February 6: The Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS), the
world’s leading e-discovery training and certification professional association and part of The BARBRI Group, is teaming up with the US’ National Society for Legal Technology (NSLT), a leader in legal technology education, to provide students and professionals with career-advancing training and a new designation, the eDiscovery Technology Certificate (eDTech). The self-paced eDTech course, available for both students and professionals, uses hands-on interactive simulations to give participants relevant real-world exposure to software in the e-discovery profession. It includes foundational instruction in e-discovery and a practical exploration of e-discovery software that is used across the e-discovery lifecycle.
Upon completion of the course, participants will achieve their eDiscovery
Technology Certificate jointly awarded by NSLT and ACEDS in the form of a
certificate of learning and an optional digital badge.
February 13: Legal tech refers to technologies and software that substantially change the way we use legal services in our daily lives. In broader terms, it represents the set of technologies that eases the practice of law for attorneys and legal professionals.
In 2021, Catalyst, a New York based growth equity venture capital firm estimated the Legal Tech market is a $15.9 billion industry selling solutions to both corporate legal departments and law firms.
The LegalTech segments that have attracted the most funding were legal practice management firms which raised a total of $897.8m through 105 funding deals, followed by legal document automation firms raising $772.8m through 128 funding rounds and e-Discovery firms raising $313m through 22 funding rounds, the Catalyst report said.
Legal technology traditionally referred to the application of technology and software to help individual lawyers, law firms, medium and large scale businesses with practice management, document storage, billing, accounting and electronic discovery.
March 5: The legal tech market revenue is expected to reach USD 25.17 billion 2025. In 2019, the legal tech market generated revenues of USD 17.32 billion worldwide, with the market forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over six percent for the period to 2025, according to database company Statista. This figure is USD 18.43 billion in 2021.
The global legal tech market will undergo sizeable growth in the coming years, with an array of technological tools available to firms to transform and improve the way legal services are delivered. An influx of law graduates who have grown up with technology, along with a healthy supply of tech aficionados, who have identified the opportunities available in the legal services market, has allowed for greater awareness of tech-related solutions in an industry that is often considered to be more conservative and traditional, a report by Statista said.
Europe and North America are the shining lights for legal tech, with each region home to a diverse collection of companies disrupting the legal services market. The growth of legal tech in these regions is fostered by many different players, such as law firms adopting tech strategies and methods, and startups developing new and innovative solutions. Notable countries for legal tech include the U.S. and the UK.
These countries have strong and well-developed legal service industries that have been in place for many years and are home to several leading technology hubs – an ideal combination for enabling the growth of legal tech.
January 30: With 713 per cent growth, 2018 was a record year for legal tech
investments. 2019 surpassed it when investments reached USD 1.2 billion already in the third quarter. Without breaking any records, this summary shows that 2020 ended well after a Covid19-induced setback in the first half of the year, Niels Martin Brochner, Co-Founder and CEO of the Copenhagen-based company Contractbook that is supported by Google via Gradient Ventures, wrote for Forbes. With a more stable economy, investments are set to hit an all-time high — especially for companies working within contract lifecycle management and contract automation. Legal tech is no longer fintech’s awkward younger sibling, but a flourishing and lucrative attraction of its own, Brochner said.
The pandemic has forced an acceleration of the digital transformation in all
industries, and legal consumers are managing their legal work digitally like never before. Law firms have become less tech-averse, and leading businesses have spent the time wisely making their workflow more efficient, he said.
As with the previous global recession, the current economic hardship will force companies to reduce their costs on services, which will cause even more client- driven innovation. Clients will demand more for less, and tech is the key to delivering just that. The adoption-rate of tech products in the legal industry is on the rise on all fronts, according to Brochner in Forbes.
February 20: The Bangladesh Supreme Court launched the Artificial Intelligence (AI) based translation software ‘Amar Vasha’ on February 18 through a virtual event. The software will translate orders and judgements of the Supreme Court from English to Bangla.
The Software has been developed with ‘EkStep’ foundation of India. It is based on their ‘Anuvaad’ translation software used in India to translate from English to Indian languages including Bangla. Anuvaad was deployed by the Supreme Court of India as SUVAS (Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software) from November 2019.
According to a press release issued by the High Commission of India in Dhaka, the High Commissioner said that this collaboration was possible as Bangla was one of the recognised languages of India. Moreover, the judicial systems of both countries have common origins, similar systems and lexicon.
