never say “na” or no to anything; start with a “Yes My Lords” even if you do not agree with what the Judge said, or he may even be wrong in his proposition, then also you must start from Yes Sir or Yes My Lords and then put across your point, this is essential for a youngster. So never start with a no, always be submissive, and then very sweetly and softly take the Judge along with you with whatever you wish to say, because if you start with a no, then it is human psychology that he would become resistant to you, he may not be receptive to what you would be saying, but once you say yes, then he may be receptive to what you may be having to speak. Another thing will be never frown or show your anger in the court, even if you are. Never fight with your colleague on the other side of the dice. Always show respect to him and the court; the world would be yours. So, this is one mantra that I learned during the initial days of my practice.

9. Any final piece of advice for our readers.

Hard work and labour with every brief that comes. Here, I would like to share one thing. When I started practicing in the High Court, there was a perception among the people that I was an expert in the Labour Laws. But to be upfront and honest, I will say I learned Labour Laws in just three months, and those three months were on my first case, which I asked for from my father. Once he permitted me, I went through the entire pleadings, prepared my notes, and started working on the legal aspects of it. Once I started working on it, I was neck deep in Industrial Disputes Act. Once you start reading the case laws related to it, you get ten more case laws referred to in that particular case that you read, and so on. In this way, I had a great command of that topic. During those days, my schedule was such that I used to return at 7.00 p.m. from the courts, and then I used to do this work till around 2.00 to 2.30 a.m., that too when I was scolded by my mother to leave the work and go to sleep. But for doing that extra work, I never forced myself. I enjoyed the process throughout. As once you start enjoying it, you begin to imbibe it, appreciate it, and understand it. Once you do that, you will become a master of that particular thing. So, my final word would be that you can never achieve success without hard work.

Interviews

Chaitanya Shah is a final year law student at Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai and a future trainee solicitor at Clifford Chance LLP. He has a keen interest in commercial law and global financial markets. He is also passionate about mooting and has received a Hon’ble mention for the Neil Kaplan Award for Best Individual Oralist at the 18th Vis East International Commercial Arbitration Moot, 2020-2021, where his team was adjudged quarter-finalist. Apart from this, Chaitanya loves reading, playing cricket and following his favourite sports.

He has been interviewed by Shruti Dhonde, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from MNLU, Mumbai.

1.     I would like to begin by asking what it is that drove you towards applying for a training contract rather than a vacation scheme ?

It is true that the vacation scheme route is the more popular route, however, I realised that many firms were a little hesitant when entertaining international students for their vacation schemes as they have to undertake a lot of pain in sponsoring visas, etc. While attending one of the law fairs, I came across Clifford Chance and learned about a recent decision they took to discontinue their vacation schemes in order to attract a larger, more diverse and international pool of applicants. The ethos of the decision and the firm’s commitment towards being international and diverse really stuck with me and was a major quality that I was attracted to. Apart from this, the kind of cutting-edge work and clients that Clifford Chance works with really drew me towards the firm, it is probably why Clifford Chance was the only firm I applied to.

 

2.     Could you briefly describe the application process and your experience?

Firstly, the application process and contents of the form differ for every firm and there is a lot of information available either on the firm websites, or third-party organisations such as “The Corporate Law Academy” and “The Student Lawyer” about the preparation process. For Clifford Chance, the application asked for a 600 word personal statement along with a work experience section, apart from the general information about the applicant and their education. The application form is largely centred around you as an applicant, simply trying to know more about you. The application form is followed by the Watson Glaser test, where you need to attain a minimum score to proceed to the next stage. The next stage is the assessment day which has two components, a 30-minute written assignment followed by a 75-minute interview with a partner and a senior associate. My experience while preparing for the process was very fulfilling, for two reasons. Firstly, the process requires immense amounts of research/reading to hone your commercial awareness which is particularly tested in the interview. Secondly, the entire process is very personal and it makes you ask yourself certain important questions like why you chose law, or why you want to work in an international law firm. Personally, the process helped me realise a lot of things I like or dislike and helped me understand the reason I wanted to become a lawyer.

