Mr. Krishan Singhania, the Managing Partner & Founder of K. Singhania & Co. has graduated in Law from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University and completed a course on Patent Law from Cambridge University, U.K. He is a seasoned professional with comprehensive experience of over 30 years.
K. Singhania & Co. has had unrivalled success under his dynamic and determined leadership. His legal expertise in corporate & commercial law, arbitration, maritime, aviation, foreign direct investments is highly respected in the industry and his ideas and opinions can be found in popular legal newsletters and international journals.
He has consistently been ranked amongst the top 100 lawyers and legal icons of the country in the annual A-List feature of India Business Law Journal. Owing to his experience of working as a foreign lawyer in New York and London, he brings international best practices to the Firm.
Host: What is the firm profile and can you throw light on some of the notable work done?
Krrishan: K Singhania & Co (formerly Singhania & Co., Advocates & Solicitors) is a boutique law firm having specialized knowledge and experience of more than 25 years. Our Firm has been providing exceptional services to both its national and international clients in its core practice areas, which include international and domestic arbitration, commercial mediation and litigation, insolvency and bankruptcy, intellectual property laws, corporate and commercial laws, and maritime and aviation laws. The Firm also takes pride in having established a sector-specific specialization in the fields of Construction and Infrastructure, Shipping & Logistics, Oil & Gas, Telecommunication, and Aviation. In the year 2020, the Firm rebranded itself to recognize the accolades of its founder, Mr. Krrishan Singhania.
The Firm has been involved in numerous path-breaking litigations and transactions that have shaped the Indian laws. When India opened up the aviation sector for private participation, the Firm was one of the firsts to have assisted foreign aircraft leasing companies to lease their aircraft to newly setup private airlines in India. The Firm is also a strong proponent of legal reformation and constantly submits white papers to bring in reforms to the arbitration laws, insolvency laws, corporate laws and maritime laws.
Host: Tell us about a complex legal issue you worked on. Describe the complexity and tell us how you approached it?
Krrishan: The team has performed well consistently and this can be reflected through the feedback we receive from our clients and the legal awards that we have received year on year.
We constantly deal with complex legal cases and matters. Let us highlight few of such matters mentioned below:
● The case which I would like to emphasise on is with regard to jurisdiction of Courts in India when a contract provides for foreign jurisdiction / foreign Court. In this case we were representing the foreign party which had an Indian agent for distribution of goods. The Dispute Resolution clause provided that in case of dispute the party raising the dispute will have to file the case in the other party’s jurisdiction. Since the dispute was raised by the Indian party the matter was required to be referred to the foreign court. The Bombay High Court dealt with this subject of jurisdiction and upheld that the foreign Court will only have jurisdiction to decide this case. This case was complicated as normally courts have inherent jurisdiction to decide the matter and also sometimes have bias towards the country litigant in which they operate. But the judgment upheld the rule of law and will of the party.
● We have also handled a complicated case with regard to aircraft lease. Our client was the foreign lessor and the opposite party was the Indian Lessee who had taken aircraft on lease where the Indian party had not paid the lease rental to the foreign party. The matter was for recovering aircraft lease rental and also to ask the Court to get the aircraft back to the foreign aircraft lessor. Ours was the first case in Bombay High Court which got decided in the period of less than 6 months and we were successful in repatriating the aircraft back to our client overseas in a period of less than a year. In this case the most interesting experience I had was when on the day of departure of the aircraft, the Government authorities tried to restrain our client from taking the aircraft out of India on the day of festival of Holi. We had to move the Court in the Judge’s house to get an urgent order. It gave me a lot of thrill and satisfaction that I could move the Court even on a holiday of Court and get my client relief.
● A landmark case relating to challenge of interim award by NTPC for ICC Arbitration which resulted in incorporation of the new Arbitration & Conciliation Act 1996. This was the case where the Supreme Court of India for the first time opined on the governing law of the arbitration agreement, when the arbitration agreement was silent. (National Thermal Power Corporation v. Singer, AIR 1993 SC 998). In this case, after the decision of the Supreme Court of India, the Government of India decided to re-frame the Indian Arbitration Act 1940.
●Successful before Intellectual Property Appellate Tribunal in defending an application for removal of our client’s Trademark for non-use. This was a complex matter and it was difficult to get an order in favour of our client.
We have also been successfully assisting our clients in the field of medicine and apparels in filling oppositions and sending cease and desist notice against the proprietors of deceptively similar marks even during the lockdown.