February 27: Avokaado, a contract lifecycle management platform (CLM) out of Estonia, has secured €700,000 in pre-seed funding to continue expanding across Europe and into the UK. Avokaado is an all-in-one tool for managing document workflow within teams.
Mariana Hagström, a former attorney-at-law and managing partner at a law firm, started the company in 2016 to solve the clunky, inefficient processes around contracts. Today the platform helps legal, HR, and sales departments across all sectors, not just law firms.
Avokaado recently launched major partnerships with TELE2 and Swedbank, aiming to establish an extensive user base in the SME segment in the Baltics, and then expand to other European countries and the UK. Currently the Tallinn-based company currently serves law firms and corporations in its home region, Norway, Sweden, Poland and Belgium.
Justice Madan B Lokur, was a Supreme Court judge from June 2012 to December 2018. He is now a judge of the non-resident panel of the Supreme Court of Fiji. He spoke to LegitQuest on January 25, 2020.
Q: You were a Supreme Court judge for more than 6 years. Do SC judges have their own ups and downs, in the sense that do you have any frustrations about cases, things not working out, the kind of issues that come to you?
A: There are no ups and downs in that sense but sometimes you do get a little upset at the pace of justice delivery. I felt that there were occasions when justice could have been delivered much faster, a case could have been decided much faster than it actually was. (When there is) resistance in that regard normally from the state, from the establishment, then you kind of feel what’s happening, what can I do about it.
Q: So you have had the feeling that the establishment is trying to interfere in the matters?
A: No, not interfering in matters but not giving the necessary importance to some cases. So if something has to be done in four weeks, for example if reply has to be filed within four weeks and they don’t file it in four weeks just because they feel that it doesn’t matter, and it’s ok if we file it within six weeks how does it make a difference. But it does make a difference.
Q: Do you think this attitude is merely a lax attitude or is it an infrastructure related problem?
A: I don’t know. Sometimes on some issues the government or the establishment takes it easy. They don’t realise the urgency. So that’s one. Sometimes there are systemic issues, for example, you may have a case that takes much longer than anticipated and therefore you can’t take up some other case. Then that necessarily has to be adjourned. So these things have to be planned very carefully.
Q: Are there any cases that you have special memories of in terms of your personal experiences while dealing with the case? It might have moved you or it may have made you feel that this case is really important though it may not be considered important by the government or may have escaped the media glare?
A: All the cases that I did with regard to social justice, cases which concern social justice and which concern the environment, I think all of them were important. They gave me some satisfaction, some frustration also, in the sense of time, but I would certainly remember all these cases.
Q: Even though you were at the Supreme Court as a jurist, were there any learning experiences for you that may have surprised you?
A: There were learning experiences, yes. And plenty of them. Every case is a learning experience because you tend to look at the same case with two different perspectives. So every case is a great learning experience. You know how society functions, how the state functions, what is going on in the minds of the people, what is it that has prompted them to come the court. There is a great learning, not only in terms of people and institutions but also in terms of law.
Q: You are a Judge of the Supreme Court of Fiji, though a Non-Resident Judge. How different is it in comparison to being a Judge in India?
A: There are some procedural distinctions. For example, there is a great reliance in Fiji on written submissions and for the oral submissions they give 45 minutes to a side. So the case is over within 1 1/2 hours maximum. That’s not the situation here in India. The number of cases in Fiji are very few. Yes, it’s a small country, with a small number of cases. Cases are very few so it’s only when they have an adequate number of cases that they will have a session and as far as I am aware they do not have more than two or three sessions in a year and the session lasts for maybe about three weeks. So it’s not that the court sits every day or that I have to shift to Fiji. When it is necessary and there are a good number of cases then they will have a session, unlike here. It is then that I am required to go to Fiji for three weeks. The other difference is that in every case that comes to the (Fiji) Supreme Court, even if special leave is not granted, you have to give a detailed judgement which is not the practice here.
Q: There is a lot of backlog in the lower courts in India which creates a problem for the justice delivery system. One reason is definitely shortage of judges. What are the other reasons as to why there is so much backlog of cases in the trial courts?