3.     What were the key things that you kept in mind while filling the application form?

 I think there were two things that I kept in mind particularly. First, was to being honest throughout the application and not exaggerating or downplaying any successes or failures in my story. The purpose of the application is for the firm to get to know more about you and assess whether you as an applicant would be a good fit in the firm. So being honest and truthful about who you are, your experiences and most importantly what you learned from those experiences is the best way to go about these applications. The second thing is the writing style of the application, especially when it comes to the long questions. The writing style of the application is unique as it is important to sell yourself in the application while stitching a story from your individual experiences. Thankfully, there is ample material available online to help applicants with this such as weekly newsletters, podcasts and online forums.

4.     How did you prepare for the assessment day and how was your experience?

The assessment day primarily pivots on the skill of commercial awareness and the ability to express it in the writing assignment and the interview. Honing the skill of commercial awareness takes a lot of time and can come across as something new for a typical Indian law student, simply because our method of education does not account for the commercial skills of a lawyer. Very simply put commercial awareness is just the ability to put yourself into your client’s shoes and tailoring legal advice that accounts for the commercial context in which it is to be implemented. It involves keeping yourself abreast with all the current affairs around the world that have the potential to affect a law firm’s working. Additionally, it also involves your ability to realise that a law firm itself is a business and applicants need to appreciate their commercial context too. One other thing I would like to share is the best advice that I got while preparing for the interview. The advice was to firstly be confident and think out loud in the interview. The interviewers primarily want to gauge and understand your thought process behind the answers.

 

5.     What is the firm looking for in future trainee solicitors?

I believe that the firm is simply looking for two things. Firstly, if you are really interested in the firm and whether you would fit into their culture. It is very important for the applicant to show their commitment to the firm, especially when it comes to direct training contract applications. This can be shown through various ways, for instance by showing your knowledge about the firm and giving some very strong reasons as to why you applied to the firm, usually the more honest and personal the answer is, the better.

 

6.     What would your message to future applicants be?

My advice to future applicants would be to make sure they go into this process with a growth mindset. What I mean is, the entire process is very demanding in terms of your time commitment and the depth of your research about commercial news, law firms, etc. Now, you may not be able to appreciate the value of these things, while you are in the process or if, for some reason, you are not able to attain a training contract. But, in the long term, you will look back at this process and understand how it has made you capable of inter alia feeling confident about your communication skills, your ability to discuss case studies and appreciate the commercial realities of a news story. Hence, my advice would be to keep believing in yourself and all preparation should begin with the premise that you are capable of anything that you put your mind to.

7.     On a concluding note, how important is doing proper legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills? Could you throw some light on “exhaustion of research” and its importance in law?

Legal research is a key part of every lawyer’s typical day. I think it is very important that the purpose of the research dictate the aspects of the research which are most focused on. For instance, if the research is from the point of view of a client query, then understanding the purpose behind the query and then focusing on the presentation of the research in a way that suits the client is very important. Whereas, if the research is purely academic in nature, I believe that it is crucial to focus on the jurisprudential aspect of any argument. Especially while critiquing judgments or using case laws, it is important to appreciate the contextual matrix within which the legal reasoning of the Judge or her decisions are analysed. For students, I believe that moot courts are an amazing opportunity to hone your legal research skills. Because firstly, it helps you understand the method of applying case laws to a certain factual scenario and secondly, the competitive spirit of a moot court further motivates students to push their limits and better their legal research as well as presentation skills. For example, I participated in the Willem C. Vis Moot Court Competition which is based around international sales and arbitration law. The competition’s unique structure helped me to develop the ability to appreciate the commercial aspects of a legal problem along with honing my research and communication skills. The international nature of the competition also allows for great exposure to diverse people and their experiences.

Interviews

Mr Justice Ravi Nath Tilhari is currently a Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Before sitting on the Bench, he had an illustrious practice of 28 years in litigation. He was appointed as Additional Judge of Allahabad High Court on 12-12-2019 and took oath as a permanent Judge on 26-3-2021. Later on, he was transferred to the Andhra Pradesh High Court on 18-10-2021. Till today Justice has passed some significant judgments, including Badugu Panduranga Rao v. Legal Services Authority[1], where he held that the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987, does not provide any jurisdiction to appoint a guardian; Amoda Iron Steel Ltd. v. Sneha Anlytics and Scientifics[2], which is a landmark judgment related to Commercial Courts Act; Pattam Gousha Bi v. Pattan John Shaida[3], where he held that when there can be no pronouncement of talaq, contrary to Mahomedan law, orally, it can also not be in the form of writing; Rentapalli Anand Mary v. Kankipati Kalyan Babu[4], where he held that rape is a crime against society and cannot be settled between the parties.

