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LexTalk World show with Legal professional Akriti Shikha, Senior Associate at HSA Advocates.


LexTalk World show with Legal professional Akriti Shikha, Senior Associate at HSA Advocates.

An alumna of Symbiosis Law School, Pune, Akriti specialises in the field of Dispute Resolution. With over 6 years of experience in the legal field, she is proficient in dealing with matters pertaining to corporate commercial litigation, arbitration, and insolvency & bankruptcy laws. Upon graduating, she practiced in the Dispute Resolution team at Luthra & Luthra, and is currently working at HSA Advocates as a Senior Associate. 


She has represented clients before various High Courts, primarily the Bombay High Court and Quasi-judicial Authorities/ Tribunals, and has been engaged in contentious and high-stake disputes. She conscientiously advises and acts for her clients on varied subjects such as arbitration law, insolvency & bankruptcy laws, corporate commercial litigations, real estate, white-collar crimes, securities law among others. 

  Please brief us about your journey as a legal professional so far.


I am a first-generation lawyer and graduated with an LL.B. from Symbiosis Law School, Pune in the year 2018. During the law course, I interned at most of the tier 1 Indian law firms in as many practice areas as possible, from general corporate, M&A, real estate, criminal litigation to dispute resolution. These internship experiences not only broadened my understanding of the law but also provided invaluable practical exposure. During one such internship under a Senior Advocate, I found myself captivated by the courtrooms, the art of argumentation, and the inherent aura, as well as the glamour associated with the legal profession, exuded by advocates across the bar. It was at this pivotal moment that I decided to specialize in the field of dispute resolution. 


Upon graduation, I embarked on my professional journey in the dispute resolution domain with Luthra & Luthra, where I honed my litigation skills, particularly in corporate commercial and insolvency laws. Subsequently, I transitioned to Reliance Capital, focusing primarily on securities-related disputes. Since 2021, I have been a part of HSA Advocates, where I've had the privilege of contributing to numerous high-value litigations, arbitrations, and insolvency cases for clients operating both in India and abroad. Reflecting on this journey, I find it to be both challenging and deeply gratifying. 

 

Tell us about a complex legal issue you worked on. Describe the complexity and tell us how you approached it? 


Well, no case is ever simple, even a simple looking case will have some amount of complexity be it in facts or in law or some form of technical issue. One case that I can cite is the insolvency resolution process case of EPC Constructions India Ltd., subsidiary of the Essar group of companies where the approved resolution plan was challenged by ArcelorMittal before the National Company Law Tribunal. The issue in hand was whether the Competition Commission of India’s approval as mandated under an Amendment Act would apply to the insolvency process that commenced prior to the amendment coming into effect specially in a case where the Committee of Creditors had already approved the resolution plan. The matter was hard fought before the NCLT and demanded endless preparations, particularly a lot of reading and researching, marathon conference sessions, meticulous note-taking, drafting intricate pleadings etc. However, the learning which I had in this process was beyond comparison. The efforts succeeded and eventually, the judgment was passed in my clients’ favour. The said judgment was appealed before the NCLAT and thereafter, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, which re-affirmed the decision of the NCLT. This journey shall always be etched in my memory. Another interesting case I had dealt recently was of KT Steel Industries LLP against the Iranian Government, wherein the facts of the case were quite unique and involved intricate aspects of various Indian and Iranian laws. Upon conducting thorough research, analysing the root of the issues, composing strong limbs of submissions, and pitching the arguments upon the established legal position, we successfully argued and defended our client before the Hon’ble Bombay High Court which dismissed the Appeal filed by the Iranian Government after a delay of twelve years. 

 

The pandemic saw some courts begin moving towards more remote proceedings and availability. Is this sustainable and a possible way to increase access to justice, in your opinion? 


The outbreak of Covid-19 has left an unprecedented impact, particularly on litigation across the globe. The very concept of ‘access to justice’ was subjected to a unique challenge, never faced before. Commendably, the Indian Judiciary responded remarkably by harnessing technology to ensure that access to the courts is not impeded. It would not be entirely correct if I were to say that access has not been impeded, however, the rapid response of the Indian Courts in adopting technology, devising e-courts, the shift to hearings via video conferencing and implementing electronic filings has ensured that the disruption was transitory. The only facet which ‘access to justice’ has adopted during the pandemic is ensuring ‘access’/‘remote access’/‘virtual access’, which is many steps ahead and far more positive than ‘no access’. However, the shortcomings of virtual courts in the form of limitations of access, connectivity, digital divide and skills pose a serious challenge and thus, there is a dire need for institutionalisation of virtual courts. In the long scheme of things, virtual courts are surely the way to go ahead, provided infrastructure, training, and cogent mechanisms for recording evidence and cross-examinations are adopted by the Courts, especially the lower courts. 


In the era of legal technology, what are the most commonly used tools for you? 


The era of the digital revolution has put technology and its use at the forefront, more so in the legal arena. According to me, some of the commonly used tools are: - (a) Case research portals like SCC Online, Manupatra etc. (b) Video conferencing applications like Cisco Webex, Zoom, Google meet, Microsoft teams etc. (c) Document and PDF editors for e-filing (d) Cloud services like OneDrive, Google Drive, icloud, drop box etc. (e) Online case management applications like e-court services etc. As legal professionals strive to streamline their practice and stay ahead of the curve, many are now turning towards AI systems like ChatGPT to improve their efficiency and productivity. One of the sweeping impacts of Covid-19 pandemic on the legal landscape was being forced to embrace technology and the pandemic illuminated the legal industry's lagging position in the technology game and an opportunity for it to do better. 


How would you rate the current legal system’s drive towards encouraging justice? Is there tangible movement in closing the justice gap? 


Access to justice has a variety of facets. I believe that each one from the legal fraternity, from the core of the heart, strives that justice be accessible to each and every individual without any limitation. Certainly, there is an overt effort by the judiciary and law makers to bridge the justice gap. We have witnessed numerous welcoming laws which address the pressing issues such as workplace harassment, juvenile justice, GST, IBC, amongst others. As far as timely justice is concerned, the Indian Courts certainly have a tremendous backlog. The proceedings take a minimum of 10 to 15 years in court and significant impetus is placed on interim or ad-interim relief. With establishment of tribunals and vacancy of judges reduced, the backlog is set to reduce in a few years’ time. The current legal system has transformed swifty to the digital mode; however, overhaul of the legal system is the need of the hour.  


Time is money in any profession and in legal, its most of all. How do you ensure to make the best of your time as a lawyer? 


It is imperative to strike a balance, especially when one is required to serve clients, litigate in courts, research and review case papers, draft pleadings, and stay abreast with latest laws, amongst others. The focus is on execution and quality output within the given timelines. Some common challenges that a lawyer faces include the need to be on your toes throughout and keep the client’s interests above everything else. Thus, time management is an elusive art and organizing one’s day is most important in order to make the most of the day especially to us as lawyers. At the same time, setting boundaries between your professional and personal life can entail good mental health and positive job satisfaction. I’d now like to quote one of Oscar Wilde’s most impactful quotes, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.” 

 

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