A: I think case management is absolutely necessary and unless we introduce case management and alternative methods of dispute resolution, we will not be able to solve the problem. I will give you a very recent example about the Muzaffarpur children’s home case (in Bihar) where about 34 girls were systematically raped. There were about 17 or 18 accused persons but the entire trial finished within six months. Now that was only because of the management and the efforts of the trial judge and I think that needs to be studied how he could do it. If he could do such a complex case with so many eyewitnesses and so many accused persons in a short frame of time, I don’t see why other cases cannot be decided within a specified time frame. That’s case management. The second thing is so far as other methods of disposal of cases are concerned, we have had a very good experience in trial courts in Delhi where more than one lakh cases have been disposed of through mediation. So, mediation must be encouraged at the trial level because if you can dispose so many cases you can reduce the workload. For criminal cases, you have Plea Bargaining that has been introduced in 2009 but not put into practice. We did make an attempt in the Tis Hazari Courts. It worked to some extent but after that it fell into disuse. So, plea bargaining can take care of a lot of cases. And there will be certain categories of cases which we need to look at carefully. For example, you have cases of compoundable offences, you have cases where fine is the punishment and not necessarily imprisonment, or maybe it’s imprisonment say one month or two month’s imprisonment. Do we need to actually go through a regular trial for these kind of cases? Can they not be resolved or adjudicated through Plea Bargaining? This will help the system, it will help in Prison Reforms, (prevent) overcrowding in prisons. So there are a lot of avenues available for reducing the backlog. But I think an effort has to be made to resolve all that.
Q: Do you think there are any systemic flaws in the country’s justice system, or the way trial courts work?
A: I don’t think there are any major systemic flaws. It’s just that case management has not been given importance. If case management is given importance, then whatever systematic flaws are existing, they will certainly come down.
Q; And what about technology. Do you think technology can play a role in improving the functioning of the justice delivery system?
I think technology is very important. You are aware of the e-courts project. Now I have been told by many judges and many judicial academies that the e-courts project has brought about sort of a revolution in the trial courts. There is a lot of information that is available for the litigants, judges, lawyers and researchers and if it is put to optimum use or even semi optimum use, it can make a huge difference. Today there are many judges who are using technology and particularly the benefits of the e-courts project is an adjunct to their work. Some studies on how technology can be used or the e-courts project can be used to improve the system will make a huge difference.
Q: What kind of technology would you recommend that courts should have?
A: The work that was assigned to the e-committee I think has been taken care of, if not fully, then largely to the maximum possible extent. Now having done the work you have to try and take advantage of the work that’s been done, find out all the flaws and see how you can rectify it or remove those flaws. For example, we came across a case where 94 adjournments were given in a criminal case. Now why were 94 adjournments given? Somebody needs to study that, so that information is available. And unless you process that information, things will just continue, you will just be collecting information. So as far as I am concerned, the task of collecting information is over. We now need to improve information collection and process available information and that is something I think should be done.
Q: There is a debate going on about the rights of death row convicts. CJI Justice Bobde recently objected to death row convicts filing lot of petitions, making use of every legal remedy available to them. He said the rights of the victim should be given more importance over the rights of the accused. But a lot of legal experts have said that these remedies are available to correct the anomalies, if any, in the justice delivery. Even the Centre has urged the court to adopt a more victim-centric approach. What is your opinion on that?
You see so far as procedures are concerned, when a person knows that s/he is going to die in a few days or a few months, s/he will do everything possible to live. Now you can’t tell a person who has got terminal cancer that there is no point in undergoing chemotherapy because you are going to die anyway. A person is going to fight for her/his life to the maximum extent. So if a person is on death row s/he will do everything possible to survive. You have very exceptional people like Bhagat Singh who are ready to face (the gallows) but that’s why they are exceptional. So an ordinary person will do everything possible (to survive). So if the law permits them to do all this, they will do it.
Q: Do you think law should permit this to death row convicts?
A: That is for the Parliament to decide. The law is there, the Constitution is there. Now if the Parliament chooses not to enact a law which takes into consideration the rights of the victims and the people who are on death row, what can anyone do? You can’t tell a person on death row that listen, if you don’t file a review petition within one week, I will hang you. If you do not file a curative petition within three days, then I will hang you. You also have to look at the frame of mind of a person facing death. Victims certainly, but also the convict.
Q: From the point of jurisprudence, do you think death row convicts’ rights are essential? Or can their rights be done away with?