 

He has been interviewed by Ayush Shukla, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from TNNLU.

1. Please tell us about how your journey in the field of law started. Given that you are a 3rd generation lawyer, did you have any choice?

I would trace out the journey in the legal profession in the year 1918, when my grandfather, late Moti Lal Tilhari, joined the Bar and practised in the Commissioner Court of Awadh; in the Chief Court of Awadh at Lucknow, and after the amalgamation of the Chief Court of Awadh in the new High Court he practised in the new High Court at Lucknow. He dreamed that someone from his family, which hails from Tilhar, in District Shahjahanpur, would deliver justice to the poor and needy persons. It came true on the elevation of my father, late Mr Justice Hari Nath Tilhari as a Judge of the Allahabad High Court on 4-2-1992 and later on transferred to the Karnataka High Court.

I joined this noble profession on 23-3-1991. There is no question of any other choice as I entered the profession by my own choice. I never thought of entering any profession or service other than the legal profession. I feel proud, with all humbleness, to say that for more than 100 years, we have been rendering our services in the dispensation of justice as lawyers and as Judges, and the journey is still on.

2. To what extent have your law school or initial days of your practice contributed to what you are today, and from that experience, could you please tell our readers what all things one should remember during those days of their life?

 

My memories are still fresh of my Lucknow University days while studying law. I pay my regards and owe gratitude to my teachers who imparted the knowledge in law to make my basics strong.

The memories are also fresh from the day I entered this profession in the old High Court building campus at Lucknow. I found the Awadh Bar Association a family away from home, which has been through all my thick and thin and helped me grow into what I am today. Many senior advocates of that time extended their valuable guidance to me even in the courtroom while arguing a case when faced with the intricacies of the law. I feel privileged to be a part of one of the strongest and most amicable Bar of the High Courts, the Awadh Bar Association, which is rich in culture and heritage.

The youngsters should focus in their early days on utilising the time they have to read law journals to be acquainted with the latest ones. Spend more time in courtrooms, even if they have no brief of their own. They will learn a lot from the arguments going on in the courtroom, the observations made, and the courtcraft from the senior members.

3. Recently Chief Justice N.V. Ramana inaugurated the International Arbitration and Mediation Centre in Hyderabad, a function in which you were also an esteemed guest. In his speech, while being a strong advocate of the alternate dispute resolution process, Chief Justice Ramana has stated that “people should explore ADR options such as arbitration and mediation first, and approach courts only as a last resort”. So, what are your views about this statement and the alternate resolution mechanism?

 

Let me briefly state about the alternative dispute resolution mechanism. Resort to an alternative dispute resolution mechanism is intended to bring an end to litigation between the parties at an early date and amicably. Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure was inserted with this object to see that the court itself need not necessarily decide all the cases filed in court.

There are five types of well-known alternative dispute resolution measures arbitration, conciliation, judicial settlement, settlement through Lok Adalat, and mediation.

Arbitration is an adjudicatory process by a private forum governed by the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. This can be recourse to when there is a pre-existing arbitration agreement between the parties. But, even if there is no pre-existing agreement, the court can refer the parties to the suit proceedings for the resolution of the dispute by the arbitrator with the consent of all the parties. Then, the case goes outside the stream of the court and becomes an independent proceeding before the Arbitral Tribunal, which ends in a decision, subject of course to the judicial proceedings provided under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 itself.

The conciliation process is also governed by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, for which there can be a valid reference if both the parties to the dispute have consented to negotiation with the help of a third party or third parties.

In conciliation, judicial settlement, or mediation, the dispute would not ipso facto go outside the judicial system, but if, despite efforts, it is not successful, the dispute will ultimately be decided by the court. Suppose the conciliation, mediation, or judicial settlement is successful. In that case, the settlement agreement will have to be placed before the court concerned for recording the settlement and disposal, as these processes are non-adjudicatory.

The Lok Adalats are of two types. One, the Lok Adalat constituted under Section 19 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. It has no adjudicatory function but discharges a purely conciliatory function. The second is permanent Lok Adalat which is established under Section 22-B(1) of the Act 1987, regarding specified public utility services, having both conciliatory and adjudicatory functions. On failure of conciliation, the permanent Lok Adalat proceeds to adjudicate the dispute on merits.

