In its second annual list of India’s best disputes lawyers, ALB India spotlights 30 standout practitioners in the country’s litigation and arbitration scene. The list has been selected based on submissions made to ALB. The names are in alphabetical order, and certain lawyers have been profiled below.
HS ‘BOBBY’ CHANDHOK
THRIYAMBAK J. KANNAN
MANOJ K SINGH
SONAL KUMAR SINGH
PRATEEK Bagaria, partner, Singularity Legal
Bagaria specialises in international dispute resolution including litigation, arbitration, alternative dispute resolution (ADR), third party funding, fraud and investigation and global enforcement and debt record. He regularly advises energy and resources, construction and infrastructure, shipping and trade companies and institutional investors in shareholder and joint venture disputes and sovereign disputes. He also represents athletes and sports federations in anti-doping and other sports disputes.
Bagaria has been involved in numerous disputes and has advised his clients in international arbitrations under various rules including ICC, SIAC, LCIA, ICDR, FCC, LMAA, CAS and UNCITRAL, international mediations under the rules of SIMC and SMC, in cross border disputes before courts in India, Indonesia, Israel, Singapore, Turkey, Mauritius, UAE, UK, and the U.S. and in investment and tax treaty disputes.
Among his significant work, Bagaria has advised a global litigation funder for its investment in a portfolio concerning two mega-infrastructure projects in Saudi Arabia. He also represented a Singaporean and an Indian company in an arbitration concerning breach of a consortium agreement for a rig conversion project against an Abu Dhabi shipyard.
Additionally, Bagaria has counselled an Indian company for its dispute against a Turkish employer relating to the construction of a circulating fluidised bed combustion boiler in Istanbul, Turkey, and a Turkish company in an arbitration concerning termination of a contract for renovation of highways in Kazakhstan against a Kazakh state-owned enterprise.
Bagaria is assisting a South Korean petrochemical company in conducting an investigation with regards to its ongoing arbitration against an Indian oil and gas joint venture of three public sector undertakings.
He says that his aim is for Singularity Legal to reach the point of singularity for international disputes services. “Singularity aims to shift its headquarters to Singapore and provide end-to-end transnational dispute services that include allied services other than legal services such as forensic investigation and forensic accounting,” he adds.
SAMEER Jain, founder and managing partner, PSL, Advocates & Solicitors
Jain, who has been with PSL, Advocates & Solicitors for eight years, is an international commercial arbitration, corporate, commercial and tax litigation and advisory specialist.
He is the lead partner for the PSL Advocates & Solicitors’ team advising and acting on behalf of the erstwhile ruler and royal family of Bastar in the state of Chhattisgarh relating to the succession of the Gaddi of the Ruler and the royal property. A contentious issue has arisen as to whether succession of personal and private properties would be governed by the personal laws applicable to an ordinary Hindu citizen or by the rule of lineal male primogeniture applicable to rulers, in light of the deed of accession signed by the Ruler read with Section 5
on claiming damages to the tune of $8 million from Laader Berg, AS Norway, for breach of contract for supply of a sophisticated and advanced foam machine. The claim pertained to supply of a patently defective machine as a result of respondent’s gross negligence and inapplicability of limitation of liability clauses in such cases under the Norwegian Law. In addition, Jain also represented SBS Transpole Logistics an Indian company against whom a foreign award arising out of a SIAC arbitration was sought to be enforced by a Singaporean entity. The firm led the challenge to the enforcement of the said award under Section 48 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
Bibhu Kumar, chief executive officer, Zetfly, said, “Sameer is an excellent lawyer with a high level of diligence. His attention to detail is amazing which has helped us to be able to turn very difficult situations into a win-win for us.”
AMIT Jajoo, partner, IndusLaw
Jajoo is well versed in dispute resolution, insolvency and bankruptcy. He was admitted to the India Bar in 2004.
Jajoo has been a part of several noteworthy deals. During the earlier part of his career, he was part of the merger and incorporation of the TATASKY services in India. He also worked with top criminal lawyers during his early days and represented officials of McKenzie, Golden Tobacco, GHCL and Mahindra & Mahindra in various criminal matters. He has also represented clients in core criminal matters such as murder trials.
Jajoo has represented clients in niche matters such as in public interest litigation for restoration of the Mumbai Zoo and preservation of the Botanical garden and State of Pennsylvania and Central Adoption Resource Authority against Central Government on the issue of adoption by foreign adoptive parents.