A: I don’t know you can take away the right of a person fighting for his life but you have to strike a balance somewhere. To say that you must file a review or curative or mercy petition in one week, it’s very difficult. You tell somebody else who is not on a death row that you can file a review petition within 30 days but a person who is on death row you tell him that I will give you only one week, it doesn’t make any sense to me. In fact it should probably be the other way round.
Q: What about capital punishment as a means of punishment itself?
A: There has been a lot of debate and discussion about capital punishment but I think that world over it has now been accepted, more or less, that death penalty has not served the purpose for which it was intended. So, there are very few countries that are executing people. The United States, Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan also, but it hasn’t brought down the crime rate. And India has been very conservative in imposing the death penalty. I think the last 3-4 executions have happened for the persons who were terrorists. And apart from that there was one from Calcutta who was hanged for rape and murder. But the fact that he was hanged for rape and murder has not deterred people (from committing rape and murder). So the accepted view is that death penalty has not served the purpose. We certainly need to rethink the continuance of capital punishment. On the other hand, if capital punishment is abolished, there might be fake encounter killings or extra judicial killings.
Q: These days there is the psyche among people of ‘instant justice’, like we saw in the case of the Hyderabad vet who was raped and murdered. The four accused in the case were killed in an encounter and the public at large and even politicians hailed it as justice being delivery. Do you think this ‘lynch mob mentality’ reflects people’s lack of faith in the justice system?
A: I think in this particular case about what happened in Telangana, investigation was still going on. About what actually happened there, an enquiry is going on. So no definite conclusions have come out. According to the police these people tried to snatch weapons so they had to be shot. Now it is very difficult to believe, as far as I am concerned, that 10 armed policeman could not overpower four unarmed accused persons. This is very difficult to believe. And assuming one of them happened to have snatched a (cop’s) weapon, maybe he could have been incapacitated but why the other three? So there are a lot of questions that are unanswered. So far as the celebrations are concerned, the people who are celebrating, do they know for certain that they (those killed in the encounter) were the ones who did the crime? How can they be so sure about it? They were not eye witnesses. Even witnesses sometimes make mistakes. This is really not a cause for celebration. Certainly not.
Q: It seems some people are losing their faith in the country’s justice delivery system. How to repose people’s faith in the legal process?
A: You see we again come back to case management and speedy justice. Suppose the Nirbhaya case would have been decided within two or three years, would this (Telangana) incident have happened? One can’t say. The attack on Parliament case was decided in two or three years but that has not wiped out terrorism. There are a lot of factors that go into all this, so there is a need to find ways of improving justice delivery so that you don’t have any extremes – where a case takes 10 years or another extreme where there is instant justice. There has to be something in between, some balance has to be drawn. Now you have that case where Phoolan Devi was gangraped followed by the Behmai massacre. Now this is a case of 1981, it has been 40 years and the trial court has still not delivered a judgement. It’s due any day now, (but) whose fault is that. You have another case in Maharashtra that has been transferred to National Investigating Agency two years after the incident, the Bhima-Koregaon case. Investigation is supposedly not complete after two years also. Whose fault is that? So you have to look at the entire system in a holistic manner. There are many players – the investigation agency is one player, the prosecution is one player, the defence is one player, the justice delivery system is one player. So unless all of them are in a position to coordinate… you cannot blame only the justice delivery system. If the Telangana police was so sure that the persons they have caught are guilty, why did they not file the charge sheet immediately? If they were so sure the charge sheet should have been filed within one day. Why didn’t they do it?
Q: At the trial level, there are many instances of flaws in evidence collection. Do you think the police or whoever the investigators are, do they lack training?
A: Yes they do! The police lacks training. I think there is a recent report that has come out last week which says very few people (in the police) have been trained (to collect evidence).
Q: You think giving proper training to police to prepare a case will make a difference?
A: Yes, it will make a difference.
Q: You have a keen interest in juvenile justice. Unfortunately, a lot of heinous crimes are committed by juveniles. How can we correct that?
A: You see it depends upon what perspective we are looking at. Now these heinous crimes are committed by juveniles. Heinous crimes are committed by adults also, so why pick upon juveniles alone and say something should be done because juveniles are committing heinous crimes. Why is it that people are not saying that something should be done when adults are committing heinous crimes? That’s one perspective. There are a lot of heinous crimes that are committed against juveniles. The number of crimes committed against juveniles or children are much more than the crimes committed by juveniles. How come nobody is talking about that? And the people committing heinous crimes against children are adults. So is it okay to say that the State has imposed death penalty for an offence against the child? So that’s good enough, nothing more needs to be done? I don’t think that’s a valid answer. The establishment must keep in mind the fact that the number of heinous crimes against children are much more than those committed by juveniles. We must shift focus.