The awards of the Lok Adalat are also of two kinds: one, made in a direct reference by parties under Section 19(5) of the Act, 1987, without the intervention of the court, and the other made on a reference by a court in a pending proceeding. The award of the Lok Adalat made on a reference by a court has to be placed before the court for recording and disposal in terms of the award. The Lok Adalat award is deemed a decree of a civil court and is executable.

I am also a strong advocate of alternate dispute resolution mechanisms. During my practice days, I was an active member of the Mediation and Conciliation Centre, High Court at Lucknow. My first endeavour has always been to see if the dispute, having regard to its nature, can be amicably settled through an alternative dispute resolution mechanism and if it can be, all the efforts should be made to make it a success. This process helps in maintaining the harmony between the litigating parties and reduces the number of cases in the court that can be amicably resolved. It is cost-effective, less time consuming, and most importantly, particularly in a non-adjudicatory process, results in a win-win situation for both the litigating parties, as the settlement arrived at is voluntary with their consent and of their choice.

Therefore, I strongly believe that the people should explore ADR options before approaching the court. Even after they approach the courts, they should always be ready to take recourse to ADR for an amicable settlement of their dispute.

The establishment of the International Arbitration and Mediation Centre in Hyderabad is a welcome step and will undoubtedly lead to a productive outcome.

 

4. Why do you think we need arbitration centres? What is the importance or need of institutional arbitration, while there are ad hoc arbitrations, which are widely preferred? 

As I have highlighted, in response to the earlier questions, the importance of the alternative dispute resolution measures in the dispensation of timely justice, it is the need of the hour that steps are taken to promote ADR-friendly culture in India. So, setting up arbitration centres is a step towards achieving that objective. The institutional arbitration centres have their set rules and regulations as opposed to the ad hoc arbitration, where these rules and regulations are to be negotiated before the session even starts and which at times becomes a point of dispute in itself. Moreover, the arbitration centres are assisted by a panel of experts in specified fields in which arbitration is to take place, making it more convenient to deal with matters of complexity. It would raise the people’s confidence in the ADR mechanism and make it preferable to the public by their choice.

 

5. Recently in an interview Justice A.K. Sikri (Retd) Judge, Supreme Court of India and an associate member of the 4 Pump Court, London has pointed out that one of the major obstacles in letting foreign companies prefer India as a seat of arbitration is the delay in adjudication of issues related to Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 which is related to setting aside of arbitral award, by the courts. So, what is your view of this, and how can the judiciary address this issue?

Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 provides for setting aside an arbitral award by the court on limited grounds contained in its sub-section (2). The recourse for setting aside an arbitral award can be made only by an application confined to the grounds under sub-section (2). The application must be made within three months from the date of receipt of the arbitral award, but an application filed beyond this period may be entertained within a further period of thirty days if the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause. After that, an application for setting aside award cannot be entertained. Further, as per sub-section (5), such an application shall be filed only after issuing a prior notice to the other party. This is to ensure that the time consumed generally in service of notice after the filing of the application is avoided and made good within three months prescribed for filing the application for setting aside the award. Sub-section (6) also provides that an application for setting aside the arbitral award shall be disposed of expeditiously and in any event within one year from the date of service of the notice on the other side.

The challenge to an arbitral award cannot be on merits. There is no power given to the court to modify the award or even remand the matter to the arbitrator after setting aside the award. Suppose the court finds it appropriate and it is so requested. In that case, the court may adjourn the proceeding for a definite period to give the Arbitral Tribunal an opportunity to resume the arbitral proceedings or take such other action as, in the opinion of the Arbitral Tribunal, will eliminate the grounds for setting aside the arbitral award.

The appeal under Section 37 is against the order of the court either setting aside or refusing to set aside an arbitral award. Any other order passed in proceedings under Section 34 has not been made appealable.

When it comes to the execution of the arbitral award, the execution court cannot enter any factual enquiry, which may have the effect of nullifying the decree itself. However, it can undertake a limited enquiry regarding jurisdiction issues going to the root of the decree, having the effect of rendering the decree a nullity.