One of Jajoo’s area of expertise is in the field of intellectual property rights disputes. He has handled and continues to handle several IPR disputes.
Deepak Chhabria, managing director, Finolex Cables says, “Amit Jajoo is the relationship partner for my matters. He has a great legal mind and is an out of the box thinker. He is focused and gets the desired results. He is dedicated towards the matters entrusted to him and is personally involved in each aspect of the matter, which is rare in Partners of other law firms. He also has an edge over others as he regularly appears before Courts and argues the matters, himself.”
Jajoo says that the challenges inside a courtroom, out of the box thinking, novelty in the interpretation of laws in the courts and the presence of mind that one requires in this field, especially in disputes practice, has always intrigued him and motivated him to excel in this practice.
Talking about his career ambitions, Jajoo says that he aspires to be one of the “most trusted and go to disputes lawyer and to put the disputes practice as one of the most recognised and well-respected practices within the firm and outside”.
THRIYAMBAK J. Kannan, founding partner, Assentio Legal
Kannan has been a litigation and disputes lawyer over the past 15 years and is the co-founder of Assentio Legal. He focuses on dispute resolution, commercial litigation, insolvency and bankruptcy, arbitration and regulatory disputes. He has a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School where he was the recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship. He spent several years developing a strong foundation in dispute resolution at the chambers of senior counsels Arvind P. Datar and Murari Raghavan as well as with AZB & Partners, Mumbai.
He leads the dispute resolution practice at Assentio Legal, a law firm in South India, and represents a diverse set of clients before courts and arbitral tribunals across India. With the advent of the insolvency and bankruptcy Code, 2016, he has emerged as a leading counsel at the forefront of developments before the courts and tribunals in relation to this nascent law. He has also emerged as a preferred choice for several complex arbitration matters and has also been recognised and appointed as an arbitrator by the Madras High Court. He regularly represents Larsen and Toubro, India Cements, Simplex Infrastructures Limited and Paragon footwear.
Kannan views the practice of law as a constant learning experience, and believes that his ultimate reward as a lawyer is to be trusted by his clients and the courts.
Among his noteworthy cases, Kannan has represented the Indian promoters of wind turbine manufacturer Enercon India in a dispute between the company’s Indian and German promoters. He also represented a global apparel designer against its garment manufacturer in a first of its kind arbitration in respect of intellectual property before the Madras High Court.
Kannan also advised a resolution applicant before the National Company Law Tribunal to sustain a resolution plan regarding a company which was in corporate insolvency resolution process wherein the tax dues of the central and state government were written off.
According to Kannan’s philosophy, “the practice of law is not about winning cases. It is about letting the client know that everything that can be done to make their case winnable.”
CHARANYA Lakshmikumaran, partner, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan
A commercial litigation-disputes specialist, Lakshmikumaran has been with the firm for 12 years. She has been a part of the litigation team that argued before the nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court challenging the State Entry Tax Acts in India and also assisted the Attorney General for India in the Swiss Ribbons case which cemented the IBC jurisprudence of India.
Lakshmikumaran also assisted the AG in the right to privacy matter besides having argued on behalf of Honda, challenging the Competition Commission of India’s order, before the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court.
In addition to this, Lakshmikumaran has argued anti-profiteering proceedings under GST pending before the Delhi High Court.
Some of Lakshmikumaran’s significant clients include Sony, Nikon, Canon, Xerox, Suez, SAIL, GAIL, Ultratech Cement, Godrej, Suez, Johnson & Johnson, Amazon and Larsen & Toubro.
Regarding her plans, Lakshmikumaran says, “My team and I have been closely working with small-time traders and business owners to educate them on various issues and laws which they must comply with for the growth of their business.” Besides this, she is keen on imparting knowledge to students. “I am regularly taking lectures for students on issues of constitutional law and insolvency laws. In fact, such lectures have increased post-pandemic,” she adds.
MUSTAFA Motiwala, partner & head of the litigation and dispute resolution practice, Clasis Law
Motiwala, who was admitted to the India Bar in 1994, specialises in litigation and alternative dispute resolution, insolvency and bankruptcy, intellectual property rights, real estate, shipping and inter-national trade and technology, media and telecom.
Motiwala has advised and defended a CEO of a large multinational company and other related entities in a suit filed by an employee for sexual harassment. He represented a large multinational company in chemical business and obtaining an order (being order in rem) restraining the protestors from being in the vicinity of a specified limit of the office premises.