Q: Coming to NRC and CAA. Protests have been happening since December last year, the SC is waiting for the Centre’s reply, the Delhi HC has refused to directly intervene. Neither the protesters nor the government is budging. How do we achieve a breakthrough?
A: It is for the government to decide what they want to do. If the government says it is not going to budge, and the people say they are not going to budge, the stalemate could continue forever.
Q: Do you think the CAA and the NRC will have an impact on civil liberties, personal liberties and people’s rights?
A: Yes, and that is one of the reasons why there is protest all over the country. And people have realised that it is going to happen, it is going to have an impact on their lives, on their rights and that’s why they are protesting. So the answer to your question is yes.
Q: Across the world and in India, we are seeing an erosion of the value system upholding rights and liberties. How important is it for the healthy functioning of a country that social justice, people’s liberties, people’s rights are maintained?
A: I think social justice issues, fundamental rights are of prime importance in our country, in any democracy, and the preamble to our Constitution makes it absolutely clear and the judgement of the Supreme Court in Kesavananda Bharati and many other subsequent judgments also make it clear that you cannot change the basic structure of the Constitution. If you cannot do that then obviously you cannot take away some basic democratic rights like freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, you cannot take them away. So if you have to live in a democracy, we have to accept the fact that these rights cannot be taken away. Otherwise there are many countries where there is no democracy. I don’t know whether those people are happy or not happy.
Q: What will happen if in a democracy these rights are controlled by hook or by crook?
A: It depends upon how much they are controlled. If the control is excessive then that is wrong. The Constitution says there must be a reasonable restriction. So reasonable restriction by law is very important.
Q: The way in which the sexual harassment case against Justice Gogoi was handled was pretty controversial. The woman has now been reinstated in the Supreme Court as a staffer. Does this action of the Supreme Court sort of vindicate her?
A: I find this very confusing you know. There is an old joke among lawyers: Lawyer for the petitioner argued before the judge and the judge said you are right; then the lawyer for the respondent argued before the judge and the judge said you’re right; then a third person sitting over there says how can both of them be right and the judge says you’re also right. So this is what has happened in this case. It was found (by the SC committee) that what she said had no substance. And therefore, she was wrong and the accused was right. Now she has been reinstated with back wages and all. I don’t know, I find it very confusing.
Q: Do you think the retirement age of Supreme Court Judges should be raised to 70 years and there should be a fixed tenure?
A: I haven’t thought about it as yet. There are some advantages, there are some disadvantages. (When) You have extended age or life tenure as in the United States, and the Supreme Court has a particular point of view, it will continue for a long time. So in the United States you have liberal judges and conservative judges, so if the number of conservative judges is high then the court will always be conservative. If the number of liberal judges is high, the court will always be liberal. There is this disadvantage but there is also an advantage that if it’s a liberal court and if it is a liberal democracy then it will work for the benefit of the people. But I have not given any serious thought onthis.
Q: Is there any other thing you would like to say?
A: I think the time has come for the judiciary to sit down, introspect and see what can be done, because people have faith in the judiciary. A lot of that faith has been eroded in the last couple of years. So one has to restore that faith and then increase that faith. I think the judiciary definitely needs to introspect.
‘A major issue for startups, especially during fund raising, is their compliance with extant RBI foreign exchange regulations, pricing guidelines, and the Companies Act 2013.’- Aakash Parihar
Aakash Parihar is Partner at Triumvir Law, a firm specializing in M&A, PE/VC, startup advisory, international commercial arbitration, and corporate disputes. He is an alumnus of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.
How did you come across law as a career? Tell us about what made you decide law as an option.
