LexTalk World Interviews Amitabh Tewari. Mr. Amitabh is fourth generation lawyer practicing at the Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh. His father is a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and his brother is an Advocate on Record in the Supreme Court of India. Mr. Amitabh Tewari graduated from Government Law College, Mumbai in 2014 and thereafter completed his Bachelor of Civil Law from University of Oxford. Thereafter, he worked in the dispute resolution department of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, Mumbai and Wadia Ghandy & Co. (Delhi) before starting his independent chambers in Chandigarh in 2018. He is also Junior Standing Counsel for the Union Territory of Chandigarh in the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh. He has a rich and diverse experience across various sectors of law including but not limited to Civil Law, Criminal Law, Corporate Law, Service Law, Sports Law, Real Estate Law.
Host: Tell us about some noteworthy cases and your career till date?
Amitabh: I hail from a family of legal professionals and am a 4th generation lawyer. My great grandfather used to practice law at Pepsu High Court and thereafter my grandfather inhertied the practice and started practicing at the District Court in Patiala, Punjab. After completing his legal education, my father shifted base from Patiala to Chandigarh and started practicing at the Punjab and Haryana High Court where he is currently a sitting Judge. My brother is an Advocate on Record in the Supreme Court of India. After graduating from Oxford in July 2015 with a Bachelor in Civil Laws (BCL) degree, I joined the dispute resolution team at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (“CAM”) in January 2016. After a year at CAM, I joined the Delhi office of Wadia Ghandy & Co (Delhi), then headed by Mr. Kunal Vajani. Being emboldened by my experience at CAM and Wadia Ghandy, and having always wanted to be an independent practitioner, I started my own practice in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January 2018. Initially I joined Mr. Anand Chhibbar Senior Advocate who specializes in Corporate and Commercial Litigation and thereafter started my own independent practice. Since beginning independent practice, I have advised and represented clients in the practice areas of commercial and corporate litigation, insolvency disputes, rent/tenancy disputes, taxation and matrimonial disputes, civil and criminal litigation, arbitration, real estate, and service disputes. I have also been associated with Minerva Punjab FC (“Minerva”) since 2018 as its standing counsel for its various litigations before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana and Delhi, as well as in proceedings before various committees of the All-India Football Federation (“AIFF”), including the AIFF Disciplinary Committee, the AIFF Player Status Committee, the AIFF Ethics Committee, the AIFF Emergency Committee, the I-League Committee, and the AIFF Appeals Committee.
In four years of independent practice, some of the noteworthy cases I have worked on include an application under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, seeking anticipatory bail for a juvenile before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Despite various other High Court having already taken a view that an application for anticipatory bail for a minor is not maintainable before a High Court, the Punjab and Haryana High Court was pleased to allow my application and grant anticipatory bail to my minor client.
Then there was a case where the AIFF Disciplinary Committee imposed a ban on the owner of Minerva, Mr. Ranjit Bajaj, from participating in any football related activities in India for a period of one year. I represented Mr. Bajaj in an appeal against his ban before the AIFF Appeals Committee, challenging the ban on, inter alia, the grounds of violation of natural justice and procedural impropriety. The AIFF Appeals Committee lifted the ban on Mr. Bajaj, while observing that the AIFF Disciplinary Code as a whole, is archaic and prevents effective decision-making by AIFF’s judicial bodies. Significantly, the AIFF Appeals Committee advised the AIFF to “update and revise the Disciplinary Code in order to bring it at par with global best practices”.
In early 2019, as part of the I-League tournament, a match between Minerva and Real Kashmir FC was scheduled to take place on February 18, 2019 in Kashmir. On February 14, 2019, a deadly terrorist attack took place in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir. Due to the tense security situation and prevailing uncertainty in the region in the aftermath of the attacks, Minerva requested the AIFF to cancel the match scheduled for February 18, 2019, i.e., just four days after the terrorist attacks. This request was, however, rejected by the AIFF. I represented Minerva in a writ petition before the Delhi High Court, seeking the postponement of the match, having regard to the safety and security of the players and the fans. The Delhi High Court remanded the matter to the I-League Committee of the AIFF, which ultimately directed the postponement of the match to an appropriate future date, thus preventing the occurrence of any untoward incidents, and avoiding any risk to the lives of the players and fans.