In addition, Motiwala counselled and represented an international ship owner in admiralty litigation where, in a unique order, the Bombay High Court permitted the ship to sail within the Indian territorial waters whilst under arrest. He also advised a large Indian media and entertainment company in protecting the format of a popular TV show and assisting in obtaining injunctive reliefs against the infringer.
Glory (Bulk carriers), Skuld Germany, Ark Shipping Services, Agritrade Resources and UD Group of Companies are a few of Motiwala’s clients.
UD Group of Companies says, “Mustafa Motiwala has provided legal advice and guidance during a difficult situation. I found him to be experienced, responsive, knowledgeable and honest. While working with him, I felt as though my situation was in adept and trustworthy hands, and he did not steer me wrong.”
VASANTH Rajasekaran, partner, Phoenix Legal
Rajasekaran is a dispute resolution, projects and competition law expert who was admitted to the India Bar in 2004.
Rajasekaran has advised on numerous matters. He represented a Japanese car manufacturer in a multi-million-dollar dispute under a distributor agreement with its sole distributor of cars in India in arbitration proceedings before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. He advised Veolia Environmental Services, in a biomass power project dispute with its Indian partners before the Delhi High Court and the Arbitral Tribunal appointed by the High Court in a multi-million-dollar claim.
Besides this, Rajasekaran also counselled a premium global multi-beverage company in a writ petition before the Delhi High Court challenging the ruling given by the Authority for Advance Rulings where the question of legal validity of taxation of transfer of IPRs outside India between foreign entities has been raised. He also represented a leading Chinese telecom equipment manufacturing company in the winding- up action initiated against Indian mobile network operator in the Bombay High Court for the unpaid dues of $25 million (approximately) for supply of telecommunications equipment.
“Integrity and trust have been and remain the two cornerstones of my professional practice because in my view a productive client-attorney relationship cannot exist in the absence of trust; therefore, we strive every day to foster trust which is the foundation of a lasting client-attorney relationship that withstands the test of time,” Rajasekaran says shedding light on his philosophy. “Another important aspect of my professional philosophy is maintaining impeccable reputation and trust with the courts/arbitral tribunal before which we appear and the opposing counsel(s). It remains our duty to promote professionalism and civility in all aspects of our legal representation.”
Talking about his future plans and career ambitions, Rajasekaran says that going forward, on the business side, he would like to focus on building professional relationships that will translate into repeat instructions and on legal side he will focus on arguing matters that involve complex questions of law so that he can leave behind a legacy that is of great academic value for future generations.
ANAND Shrivastava, partner, Sagus Legal
Shrivastava, who specialises in energy, regulatory advisory, dispute resolution and arbitration, infrastructure and competition law, has been admitted to the India Bar for over 11 years.
Among the matters he has dealt with, Shrivastava represented a trans-mission company before the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission in relation to grant of permission to build, own and operate an inter-state transmission system without issuance of an inter-state transmission license. This was the first time such a permission was issued by the CERC. He also appeared on behalf of a public sector utility in a matter about wrongful declaration of commercial operation date by the developer without complying with the 2014 CERC Tariff Regulations and effecting a recovery of approximately 500 crores.
Shrivastava is also representing the Tata Power Company on vesting of Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha to its subsidiary, TP Central Odisha Distribution Limited under Section 20 and Section 21 of the Electricity Act of 2003, under an order by the Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission. This is one of the few instances of privatisation of a state distribution utility. Such vesting involves various regulatory aspects which require key insights and in-depth understanding of the sector. Post vesting, he has also been continuously advising to ensure a smooth transition of operations.
Additionally, Shrivastava is acting for a power utility before the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity in an appeal seeking directions to the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) to give effect to DERC (Terms and Conditions for determination of Tariff), Regulations, 2017 and the DERC (Business Plan) Regulations, 2017.
Shrivastava has represented clients including FRV Solar, Power Finance Corporation, REC, Jindal Stainless, Lenskart, Tata Power and ANDRITZ HYDRO.
MANISHA Singh, managing partner, LexOrbis
Singh, who was admitted to the India Bar in 1998, started her career at a time when Indian IP laws and practices were undergoing substantial changes according to India’s obligations to comply with the TRIPS agreement. She played an important and crucial role in advising and apprising Indian policy and lawmakers on global standards associated with IP administrative and enforcement systems.