Growing up in a small town in Madhya Pradesh, wedid not have many options.There you either study to become a doctor or an engineer. As the sheep follows the herd, I too jumped into 11th grade with PCM (Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics).However, shortly after, I came across the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) and the prospect of law as a career. Being a law aspirant without any background of legal field, I hardly knew anything about the legal profession leave alone the niche areas of corporate lawor dispute resolution. Thereafter, I interacted with students from various law schools in India to understand law as a career and I opted to sit for CLAT. Fortunately, my hard work paid off and I made it to the hallowed National Law School of India University, Bangalore (NSLIU). Joining NLSIU and moving to Bangalorewas an overwhelming experience. However, after a few months, I settled in and became accustomed to the rigorous academic curriculum. Needless to mention that it was an absolute pleasure to study with and from someof the brightest minds in legal academia. NLSIU, Bangalore broadened my perspective about law and provided me with a new set of lenses to comprehend the world around me. Through this newly acquired perspective and a great amount of hard work (which is of course irreplaceable), I was able to procure a job in my fourth year at law school and thus began my journey.
As a lawyer carving a niche for himself, tell us about your professional journey so far. What are the challenges that new lawyers face while starting out in the legal field?
I started my professional journey as an Associate at Samvad Partners, Bangalore, where I primarily worked in the corporate team. Prior to Samvad Partners, through my internship, I had developed an interest towards corporate law,especially the PE/VC and M&A practice area. In the initial years as an associate at Samvad Partners and later at AZB & Partners, Mumbai, I had the opportunity to work on various aspects of corporate law, i.e., from PE/VC and M&A with respect to listed as well as unlisted companies. My work experience at these firms equipped and provided me the know-how to deal with cutting edge transactional lawyering. At this point, it is important to mention that I always had aspirations to join and develop a boutique firm. While I was working at AZB, sometime around March 2019, I got a call from Anubhab, Founder of Triumvir Law, who told me about the great work Triumvir Law was doing in the start-up and emerging companies’ ecosystem in Bangalore. The ambition of the firm aligned with mine,so I took a leap of faith to move to Bangalore to join Triumvir Law.
Anyone who is a first-generation lawyer in the legal industry will agree with my statement that it is never easy to build a firm, that too so early in your career. However, that is precisely the notion that Triumvir Law wanted to disrupt. To provide quality corporate and dispute resolution advisory to clients across India and abroad at an affordable price point.
Once you start your professional journey, you need to apply everything that you learnt in law schoolwith a practical perspective. Therefore, in my opinion, in addition to learning the practical aspects of law, a young lawyer needs to be accustomed with various practices of law before choosing one specific field to practice.
India has been doing reallywell in the field of M&A and PE/VC. Since you specialize in M&A and PE/VC dealmaking, what according to you has been working well for the country in this sphere? What does the future look like?
India is a developing economy, andM&A and PE/VC transactions form the backbone of the same. Since liberalization, there has been an influx of foreign investment in India, and we have seen an exponential rise in PC/VA and M&A deals. Indian investment market growth especially M&A and PE/VC aspects can be attributed to the advent of startup culture in India. The increase in M&A and PE/VC deals require corporate lawyersto handle the legal aspects of these deals.
As a corporate lawyer working in M&A and PE/VC space, my work ranges from drafting term-sheets to the transaction documents (SPA, SSA, SHA, BTA, etc.). TheM&A and PE/VC deal space experienced a slump during the first few months of the pandemic, but since June 2021, there has been a significant growth in M&A and PE/VC deal space in India. The growth and consistence of the M&A and PE/VC deal space in India can be attributed to several factors such as foreign investment, uncapped demands in the Indian market and exceptional performance of Indian startups.
During the pandemic many businesses were shut down but surprisingly many new businesses started, which adapted to the challenges imposed by the pandemic. Since we are in the recovery mode, I think the M&A and PE/VC deal space will reach bigger heights in the comingyears. We as a firm look forward to being part of this recovery mode by being part of the more M&A and PE/VC deals in future.
You also advice start-ups. What are the legal issues or challenges that the start-ups usually face specifically in India? Do these issues/challenges have long-term consequences?
We do a considerable amount of work with startupswhich range from day-to-day legal advisory to transaction documentation during a funding round. In India, we have noticed that a sizeable amount of clientele approach counsels only when there is a default or breach, more often than not in a state of panic. The same principle applies to startups in India, they normally approach us at a stage when they are about to receive investment or are undergoing due diligence. At that point of time, we need to understand their legal issues as well as manage the demands of the investor’s legal team. The majornon-compliances by startups usually involve not maintaining proper agreements, delaying regulatory filings and secretarial compliances, and not focusing on proper corporate governance.
