Devashish Jagirdar is a first generation lawyer from Mumbai. He graduated from Indian Law Society's Law College, Pune in 2014 and was the Vice President of the Debating Society in 2010. He won the Bill Drafting Competition organised by NMIMS in 2014. He then started his practice with Jayakar & Partners under Solicitor & Senior Managing Partner Mr. Mohan Jayakar. He represented Money Ratna Corporations, Supply Chain Services, Power Sector Companies before various Courts in Civil and Criminal Proceedings. This experience shaped him for a role in Saregama India Limited for strategizing Litigation & actioning Infringement claims. He is currently advising and managing the operations of the Sun TV Network in Mumbai. He is a foodie who enjoys photography, blogging, endurance cycling and is a pet parent to a dog and two cats.
Host: Tell us about a complex legal issue you worked on. Describe the complexity and tell us how you approached it.
Devashish: A complex legal issue arises when a client gives you challenge after challenge. In 2016, when I was assigned a matter pertaining to the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 such complexities arose. My client was purportedly the service provider for the Complainant / Consumer who was an apartment owner under the provisions of the Maharashtra Apartment Ownership Act, 1970. In reality, my client was a mere the landowner and not the builder of the Apartment that the consumer had purchased three decades before the complaint. The first challenge was to explain the forum a proposition that my client wasn’t a party to the arrangement between the builder and consumer who had preferred this litigation with veiled intentions. The consumer sought a prayer for execution of deeds of agreement as per the Apartment Ownership Act, which as per our case was the obligation of the builder firm that had no existence as the consumer had brought this issue before court after 33 (thirty-three) years. We tried to approach the court with simple explanations and show them the impracticality of the prayers sought but we got unfavourable orders. The complainant preferred parallel execution proceedings which ware artfully distorted. It was only the Hon’ble Supreme Court that gave clarity on the issue after which the tables had turned, it was then that the missing builder issue was resolved and acknowledged for the first time after three rounds of case hearing in multiple fora. Even then controversies regarding measurement of areas and disclosures arose whist executing the documents. The consumer would approach the execution court with superfluous applications ultimately frustrating the Members of the forum. It was then that fora acknowledged that like every legal dispute the complexity was due to the tenacious attitude of the litigants, the multiplicity of proceedings and unnecessary convolution of prayers.
Host: 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?
Devashish: The infrastructure and intention to technologically aided proceedings always existed. In 2015, I saw a deposition proceeding in the courts in Alibagh (a town almost 100 kms from Mumbai) having a video conferencing facility in their principle court of witness from the United States. The Pandemic Era (as it has been popularly coined) commanded the need and stubbornness for the immediate implementation and obedience of court attendance through video conferencing. Thankfully, Cisco, Zoom, Google etc. came forward with free, accessible and easy to use technologies.
Talking about ease of Justice during the pandemic era, it wasn’t easy for the lawyers especially of non- metropolitan regions, because obtaining hardware and emulating your hall for a courtroom became a challenge for everyone. Something good that came out was a lawyer could appear before multiple courts sitting in his office by saving time and money in travel. Further, filing became easier, a simple mail or an upload reduced clearkage involved in filing of applications and petitions. It is upsetting that as we approach this post pandemic era, courts and ease of justice are still far away for a litigant. As the cost factor of approaching a court with a well drafted, proper advised proceeding along with a solution centric lawyer is at times proportionally higher than the reliefs sought.
Thankfully, the pandemic era acted as the force to bring about this change. Today the important proceedings of the Hon’ble Supreme Court can be accessed and are live at times, all one needs to do is go to https://main.sci.gov.in/display-board. A common man would know what exactly happens in a court.
Host: How would you rate the current legal system's drive towards encouraging access to justice? Is there tangible movement in closing the justice gap?
Devashish: One shouldn’t rate a system because its existence and maintenance makes it better. If there are gaps one should complain, if there are changes required they need to be addressed. Today, I believe before we try reducing the justice gap there is introspection required. It’s an inconvenient truth but upon the insistence of a client, advocates do defer and delay proceedings – tareekhpetareekh! is a reality. However, the fact that multiple laws exists for common acts of wrong is the major reason for delay and wastage of court time.
When the Arbitration Amendment Act, 2015, was enacted it opened a Pandora’s box of interpretations and implementations which lead to loss of litigation time deferring opinions and urgent need for clarification. In today’s day and age, reduction and simplification of laws is the major that is required. For example, negligent Kite flying is illegal according to the Indian Aircraft Act of 1934, pay a fine of ten lakh rupees or face prison and a fine. The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 permitted the British to control India by tapping telegraphy across the nation to prevent revolts, today, the law has lost all relevance. Then, the Factories Act of 1948 allows women to do hazardous jobs and work in factories. But when it comes to women working at night times, the law is the opposite. I believe we should speak less about the controversy around the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 and the ‘special powers’ that it entails. Surprisingly so, prostitution ‘not illegal’ but being asolicitor of flesh trade is illegal. Therefore, drafting of laws need to be simpler and not with reasonable relaxations and restricts only then would it be accessible for all.
Host: In the era of legal technology, what are the most commonly used tools for you?
Devashish: I have used Judis.nic and ecourt.nic the most, which have been pioneered by NIC. It is also important to note that NIC since 2012 has provided and digitalized the orders and proceedings of most of the Courts around India and has provided the country with Applications and websites that give access to the Court Orders, previous and next dates of proceedings and with information regarding the disposal of cases. Any person who knows the case number, FIR number, forum of his case can access the case with an easy interface. It reported in brief which has happened in the court even pre-pandemic. Post-pandemic, I think paper wastage has reduced as the carrying an iPad / tablet with all the notes and briefs has become the new norm albeit printouts are handed, agreements or affidavits have to be signed and orders need to be couriered. We should go back to the era of signing or attesting our documents with our fingers provided our privacy and data are protected.
Host: Time is money in any profession and in legal it's most of all. How do you ensure to make the best of your time as a lawyer?
Devashish : When you approach a Senior for some minutes for an ounce of clarification you need his time and loads of money because with his advice your client can multiply his income. For the senior he has had years of practice, hours of research and for you its seconds of advice for the cost.Time is money its true! But they are also relative!
Post pandemic, video conferencing, whatsapp consultations, email opinions have become common, meetings that took 6-7 hours including travel time are now a 30-40-minute video conference. This obviously has led to saving time and money. The queries that reach my inbox although are simple but they require an all-round approach after studying scenarios, possible defences and tactics to provide simple, cost saving and efficient solutions. The time I devote to these queries require a calm, energetic and result oriented brain in limited time. To spend more time proficiently you need to recharge your life. Since I work for organizations that as of now to do no find the need to disrupt my weekend, I spend my weekend recharging for the Monday so that I can devote my time to give the best possible advice.
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