Singh has acted on several mile-stone cases. She leads most of the firm’s large and complex cases. She represents clients including Frontline PCB. Solutions, S3G Technology, Lundbeck and Procter & Gamble. She also represents the Reserve Bank of India, India’s central banking institution, before the High Court of Delhi and the Supreme Court of India in cases related to banking and non-banking financial companies.
Singh has represented H. Lundbeck in a trademark and copyright infringement proceeding. The infringement suit was filed against HAB Pharmaceuticals & Research for manufacturing and exporting, pharmaceutical product under a mark CIDRALEX which is deceptively similar to Lundbeck’s well-known and registered trademark “CIPRALEX”.
Joginder Singh, partner at LexOrbis, says, “Manisha’s farsightedness, love for innovation and vision to build an organisation for IP, matching international standards resulted in LexOrbis, one of the first in class IP Firm in India. Her best practices amongst others include policies related to diversity and inclusion, flexible working hours and workspace etc. The firm, under her leadership, has come to be known for its approach of finding practical, realistic and commercially viable solutions for its clients.”
MANOJ K Singh, founding partner, Singh & Associates
Singh, who was admitted to the India Bar in 2002, is an expert in litigation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). He is the founding partner of Singh & Associates - Advocates and Solicitors.
Some of the clients that Singh represented are Uppal Housing (UHPL), GuarantCo, PNC-BEL(JV) (PNC Infratech (PNC) and Bhageeratha Engineering Joint Venture), Jindal ITF and GMR Infrastructure.
Among the clients that he has represented, Singh has advised UHPL in an international commercial arbitration. The arbitration has invoked UHPL against ICP pursuant to clause 16.2 of the Revised Shareholder Agreement. He has been made the lead counsel for Jindal Saw to defend all its litigations regarding its mining of iron ore in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. The monetary value involved is more than 150 billion rupees.
Besides this, Singh was a finalist of the Dispute Resolution Lawyer of the Year at the ALB India Law Awards 2019.
Sunil Kumar Trehan, director, Jindal ITF says, “A true visionary, Manoj, has taken many a step and contributed immensely, to the development and strengthening of arbitration institution in India. The ADR centre is par excellence, equipped with everything an arbitration centre could need, including the latest in IT and other tech. I have known Manoj, personally and professionally, for a long time now, and I have closely observed him grow leaps and bounds, building and strengthening his focus on development of Arbitrations and Conciliation both in India, and overseas.”
Venkat Rao, general counsel, JMC Projects (India) says, “Manoj Kumar Singh is the best brain on any dispute in the field of construction. He has expertise in law, finance and technical aspects of construction. He is an original thinker and he constantly keeps himself updated on various developments.”
With regards to his plans, Singh says, “By and large, barring some exceptions countable on our fingertips, the practice of law in India is unorganised. The sector runs on the names of individuals. My future plan is to organise this practice as a broad platform where systems are created within the firm should ensure the best of services to the client and best of growth to professionals working in the organisation. One in the absence of others will never let the organised model of law firm function evolve.”
KUNAL Tandon, founder and managing partner, Tandon & Co.
A dispute resolution expert, Tandon was admitted to the India Bar nearly 18 years ago.
Tandon has counselled Viacom18 Media in the case of Manish Kumar vs. Viacom18 Media where the plaintiff has sought rights in concept and loose script of a reality television show based on the musical journey of musicians and composers across the country. This is being opposed on the ground that there is no copyright in a concept. The matter is now at trial stage and the witness of the Defendant is being cross-examined.
Besides this, Tandon has also advised numerous clients including Dolby International, State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Sony Pictures Networks India, HDFC Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Axis Bank, Tata Finance, RBL Bank and Times Internet.
According to Tandon, dispute resolution is a craft that gets better with experience and understanding of conciliatory approach. He believes that the real trait of an attorney should not be the ability to just find a solution but also raise the right questions. He says, “Good questions and beginnings make for better and favourable endings,” He believes in ‘problem first’ approach where it puts the client’s problem in the centre. Thereafter, he optimizes its knowledge, experience and network to customise a tailored solution for the client.
Manish Wadkar, head-legal, Times Network says, “Kunal deserves support from the outside in whatever manner needed because he goes out of the way while handling our matters without complaining about anything which is commendable. I have a comfort level which allows me to call him at anytime for any help and he is there to support the Times Network.”
To contact the editorial team, please email ALBEditor@thomsonreuters.com.