Recently, I also represented Minerva in a contractual dispute between Minerva and one of their Macedonian players before the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber at Zurich. In addition to giving me an opportunity to appear and represent an Indian club before an international Tribunal, this matter also gave me an insight into the functioning of FIFA and the regulation of football at the global level.
I represented Anwar Ali, a footballer who was banned by the All-India Football Federation from training due to a heart problem and I was able to get the ban lifted.
Host: How did you use the Technology during Covid Times?
Amitabh: I am a huge advocate of the adoption of technology in the legal profession. Greater use of technology in our judicial system can transform the way lawyers and judges operate, making the system far more environmentally sound and cost effective, thereby providing access to law and justice to a wider set of people. Some examples of the ways in which technology can be introduced in our day-today practice of the law are, digitization of court records, live transcription of proceedings, and virtual courtrooms (at least for purely procedural/ routine matters). We have seen that due to widespread disruption of work on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, our courts have already adopted virtual courtrooms for the hearing of urgent matters in times of crisis. This can be adopted on a larger scale even in the post-Covid regime. Similarly, arbitration hearings can be conducted via video-conferencing on a regular basis, even once normalcy returns. This will inevitably reduce travel time and considerable cost for clients. To maximise productivity and effeciency, I decided to go digitise all previous records of all cases which helped in efficient management of space in the office. I encouraged my staff to minimise prinitng and to work on electronic devices. Due to the pandemic, my office uploaded all the files regarding all matters on Microsoft One drive which enabled the office staff to access the same from anywhere. To minimise the meeting with clients, I mandated conferences with them on google meet and zoom. This initiative was welcomed by the clients as it saved a lot of time and money. As all the hearings were happening virtually, the clients could also log in and were able to see the court hearings. All these efforts helped in reducing costs and most importantly made everyone feel safe. I also started a knowledge manangement session every week in office where my associates are asked to read up o the latest case law on various subjects and the same is discussed in a conference. This helped me and my associates to stay on top of various laws and helped to improve analytical skills of my team. My office alongwith my brother’s office also collaborates with renowed senior advocatrs, scholars and academics to orgaize various seminars on various subjects. I hope that all these efforts will bear fruit in the years to come and ensure that the office keeps on growing and expanding. At the end, I would like to state that as much as technology has helped us, the virtual system is not a long term option unless until there is a proportionate improvement in infrastructure
Host: What are the difference between India and UK in terms of legal education?
Amitabh: Reading law at Government Law College, Mumbai (“GLC”) was a very different, yet fulfilling experience. At GLC, we were encouraged from the outset to chart our own paths, rather than being tied down to a specific academic/ professional road map. At GLC, students are exposed to the practical aspects of the profession from very early on in the five-year and three-year courses respectively, with students being free to pursue legal internships alongside their regular academic coursework. Therefore, one can perhaps say that my basic legal education in India was through practical experience, and on account of the exposure I received while participating in various extra-curricular activities (of which GLC had a considerable number to offer) such as moot courts, debates, Model United Nations, and legal writing.
Reading law in the UK was more grueling than in India, in terms of sheer academic rigour. The coursework was much more vast and greater importance was given to the detailed study of legal concepts. Classroom learning in the UK is much more interactive, and is based on problem-solving, rather than on rote learning, which is often the case in India. In particular, I remember my International Law of Armed Conflict classes by Prof. Dapo Akande at Oxford. The classes were very interactive and Mr. Akande’s teaching style forced the students to analytically approach a problem which is quite different from the way I was taught in India.
To sum up, a lot of my learning at GLC took place outside the classroom, through interaction with members of the legal fraternity, and with my peers when participating in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. GLC taught me to survive, to be a leader, and to stand out in a crowd. At Oxford, I was more focused on imbibing an in-depth knowledge of legal concepts and was often guilty of having my nose in a book for the greater part of the duration of my course.
Host: What would be your advice to young lawyers?
Amitabh: My Advice to young lawyers would be to join an organization which will give you responsibility and where one would feel accountable and start with the lowest courts to really understand how to prepare a case.
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