Hey hey hey! For our next Alumni interview, I spoke with Vikramaditya of the Batch of National Law University, Delhi, 2013 currently pursuing litigation in Delhi to see how it’s been treating him. Read on and watch out in particular for his explanation of what litigation has given him.
- Where are you currently employed? For how long have you been working here?
I work in the office of Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan and his wife Ms. Haripriya Padmanabhan. Both have an independent practice. While Gopal sir mostly deals with the Supreme Court matters, Haripriya ma’am deals with High Court and Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) matters.
I have been working with them for the last two years. I joined them immediately after the completion of my LL.B.
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- Which Courts do you practice in? What all does the practice involve?
As you can easily guess now that we practice mostly in the higher courts and CAT. Practice involves everything you can imagine or sometimes may be beyond your imagination starting from drafting petitions, written submissions etc., to running around for photo copying of documents, pagination of documents, fixing conferences with senior counsels and yes if you are lucky enough (as in higher courts you rarely get a chance) you would find yourself inside the courtroom arguing before the judges (of course not for final arguments). I would like to inform you here that there is no fixed area of law which we practice in. However, the major areas of practice would be Constitutional Law, Service Law, Education Laws, Prevention of Corruption Laws etc.
- How many lawyers are working in your seniors’ chambers?
Hahaha. I wish I could have that lucky to have someone. I am the only one assisting my seniors since my joining.
- How much responsibility are you given at your chambers and how has it changed over the period of two years that you have been practicing?
As I said earlier, there is no dearth of responsibility when you enter in litigation but yes you have to cherish those small opportunities/responsibilities to make it a happy place to survive. So, I have been doing drafting, a lot of research work, briefing senior counsels, appearing before courts and all other miscellaneous works mentioned earlier. As I am the only one in my office, initially it was very difficult to absorb all these responsibilities but over a period of time I start enjoying it when I realized that this is what litigation is.
- Why did you choose to pursue an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career such as litigation?
My answer would be may be because I always believed that practicing law includes a lot of field work, meeting clients, going to courts and doing all kind work assigned to you and nothing specific. So, I was mentally prepared to give it a shot. I always wanted to be connected to the reality, more precisely connected to what is happening on the ground level and what we need to address. In my opinion, you cannot learn law and connect it to the society by sitting in a room on a chair. Having knowledge of law is of course important but you must know how to make use of it so that you can serve the society, serve the people around. Otherwise any such knowledge and the entire hard work of gaining such knowledge are futile. The link between knowledge and its use is facilitated by skill which you acquire over a period of time by exposing yourself to the area you want to prosper in.
- What is the most exciting part of litigating? Which has been your favourite case you’ve worked on till now?
Ahh.. exciting part is that it gives you the courage to express yourself. As far as choosing one favourite case which I have worked on it would be easier for me to pick the recent S.66A IT Act matter. There are many more like constitutional validity of S.6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 under which the CBI is constituted and then the Constitutional Bench judgment on review of the death penalty matter etc. It is a reasonably long list.
- What is the worst aspect of litigating (apart from the money, if that was going to be your answer)?
No let off. You are on duty 24×7. You find yourself hesitant in planning anything. Money is of course one of the most important aspect one can consider before joining litigation.
- I do not know about you, but I don’t think I would remember much of what I have learnt in law school once I graduate. How do you think NLU Delhi has (if it has) given you an advantage in the litigation career?
NLU Delhi has given me the base to stand on. I come from a rural background and did my High School and 10+2 from a Hindi medium school. It was very difficult for a student like me to pursue law from an institution like NLU, Delhi. But I am really thankful to the institution for the way it groomed me. My five years association with the NLU, Delhi would be one of the best periods of my life. The institution gives you an exposure and makes you feel comfortable in the field of law, subject to your enthusiasm. It certainly gives you an opportunity to go and excel in any field whether it is corporate or litigation or PSUs. But one has to make that opportunity count. One should know what he/she is good in and follow that.
- How much time does it take to become familiar and comfortable with the practical aspects of Court procedure that we are not taught in law school? Did you face any difficulty in the same?
It does not take much time to become familiar with the system if you are sincere. Even if you are not sincere, the system makes you so. You don’t have to worry about getting familiar and being comfortable with the court system. I did not face any such difficulty may be because of my internship experiences with the DLSA, the NCW, the Supreme Court etc.
- Perhaps I’m making this a little too much about my own insecurities, but how necessary is it to be fluent in Hindi, reading and writing in particular? Was it difficult for you? Have you found that it is something that one can pick up?
In appellate courts pleadings are translated in English only. So, I do not find learning Hindi is so much important. But yes, for communicating to court staffs and clients (from the Hindi belt of the country) you should know Hindi and you learn that over a period of time. Let me tell you, most of my court colleagues are from non-Hindi speaking areas and I have seen them grooming well with the language.
- If I may ask, what is your monthly salary? How easy/difficult is it for someone without family in Delhi to live in Delhi on a litigation salary?
My salary being a fresher is decent as compared to the current litigation market but then yes it is difficult to survive on a litigation salary when you do not have a family here. Initially it makes you feel that how can your friend who is doing the same amount of work in a corporate firm is getting more than a decent salary and you do not get the same. But that is how our system is. Again, every field has its own charm. So, does litigation has. Yes, I agree with you that there is this disparity which distracts a fresher from joining litigation in the first place.
- What are your plans for the future?
If you are asking about me getting married etc. then of course there is no such plan (on a lighter note). Right now I am prepared to have trial court experience. I want to learn it to broaden my understanding of law and its utility.
- Last question about litigation, would you recommend it to your juniors who are contemplating whether or not to pursue it as a career choice?
I would not recommend anyone to join or not to join anything but yes I have shared my experience of litigation so that they can take a call on their own.
- On a more general note, how is life after college? Are you still good friends with all those who you were good friends with in college? Do your friends doing corporate jobs agree to spend their money on you?
Honestly speaking, when you come out of college suddenly you realize you have so many things to do on your own. Life out of college demands maturity and truly so. One finds it difficult initially but then you come to know how to handle things. Life is certainly fast tracked after college and sometime monotonous too but at the end of the day it is your choice how you want your life to be. Thankfully, one advantage of being in Delhi is that most of my college friends are practicing here and whenever we get time we meet each other. Friends are friends. They always will be.
Did you listen this Bollywood song… Dilon mein tum apni betabiyaan leke chal rahe ho, toh zinda ho tum… This is my theme song. Litigation gives you all that.
Thank you so much for bearing with me. All the best for your future.
I hope you found that as interesting and informative as I did. Feel free to comment and suggest who you would like us to interview next. Cheers!