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?
Krrishan: With regards to court moving to remote proceedings, there is no doubt that the model can increase access to justice to a great extent but as India is a large country and access to electronic devices and internet coverage is still limited in remote areas. It is still important that both the physical and remote model have to work together as many litigants and lawyers don’t have access to devices and internet. It is in the interest of justice that both forums are available to litigants.
During the pandemic, the Firm has taken various innovative steps to keep in pace with technology. Our team was working remotely efficiently and we adopted technologies like google meet, zoom and cisco webex to conduct team meetings and events at the firm. We also took steps to ensure that the documents and information of our clients was kept private and confidential by giving limited access to the information/documents to our team members. We also invested in technologies (based on Artificial Intelligence) that helped us to research and proof-read documents efficiently. We also invested in a software that helps in detecting deceptively similar trademarks from the trademark journal. Through this software we are able to inform our clients about the deceptively similar trademarks in a timely manner and thereafter file oppositions.
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?
Krrishan: The virtual courts are becoming a reality today because of the risk involved and it is one of the right steps to give access to justice to a large number of people and cases. The important fact is that if we are able to make transparent rules and procedures which would bring justice to a larger number of advocates and litigants as we have to also upgrade our infrastructure to deal with this. In remote parts there are issues of electricity, internet coverage and bandwidth in addition to availability of computers.
While virtual courts are set up and High Courts have been set up. However, there is still a gap of infrastructure so justice can be taken to remote areas. There is a need to train judges and lawyers for virtual hearings.
We are of the view that in order to cover the gap, the courts should try to standardize pleadings, put limited number of cases each day and give an effective time table in advance so that the parties are aware of the hearings coming up. The court can also give guidelines on the number of hours each party has to argue and then expeditiously give a decision with realistic costs to winning parties.
Host: In the era of legal technology, what are the most commonly used tools for you?
Krrishan: The most common tools are programs like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex for virtual meetings and arbitration proceedings which were earlier held physically. They are also used for sharing documents and working as a team on a transaction. ODR platforms are also coming up to facilitate dispute resolution process and ensure information is confidential. New technology when it comes to trademark watch services and Artificial Intelligence is helping lawyers proofread documents faster. New AI is also helping lawyers research effectively.
We believe in cost-effectiveness both for the law firm and the client. We conduct majority of the legal research in house and appear in arbitrations and before the courts of law through an in-house team. We also try to save costs by investing in innovative technologies. For example, the firm has invested in software for trademark search and proofreading voluminous commercial contracts. We also encourage clients to opt for virtual hearings both in arbitration and litigation so that they can save on administrative costs.
We are being time efficient by using technology to carry out tasks which was originally done by large teams like Artificial Intelligence software for case research and case management and proof-reading voluminous commercial documents. We are also making use of online dispute resolution platforms for conducting arbitration and mediation. These platforms help Clients in saving both time and costs in resolving disputes, especially with respect to small value claims.
Host: What are some of the awards and achievements that you’ve received in the past?
Krrishan: In the year 2020, we rebranded ourselves and changed our name from Singhania & Co to K Singhania & Co. Benchmark Litigation, the definitive guide to the world’s leading litigation firms and lawyers, has ranked the Firm as Tier 4 in Commercial and Transactions disputes, Tier 5 in Construction disputes, and ‘Notable Firm’ in International Arbitration in the year 2020. The Firm has also been awarded ‘Litigation Dispute Resolution Team of the Year in small and medium category’ by India Legal Awards in the year 2019. The Firm has also been awarded by India Business Law Journal as the Indian Law Firm of 2020 and 2019 in the area of Maritime and Shipping. The firm has also won the Maritime Law Firm of the Year in 2021 at the Asian Legal Business Awards. K Singhania & Co was also the winner in the Shipping and Maritime Category at the Indian Business Law Journal (IBLJ) Awards 2021.
Our Founder and Managing Partner, Krrishan Singhania, is considered a veteran in the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution and has consistently been ranked amongst the top 100 lawyers and legal icons of the country in the annual A-List feature of India Business Law Journal in the years 2019 and 2020. Mr. Singhania was also on the jury for the BW Legal 40 under 40 as a judge to honour the next generation of legal luminaries and legal stalwarts. Mr. Singhania recently spoke at the FRO Summit by Franchise India Holdings Ltd. held at Bangalore and shared his knowledge on the recent trends in franchising agreements and the important clauses for entrepreneurs to keep in mind while entering into franchise agreements.
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