Finality has been attached to the arbitral award even when the award is not enforced. Once an award is made on a subject-matter, no action can be started again on the original claim.

Thus, there are ample safeguards to ensure that the adjudication of issues related to Section 34 is not delayed. The only thing required, in my view, is to adhere to the statutory provisions.

 

6. What steps, according to you, can be taken to promote arbitration-friendly culture in India to make it an attractive seat for arbitration not only for domestic companies but also for foreign companies? Besides judiciary, what, according to you, should be the role of Government in achieving the same? 

Making India a preferable seat for arbitration and developing an arbitration-friendly culture in India is not a one day process. It is a gradual process that will gain pace as the society of India moves forward with education and awareness about arbitration. Undoubtedly, setting up the International Arbitration and Mediation Centre at Hyderabad is a progressive step towards promoting the arbitration culture in India. There are already centres like Delhi International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) and Nani Palkhivala Arbitration Centre (NPAC), which are playing a significant role in strengthening the arbitration in India. Still, we need more such centres to promote healthy arbitration. An arbitration-friendly culture will attract better business opportunities in the country, as big multinational companies prefer arbitration over litigation for speedy remedies. So, if India adopts the arbitration culture, the chances of witnessing more business opportunities will increase. Moreover, the promotion of arbitration culture in India, as I have earlier said, needs awareness, and for this purpose, we must take steps. Here, major efforts should be made by the stakeholders of the legal fraternity.

7. You have been a part of one of India’s oldest and newest High Courts and have witnessed both going from physical to virtual hearing, and in this, you must have witnessed the changes that the system has undergone, which has its own merits and demerits. Could you please tell our readers what, according to you, are the merits and demerits of going virtual? Are there any infrastructural issues that need to be addressed in India?

 

I would like to briefly state the history of the Allahabad High Court. The Allahabad became the seat of the Government of North-Western Provinces, and the High Court was established in 1834. It was shifted to Agra, and then at Agra on 17-3-1866 under the High Courts Act, 1861, the High Court of Judicature for the North-Western Provinces was founded. It was shifted from Agra to Allahabad in 1875, and its name was changed to the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad from 11-3-1919. In Awadh, on 2-11-1925, the Awadh Judicial Commissioner Court was replaced by the Awadh Chief Court at Lucknow, by the Awadh Civil Court Act, 1925, and on 25-2-1948 the Chief Court of Awadh was amalgamated with the High Court of Allahabad, by the United Provinces High Court (Amalgamation) Order, 1948. Thus the new High Court, the present Allahabad High Court, was established with its seats at Allahabad and at Lucknow.

It is my proud privilege to be part of the Allahabad High Court not only because it is the biggest High Court in the country and one of the oldest High Courts but also because it has pronounced many fearless, landmark judgments upholding the Constitution, the democracy independence of the judiciary, the basic structure, as also the dignity of an individual. To mention a few, I may refer to Keshav Singh v. Speaker, Legislative Assembly[5]; Raj Narain v. Indira Nehru Gandhi[6]; and Rahmat Ullah v. State of U.P.[7] (known as Triple Talaq case).

The High Court of Andhra Pradesh was established in 1954 when the State was formed from the earlier Madras Presidency. However, post bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh new High Court was established on 1-1-2019 under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. I cherish my journey from Allahabad High Court to Andhra Pradesh High Court and would work for its glory.

Regarding virtual hearing, I would not name it as “merits” or “demerits” but would prefer to say it as how habitual or familiar people want to be with the new set-up. This all depends upon the approach of the people towards a virtual hearing. The more positively the people react, the fewer demerits we will witness. Also, the merits of virtual hearing are permanent as opposed to its demerits, which are temporary and can be resolved by a change in approach as also with technological advancement. Still, to answer your question as per the present situation of the judiciary, the virtual system has helped a lot of the litigants to avail themselves of the services of many senior advocates, though far away from the court concerned. It has become more convenient for them to address the court without taking the pains of journey as also to connect to various courts in a single day. The difficulties I have experienced sometimes are in appreciating the arguments of counsels due to connectivity issues and seeing the documents referred by the counsels going from one page to another, but these difficulties are due to the introduction of the new system and are only a matter of time. Another issue that I have faced is that the people take unwarranted advantage of this convenient set-up by not following the dress code and not maintaining the discipline and decorum required to be maintained in courts. I am not saying it generally, but there are a few instances, you all know when the court had to take steps to ensure the functioning of the court in a dignified manner.