Another major issue for startups, especially during fund raising, is their compliance with extant RBI foreign exchange regulations, pricing guidelines, and the Companies Act 2013. Keeping up with these requirements can be time-consuming for even seasoned lawyers, and we can only imagine how difficult it would be for startups. Startups spend their initial years focusing on fund-raising, marketing, minimum viable products, and scaling their businesses. Legal advice does not usually factor in as a necessity. Our firm aims to help startups even before they get off the ground, and through their initial years of growth. We wanted to be the ones bringing in that change in the legal sector, and we hope to help many more such startups in the future.
In your opinion, are there any specific India-related problems that corporate/ commercial firms face as far as the company laws are concerned? Is there scope for improvement on this front?
The Indian legal system which corporate/commercial firms deal with is a living breathing organism, evolving each year. Due to this evolving nature, we lawyers are always on our toes.From a minor amendment to the Companies Act to the overhaul of the foreign exchange regime by the Reserve Bank of India, each of these changes affect the compliance and regulatory regime of corporates. For instance, when India changed the investment route for countries sharing land border with India,whereby any country sharing land border with India including Hong Kong cannot invest in India without approval of the RBI in consultation with the central government,it impacted a lot of ongoing transactions and we as lawyers had to be the first ones to inform our clients about such a change in the country’s foreign investment policy. In my opinion, there is huge scope of improvement in legal regime in India, I think a stable regulatory and tax regime is the need for the hour so far as the Indian system is concerned. The biggest example of such a market with stable regulatory and tax regime is Singapore, and we must work towards emulating the same.
Your boutique law firm has offices in three different cities — Delhi NCR, Mumbai and Bangalore. Have the Covid-induced restrictions such as WFH affected your firm’s operations? How has your firm adapted to the professional challenges imposed by the pandemic-related lifestyle changes?
We have offices in New Delhi NCR and Mumbai, and our main office is in Bangalore. Before the pandemic, our work schedule involved a fair bit of travelling across these cities. But post the lockdowns we shifted to a hybrid model, and unless absolutely necessary, we usually work from home.
In relation to the professional challenges during the pandemic, I think it was a difficult time for most young professionals. We do acknowledge the fact that our firm survived the pandemic. Our work as lawyers/ law firms also involves client outreach and getting new clients, which was difficult during the lockdowns. We expanded our client outreach through digital means and by conducting webinars, including one with King’s College London on International Treaty Arbitration. Further, we also focused on client outreach and knowledge management during the pandemic to educate and create legal awareness among our clients.
‘It’s a myth that good legal advice comes at prohibitive costs. A lot of heartburn can be avoided if documents are entered into with proper legal advice and with due negotiations.’ – Archana Balasubramanian
Archana Balasubramanian is the founding partner of Agama Law Associates, a Mumbai-based corporate law firm which she started in 2014. She specialises in general corporate commercial transaction and advisory as well as deep sectoral expertise across manufacturing, logistics, media, pharmaceuticals, financial services, shipping, real estate, technology, engineering, infrastructure and health.
August 13, 2021:
Lawyers see companies ill-prepared for conflict, often, in India. When large corporates take a remedial instead of mitigative approach to legal issues – an approach utterly incoherent to both their size and the compliance ecosystem in their sector – it is there where the concept of costs on legal becomes problematic. Pre-dispute management strategy is much more rationalized on the business’ pocket than the costs of going in the red on conflict and compliances.
Corporates often focus on business and let go of backend maintenance of paperwork, raising issues as and when they arise and resolving conflicts / client queries in a manner that will promote dispute avoidance.
Corporate risk and compliance management is yet another elephant in India, which in addition to commercial disputes can be a drain on a company’s resources. It can be clubbed under four major heads – labour, industrial, financial and corporate laws. There are around 20 Central Acts and then specific state-laws by which corporates are governed under these four categories.
Risk and compliance management is also significantly dependent on the sector, size, scale and nature of the business and the activities being carried out.
The woes of a large number of promoters from the ecommerce ecosystem are to do with streamlining systems to navigate legal. India has certain heavily regulated sectors and, like I mentioned earlier, an intricate web of corporate risk and compliance legislation that can result in prohibitive costs in the remedial phase. To tackle the web in the preventive or mitigative phase, start-ups end up lacking the arsenal due to sheer intimidation from legal. Promoters face sectoral risks in sectors which are heavily regulated, risks of heavy penalties and fines under company law or foreign exchange laws, if fund raise is not done in a compliant manner.
