Advocate Matrugupta Mishra is Partner at New Delhi-based Praxis Counsel that specialises in infrastructure-related litigation and arbitration matters. He spoke to LegitQuest in February, 2020.
Q. Where did you do your LL.B from?
I did my five-year BA. LL.B from University Law College, Bhubaneswar, under the Utkal University, from 2000-05. Then I joined a law firm, GOALS — Goal Oriented Advisory Legal Services, in Bhubaneswar under Rajan Mahapatra. I worked there till around May or June 2006. Then I went to do my MBA and LLM from National Law University, Jodhpur where I studied till December, 2008. In 2009, I joined Praxis in Delhi.
So I have been with Praxis for eleven years now. Only for a year, in 2010, I was with the law firm Atul Sharma Associates (ASA) where I was doing their infrastructure practice. Then I returned to litigation to Praxis.
Q. Tell us about your journey, since you are now a Partner with Praxis Counsel.
In 2014, three of us became partners and we took over the firm. We started with the existing clients and cases. In February 2019, one of our partners branched out. Our focus has throughout been on infrastructure — on electricity, mining, and we do a little bit of competition also. And other than that we do general litigation in the High Courts and Supreme Court.
A lot of Arbitration also comes along with these. We basically concentrate on regulatory disputes, commercial disputes. I have done criminal cases in the past but I don’t do those anymore. I don’t do tax cases. So these are our basic practice areas.
Q. Are you a first generation lawyer?
My grandfather was a lawyer in Puri district court. My uncle did law too. But in a way I’m a first generation lawyer because I came to Delhi and settled here.
Q. So was it your grandfather’s influence that made you become a lawyer?
In a way yes. He did influence me as a person. But from the point of view of practising as a lawyer, there wasn’t a very big influence because I was a child when he would go to court. But still, there was a constant instilling to my mind by my grandfather that I should become a lawyer, which actually paved the way towards the profession for me.
I would say that I didn’t plan from day one that I would become a lawyer. I just went with the flow.
Q. Did you have a good insight into the legal profession because of your grandfather’s practise?
I didn’t get that kind of exposure from my grandfather. By the time I started growing up, his practice wasn’t very regular. I did see him handle clients and court work but not in a very holistic manner that it would formulate things for me. And my grandfather lived in Puri and I in Bhubaneswar, so there was physical distance too.
Q. You have a lot of experience in Arbitration matters. The Arbitration scenario in India faces criticism for not being upto the mark especially in comparison to some other countries.
The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015, has done a great job by limiting the time period. The Arbitration proceedings come in court of first instance, and then there is no appeal. Under section 34 of the Arbitration Act, you can go for setting aside of the award. That is very very limiting.
The most important thing is that we have to have consistency in the judicial view, in the sense of precedence. Because we (India) lack consistency, in international arbitration people are choosing other countries as the seat of arbitration. That’s a big loss to the country. Even in transactions happening here, people are moving to London, Hong Kong, Singapore to avail the amazing avenues that these countries have for settling Arbitration disputes and their chapters are also growing.
We have to have consistency in our approach. Unless and until we have consistency from the Supreme Court to down below, we will have great difficulty.
But honestly, if you look at Delhi High Court or any other original side, or even the civil courts, they take a lot of time. But thank God, for Arbitration you choose better persons and it’s expeditious, there are exclusive hearings. All those things are there.
Q. CJI Justice S A Bobde recently said at an event that Artificial Intelligence can help improve Arbitration proceedings in India. Do you agree that AI and other technology can be helpful in Arbitration proceedings?
Be it litigation of arbitration, AI is going to contribute a lot. And we should not be threatened by them because technology is going to help us in reaching the next level. A lot of discipline can be brought with the help of legal tech and AI for research, documentation and filtering, monotonous works, even for help with regard to cross examination of witnesses. Of course there are a lot more areas where legal tech can help. But we have to have a lot of acumen to exploit tech in order to perform better.
Q. What advice do you have for law students and budding lawyers?
I have only one advice which I have learnt in my career, that consistency and hard work is required in this profession. There is no mathematical principle or formula to get a client. You have to keep on working, the consistency and hard work is what is going to get you not only clients and cases but also the kind of edge that you want to have as a lawyer.