To sum up, I would like to say that people should be flexible enough to adapt to the changing conditions for proper judicial administration.

8. Finally, what will be your advice to the young law students and lawyers on how they should approach this field of law.

I would like to say that I am confident that the judiciary’s future is in safe hands, as the current generation is given not only academic classroom lectures but also good practical exposure by way of internships and mooting. With the help of online legal research websites and tools, research has become handier and more easily accessible. Today any judgment or journal is just a click away. However, besides all these technological enhancements and being a forever student of law, I would never say that anyone can master this profession because the law is dynamic and ever-evolving. Therefore, my advice to the youngsters will always be to remain updated with all the developments in the law. And for this, one should never stop reading and never shy away from reading voluminous documents and seeking guidance from their senior colloquies at the Bar, maybe on a very common or general point in law.

Please remember that this profession’s nobility lies in serving society and helping the poor and the needy. The profession deserves the utmost sincerity, decency, honesty, and hard work. There is no substitute for hard work and no shortcut to success.

The youngsters should also do some “pro bono” considering that the traditional litigation is from the weaker section of society.

Always be fair to your client, your opponent as well, and the most to the court. The future is yours.

Let this chariot of justice reach every corner and to one and all to deliver justice. 


[1] 2022 SCC OnLine AP 739

[2] 2022 SCC OnLine AP 136

[3] 2022 SCC OnLine AP 1020

[4] 2021 SCC OnLine AP 3989

[5] 1965 SCC OnLine All 355

[6] 1974 SCC OnLine All 287

[7] 1994 SCC OnLine All 1072

Interviews

Mr. Amit Jamsandekar is an Indian lawyer as well as a Solicitor of Supreme Court of England & Wales (non practising) currently practicing as an independent counsel at the Bombay High Court and his areas of practice and expertise include IP Laws, Commercial Laws and Arbitration and Conciliation. His journey of being graduated from the University of Mumbai to a Master’s degree from one of the leading law schools in the UK, at the University of Cardiff, and from considering farming as a future to being among a select group of counsels litigating in intellectual property in India, has been nothing but endearing for young law professionals.

He has been interviewed by Richa Bhandari , EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing BBA LLB (Hons.) from University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.

 

  1. To begin with, if I may request you to please share with our readers something about yourself, and your 23-year old journey as an independent counsel as well as a Solicitor of Supreme Court of England and Wales (non-practicing).

From graduation in rural development from a college in the hinterland of Maharashtra to a master’s degree from one of the leading law schools in the UK, at the University of Cardiff, and from considering farming as a future to being among a select group of counsels litigating in intellectual property in India, my journey has been quite serendipitous. Since I come from a family that does not have any background in the legal field, it was not a planned course. My decision to focus on intellectual property as a specialty in my counsel practice as a commercial and corporate litigator was timely since the Indian corporate environment was just starting to become sensitive to such matters then. Due to my early start in this direction, I have had the privilege of seeing intellectual property (IP) law evolve right before my eyes, and also to contribute to the discipline through my practice, research, publications, and as a visiting faculty at law schools and educational institutions.

 

  1. As a large percentage of our readers are currently students of law, I would like to jog your memory back to almost over two decades ago. Would you please tell us about your law school life and what inspired you to pursue law?

Law school, in those early days of Indian economic liberalisation, was a time for broadening exposure and horizons. This meant that as much, if not more, legal education was sought from outside the school as from within. Students eager to join the profession would join law firms or chambers of senior advocates to work as apprentices, often without any stipend. Through observation of the senior lawyers around them, they would learn about the rigour and nuances of the profession. The concept of the transactional lawyer, which is quite popular today, was just evolving then. So the opportunity to apprentice with senior lawyers was our main window to the legal world in practice.

My inspiration to pursue law came from the personal experience of a lawsuit. I had the good fortune of, unknowingly, assisting a renowned local lawyer in my hometown with the case. As my interest in the proceedings increased, I sought more direction on how to go about gaining formal knowledge of the subject. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

  1. I would not be putting it wrong, when I say that intellectual property as a field is pretty dynamic and while your qualifications precede you, I would like you to throw some light on your decision to pursue LLM as well as PhD in the same field.

