Tahira Karanjawala is Principal Associate at Karanjawala and Company, India’s leading litigation law firm. She is alumnus of Amity Law School, Delhi and Columbia Law School, New York and is also registered as an Attorney in New York State.
Q. First of all congratulations for not only clearing the Advocate on Record exam, but for topping it too. It’s quite an achievement. How do you feel?
Thank you very much. Frankly, I was quite surprised about the result. Of course I’m very happy about it. It has been cheerful news during the period of lockdown.
Q. How long have you been practicing for?
I’ve been enrolled with the Delhi Bar Council for the last nine years.
Q. Did you join Karanjawala & Co. right away or did you join another firm or a senior lawyer?
After graduation I joined Karanjawala & Company in 2010. I worked for a year in the High Court after which I did my LLM at Columbia Law School in New York. I came back to Delhi in 2012 and since then I’ve been working with the Supreme Court team of the firm concentrating predominantly on civil and commercial litigation.
Q. So you mainly work on Supreme Court cases.
Yes, the team of Karanjawala & Co. that I am a part of is headed by a Senior Partner, Ms. Nandini Gore, and predominantly concentrates on matters in the Supreme Court. Other teams of the firm concentrate on other fora in Delhi. However, for the cases of some regular clients, I also attend to matters in the Delhi High Court, District Courts and Tribunals of Delhi and the High Courts of other states.
Q. So becoming an Advocate on Record now makes perfect sense and it’ll surely enhance your profile.
Yes, since I work with a Solicitors Firm, which has a reputed Supreme Court practice, I thought it was important to qualify as an AoR myself.
Q. You’ve been practicing for about a decade now. Could you talk about some interesting or challenging cases you’ve worked on.
I have had the opportunity to work on many interesting cases over the last 9 years. One of the first challenging cases that I first worked on under Ms. Nandini Gore, Senior Partner were Writ Petitions we filed on behalf of Tata Steel Ltd. in the Hon’ble High Court of Odisha challenging the closure of their mines. We ultimately succeeded in the matters and the mines were reopened. Arguments were led by Dr. Singhvi, Senior Advocate in the Hon’ble High Court of Odisha and Mr. Fali Nariman, Senior Advocate advised us throughout the litigation from Delhi and appeared for us in connected aspects of the litigation that were pending in the Forest Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. These cases were a great learning experience for me as I had the opportunity of working closely with two of the finest Senior Advocates in the country and also got an in depth class in mining law.
The second set of cases, which I found very interesting, were property disputes arising out of the estates of the erstwhile royal families of Gwalior and Baroda.
The third and most recent case, which has been a very challenging and interesting case for me to work on, has been the Tata- Mistry corporate battle which has been going on for the last few years. Here again, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the finest Senior Advocates in the country including Mr. Harish Salve, Dr. Singhvi and Mr. Mukul Rohatgi. This case has been an intense and in-depth class on corporate law and strategy.
Q. Going back to when you were a student, and your childhood. Did you always want to become a lawyer considering that both your parents are lawyers and you come from a family of lawyers.
Yes. I’m actually a fourth-generation lawyer on my mother’s side. My sister and I also grew up in the house of my maternal grandfather, so in that sense, the atmosphere I grew up in was dominated by the legal profession. From the time I can remember, I’ve always wanted to become a lawyer and except for a very brief period in school, I did not have second thoughts about it. In retrospect, I feel that it was really in my second year of law school that I was sure that law was the area I wanted to continue pursuing – which was a more thought-through decision as opposed to it simply being a childhood ambition. It’s a decision that I’ve never regretted.
Q. A lot of people in the legal profession, especially first-generation lawyers, feel that the children of lawyers and judges easily get a platform in the legal field and do well automatically. Have you ever been made to feel like that by your peers, either directly or indirectly?
As far as having an advantage is concerned, I think it is true that the children of lawyers and judges do have an advantage and I don’t see any point in denying that fact. However, you tend to start losing that advantage very quickly if you do not work as hard as other people. As for myself, I’ve always generally just enjoyed law, and hope that I would have worked equally hard whether I was a first-generation lawyer or a second-generation lawyer. As far as being made to feel like you have an advantage is concerned – yes, occasionally that is the case (although not from close friends), but frankly speaking, it has never bothered me beyond a point and I can understand where it comes from.
Q. Your firm has been subscribing to LegitQuest. Do you think Artificial Intelligence and legal technology can make a difference to the country’s justice delivery system by providing assistance?
Yes. When I first met Karan he had explained how this was possible and I thought it was an extremely interesting idea, and obviously others did as well which is why a lot of people have ended up investing in this kind of technology. I think it’s definitely extremely helpful in terms of making legal research more accurate.
I think legal technology is probably not yet nuanced enough to enable the delivery of justice directly, because I feel it is essential to have a human element involved in dispensing any sort of justice. But yes, I definitely think it is an extremely helpful tool to narrow down parameters and improve the accuracy of legal research.
Q. What are your future plans professionally? Do you plan to expand Karanjawala and Company?
I intend to continue practicing at Karanjawala and Co. At the moment we have stuck predominantly to litigation, which is also the case for the near future. However, at present, there is scope for expansion in various areas of litigation, arbitration and other methods of dispute resolution, especially with the establishment of so many specialized Tribunals and with many parties opting for various methods of alternate dispute resolution, and we intend to expand and grow the practice in these areas.
Q. What do you like to do in your free time when you’re not working?
I’m a pretty social person so my free time is usually spent in meeting family and friends. I also like to listen to music and read. I’m also very fond of the theatre and always like to see plays as much as possible, especially when I am travelling abroad.
Q. This means you’re having a hard time staying under house arrest because of the coronavirus lockdown.
I think all of us are having a hard time at some level and enjoying the free time with family at another. With the courts being shut, all litigators have substantially less work to do on a daily basis than they would in the normal course, which is probably different from the corporate law firms. But it has given me some extra free time to catch up on reading and watch all those movies that you always meant watch but never had time to watch. I do hope everyone takes the lockdown seriously so that things can slowly get back to normal for all of us.