LexTalk World Interviews Mr. Hitesh C Soni. Hitesh is a Indian lawyer who primary practice in Bombay High Court and has contributed to the development of law with many reported judgments. As of today, Mr. Soni has handled more than 200 cases in Bombay High Court and several other courts in India. He has vast legal expertise in the field of Constitutional, corporate & commercial; international trade & customs practice; immigrations and white-collar crimes. He is also a founder & Managing Director of M/s Hitesh Soni and Associates, Mumbai, which he had established when he was barely 26 in the year 2017. Being a young professional, Mr. Hitesh C Soni is known for his panacea mindset and ethical practice in the field of law. He was recently featured in the June 2021 edition of Magazine issue titled "Most Reliable Law Firm" published by Insights Success. He is termed as the Erudite Visionary by the editor of the Magazine.
Host: Tell us about a complex legal issue you worked on. Describe the complexity and tell us how you approached it?
Hitesh: Well, all matters that come to a lawyer are complex for some other reason, but ultimately, it is a lawyer's job to make it simple and brief. If you ask me particularly, some matters that I worked on not only involved legal issues but also human touch and psychology. As per my experience, there are two reasons why a matter is complex; one, which becomes complex due to clients' delays and laches, and the other, which involves an important question of law. One of the matters pertaining to our client who entered into a shareholding agreement and later on, a dispute arose and it went into multiple litigation in the Hon'ble High Court, then the CLB and other forums. The complexity of the matter was so great that from the filing of commercial suits, company petitions, arbitration and what not, there were as many as at least 20 cross party cases pending between the same parties. This dispute also went to EOW and a serious fraud investigation too. Our total recovery in the matter was more than 100 crores, and our client was naturally feeling helpless, relentless, and exhausted. After all, such a matter came to me, and mine and my firm's challenges were not only to deal with multiple cases but to make sure that we got it fixed. Well, the efforts succeeded, and eventually the matter was resolved. Our clients' entire money, along with interest, was returned.
Another complex matter, which was in regard to arbitration proceedings under section 9 of the Arbitration Act, whereby the arbitrator rejected the claim of our client. The claim was rejected on the basis of its delay in filing. So we went to the Hon’ble High Court and said that the arbitrator is a master of proceedings. However, he ought to have entailed the claim because, after all, it is for the arbitrator to decide the claim after the new procedure of law. So the High Court has decided.
Furthermore, there are a number of cases that involve questions of law that we deal with in the High Court. There are a lot of matters that we are dealing with. However, we cannot comment on matters which are subjudice .
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?
Hitesh: Of course, it is not sustainable, but the judiciary in India is making all the efforts at its disposal to be available for access to justice. If you are referring to our Bombay High Court in particular, our high court has never closed its doors since the pandemic, whether virtual or physical clients were heard.After all, judges are all human, but seeing the pendency, this is not what we are expecting in the long term. Recently, the law minister, Kiren Rajju, said in Parliament that a lot of money has been spent on court infrastructure. Well, in my opinion, good infrastructure is indeed important, but ultimately, it is the bar and bench that are available day and night for people. Infrastructure may help you get artificial intelligence, but it is wisdom, not money, that resolves the matter. Hence, more people need more wisdom. Therefore, this is the right time when the judiciary and bar should sit together, not limited to some top people from the bar and bench, but all stakeholders should be heard.
Host: How would you rate the current legal system's drive towards encouraging access to justice? Is there tangible movement towards closing the justice gap?
Hitesh: Indian lawyers are underrated. They need to be encouraged. They contributed a lot before independence and today too. SC of the USA vs. Indian Sc.
For instance, NLS Bangalore. There is always uncertainty in the law, and the pandemic was no less than anything. Just like a new law comes and a lawyer has to deal with a new act, They are quicker to change. Basic education is key.
I believe there is enough being done as humanly as possible, but certainly not satisfactory at all. Legal professionals have learnt a lot from this pandemic. They have not only moulded their way but all quickly adopted it, and hence, access was hampered a bit but never stalled. We’re overburdened with a lot of work, dealing with pre-pandemic to post pandemic lit and not lit.
Host: In the era of legal technology, what are the most commonly used tools for you?
Hitesh: Lawyer brains hahaha … but yes these are divided into two parts, they are pre filings tools and post filings tools, but in common without naming them we are being occupied with more artificial based research technology which helps us to get important precedent in a more quicker time, apart from this traditional practice of research, we are more relying on video conferencing tools for virtual hearing as well clients meetings.
If you are asking about artificial intelligence in the legal field, not even a few have adopted it, as you cannot replace lawyers with robots. For instance, Advocate Vaishali from the office arranges all the briefs and research so that I manage to argue the matter in a more organised and effective manner.
Host: Time is money in any profession, and in law it's most of all. How do you ensure you make the best of your time as a lawyer?
Hitesh: Most of my time is being spent in courts.
Time flows in the same way for all human beings, but every human being flows through time in a different way. Well, technically, my time is mine, but in reality, all of it is reserved for my clients. The position in which I am requires quite a lot of leadership skills. Start a day by preparing a legal strategy, discussing it with clients to get it drafted, and eventually getting it filed in court and getting a result. All of these require a great deal of time, and it gets more difficult when you’re running a law firm in the commercial capital of India. And I have no hesitation in saying that our clients pay well, but how I manage my time is through my mindset. The question is how to save time. I have the mindset of getting things done in a particular manner and at a specific time, so you end up saving more time. What I mean is that if your mindset is clear and you are a good decision maker, then the time is in your hand.
Our lawyers' lives start on Friday evening to Saturday, and Sunday is always reserved for Mondays.
My advice to all young lawyers is that if you are working on a particular case, decision making is key. If, for any reason, your decision is not prompt, it will keep being delayed and pending for a long, long time, and that will not help you.