In the Indian context, the field of IP is relatively new. The discipline, although it borrows heavily from the UK IP law, is evolving in a slightly different direction. Many concepts remain contentious depending on the interpretation one uses. Since the changes happen rapidly, it is important to stay abreast of the latest developments. As somebody who has seen the discipline emerge from its nascency, I am keen to be able to contribute to further research in this area. Yet, even today, there are few opportunities for formal research in IP in India. Hence, I decided to pursue a PhD in the UK, at the University of Leicester, as it also offers me the chance to keep up with international developments in the field and with new research methods.

 

  1. Keeping in line with the aforementioned question, there is a sudden rise in the field of IP which has grown drastically over the past few years. What would be your advice for law students who are developing their interest in the field of IP?

At a general level, students desirous of working in the field of IP should keep up with the developments in the world of business, science and research, where most of the intellectual assets are being created. At a specific level, students should study case law and blogs published in other jurisdictions on the subject to become aware of the evolving facets of IP law and practice areas on the subject.

 

  1. How much weightage would you give to proper legal research and the tools used for doing it? How should law students equip themselves with legal research skills? What do you do to maintain your extensive knowledge bank – any tips that might like to share with our readers?

The importance of research can never be underestimated in the legal process. The preparation for a case involves determining a strategy. But the strategy must be supported by thorough research. Such research usually begins with books, commentaries, precedents and case law. Tools should be used to filter out what is irrelevant. But to develop research skills, one must firstly develop one’s understanding of the type of core subject-matter to determine which perspective to use for research. And such understanding can be developed only by taking a keen interest in the subject-matter itself.

Personally, I first write down my research question so as to develop a specific answer. However, while carrying out research, I prefer to far read beyond the question and possibly everything that has been published on the issue.

 

  1. Over the five years of law school, the importance of publications is not emphasised enough. Being associated with various reputed journals, what would be your take on the same?

Putting down an idea in writing activates the thinking centre in the brain. As you delve deeper into an issue, the act of writing forces you to reflect on your words and evaluate  them carefully not only for imparting the accurate meaning that you wish to convey but also for creating the appropriate impact on the mind of the reader. This ability to convey a thought and influence the thinking of others is an important skill to develop for a lawyer.

Further, the legal profession is a vast ocean with several luminaries who have long standing experience and, hence, are very well known. For a relatively junior professional, getting published provides an opportunity to present their ideas on a larger platform and broader audience than the ones they may be exposed to in their regular work.

 

  1. Corporate lawyers are infamous for complaining about the lack of a work-life balance. What would be your take on the “work-life balance” complaint?

The need for a balance between work and life differs from person to person. The legal profession is not the only one known for tough timelines and long hours of work. I think that while the early years in this profession require a certain degree of dedication of time for learning and absorbing the finer aspects of work as a lawyer, over time, each person is able to find the balance that she/he is seeking. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this profession offers a great balance of structure and flexibility to allow each one to enjoy work as well as life.

 

  1. Lastly, with the ever-changing world around us, especially in times of the deadly pandemic, what would be your advice to young lawyers to help them secure internships and achieve their goals?

The pandemic has, no doubt, caused many disruptions in every sphere of life. But it has also opened up possibilities for working seamlessly across locations. Whereas earlier a candidate would be restricted to seeking internships within the city where (s)he lived or would have to be ready to relocate at least temporarily, today, they can seek an opportunity anywhere in the country and be able to participate and contribute virtually. The requirement for interns, in general, is at a similar level as earlier.

I would only add that they should keep their minds open to all varieties of subjects and firms, seek experiences and exposure of different kinds, and be willing to explore the legal landscape and system, be it in large law firms, or government offices, or subordinate courts, or in the chambers of trial lawyers.

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Full Bench of Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, CJ., L.T.B.Dehideniya and P. Padman Surasena, JJ., dismissed an application which was filed aggrieved by the denial of admission in the school stating it to be a Fundamental Right violation guaranteed under Article 12(1) of the Constitution.

Petitioners being the parents of the minor child had made an application to admit the child to Visaka Vidyalaya, Colombo. The application was based on the category of ‘children of persons belonging to the staff in an institution directly involved in school education’. Under the circular 24/ 2018 (1R1), paragraph 7.5.2.2, if a parent had worked in a difficult school, that parent was entitled to obtain 03 marks for a full year, up to the maximum of 15 marks, in relation to which he had submitted all the relevant documents with the school. The petitioner contended that the interview board headed by the Respondent had not accepted this document as proof of the fact that, A/ Habarana Maha Vidyalaya was a difficult school. Thus, the instant application. The Petitioners, on the basis of this document, argued that, they were entitled for additional 12 marks after which they go above the cut-off mark and their minor child would have been admitted to Visaka Vidyalaya. According to the respondents the appeal board had not considered this document because they were not permitted to consider any document other than the documents that were tendered at the 1st interview.

The Court while dismissing the application stated that the said act does not amount to a violation of Fundamental Rights under Article 12(1) of the Constitution and explained that Respondent being the Principal of Visaka Vidyalaya cannot be held liable for her conduct as the Petitioners were unable to produce a document certifying A/ Habarana Maha Vidyalaya is a difficult school at the interview and there was clear negligence on the part of the Petitioners in not producing the correct documents at the time of the interview and also the document that they relied on does not provide any basis for a relief provided by law. [Iresha Dulashini Dangolla v. Sandamali Aviruppola, 2020 SCC OnLine SL SC 5, decided on 04-08-2020]


*Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench of R. Banumathi and Shiva Kirti Singh, JJ gave split decision in the writ of certiorari filed by the petitioner seeking the quashment of the Notification dated 16th February, 2015 issued by the High Court of Manipur, whereby the petitioner was declared unsuccessful in viva-voce conducted by the High Court of Manipur for appointment to the post of District Judge (Entry Level) in Manipur Judicial Services Grade-I. The matter will be placed before a larger Bench for final adjudication.

The Impugned Notification notified that “no one shall be declared pass and selected for appointment unless he secures minimum 40% from the interview”. The petitioner, however, was not able to secure 40% in the interview and hence, argued that the marks obtained in the viva-voce should be merely added to the marks obtained in the written examination to finalize the merit list and it was not permissible to have fixed a minimum bench mark for the viva-voce as it amounts to change in the criteria of selection in the midst of the selection process.

Banumathi, J rejected the said contention and said that under the MJS Rules a scheme of converting the numerical marks of each question into an appropriate grade, according to the formula given in the table and re-converting into grades, is stipulated. In the table, the percentage of marks and Grade prescribe that marks below 40% is Grade ‘F’ which means ‘Fail’. Keeping in view the Rules and the table converting numerical marks into Grades and the final Select List that is prepared by adding cumulative grade value obtained in the written examination and the interview/viva-voce, fixing 40% for interview/viva-voce out of total marks of 50 is in consonance with MJS Rules and it will not amount to change in the criteria of selection in the midst of selection process. The object of conducting interview/viva-voce examination has been rightly stated in the Rules to assess suitability of the candidate by judging the mental alertness, knowledge of law, clear and original exposition, intellectual depth and the like. Hence, having regard to the seniority of the post which is District Judge  (Entry Level), the High Court cannot be faulted with for exercising its residuary right reserved in its favour by prescribing cut-off marks for the interview. Also, the petitioner participated in the selection process and only because in the final result the petitioner being unsuccessful, he cannot turn around and contend that the criteria for selection was changed.

Shiva Kirti Singh, J, on the other hand, said that the Rules and the instructions clearly demonstrate that there was no cut-off mark or pass mark for the viva voce examination in the past. Not providing any pass mark for the viva voce while so providing for the written examination clearly indicates that the Rules deliberately chose not to prescribe any cut-off for the viva voce. The statutory rules did prescribe a particular mode of selection which did not require any pass mark for the viva voce examination and it had to be given strict adherence accordingly, at least till the ongoing recruitment process got concluded. Since the procedure was already prescribed by the Rules, in the present case there was clear impediment in law in the way of the High Court in proceeding to lay down minimum pass mark for the viva voce test which was meant only for the petitioner as he was the lone candidate successful in the written examination. Although no case of bias has been pleaded, the impugned action would validly attract the criticism of malice in law. Also, the petitioner being the lone candidate having passed in the written examination, it matters little whether minimum marks for interview were introduced before or after calling him for interview. [Salam Samarjeet Singh v. High Court of Manipur at Imphal, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1120, decided on 07.10.2016]