It is a myth that good legal advice comes at prohibitive costs. Promoters are quick to sign on the dotted line and approach lawyers with a tick the box approach. A lot of heartburn can be avoided if documents are entered into with proper legal advice and with due negotiations.
Investment contracts, large celebrity endorsement contracts and CXO contracts are some key areas where legal advice should be obtained. Online contracts is also emerging as an important area of concern.
When we talk of scope, arbitration is pretty much a default mechanism at this stage for adjudicating commercial disputes in India, especially given the fixation of timelines for closure of arbitration proceedings in India. The autonomy it allows the parties in dispute to pick a neutral and flexible forum for resolution is substantial. Lower courts being what they are in India, arbitration emerges as the only viable mode of dispute resolution in the Indian commercial context.
The arbitrability of disputes has evolved significantly in the last 10 years. The courts are essentially pro-arbitration when it comes to judging the arbitrability of subject matter and sending matters to arbitration quickly.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Vidya Drolia case has significantly clarified the position in respect of tenancy disputes, frauds and consumer disputes. It reflects upon the progressive approach of the court and aims to enable an efficient, autonomous and effective arbitration environment in India.
Law firms stand for ensuring that the law works for business and not against it. Whatever the scope of our mandate, the bottom line is to ensure a risk-free, conflict-free, compliant and prepared enterprise for our client, in a manner that does not intimidate the client or bog them down, regardless of the intricacy of the legal and regulatory web it takes to navigate to get to that end result. Lawyers need to dissect the business of law from the work.
This really involves meticulous, detail-oriented, sheer hard work on the facts, figures, dates and all other countless coordinates of each mandate, repetitively and even to a, so-called, “dull” routine rhythm – with consistent single-mindedness and unflinching resolve.
As a firm, multiply that effort into volumes, most of it against-the-clock given the compliance heavy ecosystem often riddled with uncertainties in a number of jurisdictions. So the same meticulous streamlining of mandate deliverables has to be extrapolated by the management of the firm to the junior most staff.
Further, the process of streamlining itself has to be more dynamic than ever now given the pace at which the new economy, tech-ecosystem, business climate as well as business development processes turn a new leaf.
Finally, but above all, we need to find a way to feel happy, positive and energized together as a team while chasing all of the aforesaid dreams. The competitive timelines and volumes at which a law firm works, this too is a real challenge. But we are happy to face it and evolve as we grow.
We always as a firm operated on the work from anywhere principle. We believed in it and inculcated this through document management processes to the last trainee. This helped us shut shop one day and continue from wherever we are operating.
The team has been regularly meeting online (at least once a day). We have been able to channel the time spent in travelling to and attending meetings in developing our internal knowledge banks further, streamline our processes, and work on integrating various tech to make the practice more cost-effective for our clients.
By Chirag Singla and Akash Kumar
November 16, 2022
The Indian Judicial system is overburdened with numerous cases which have cascading effects on the entire country. Mechanisms like arbitration, mediation, conciliation, and negotiation can be used to attain the goal of expeditious and party-centric dispute resolution. To attain the goals, the legislature has time and again tried to find ways to incorporate Mediation with the existing recourse available to the parties in case of dispute settlement. One such example is the Commercial Courts Amendment Act, 2018. Here, the legislature has made pre-litigation mediation a mandatory step that needs to be exhausted before instituting a suit under the Commercial Courts Act. Pre-litigation mediation can be construed as an amicable process whereby the parties come together to settle their dispute with the aid of an impartial mediator before the institution of a suit.
It is in this spirit that to facilitate the parties in expeditious resolution of disputes, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Patil Automation Pvt. Ltd. Vs. RakhejaEngineers Pvt. Ltd upheld that the statutory pre-litigation mediation under section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 is mandatory and any suit instituted violating the mandate of section 12A must be rejected.
DECODING THE JUDGMENT
In the case of Patil Automation Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Rakheja Engineers Pvt. Ltd. (supra) the respondent had filed a Suit for recovery before the Additional District Judge, Faridabad. The appellant filed an application contending that the suit was filed without adhering to Section 12A of the commercial Courts act. In reply, the respondent contested the matter contending that the suit was not barred for non-compliance with Section 12A of the Act. The seminal question which arose for consideration before the Court was whether the statutory pre-litigation contemplated under Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 as amended by the Amendment Act of 2018 is mandatory. The Hon’ble Supreme Court dealt with it in a two-fold manner.
The Object of the Law and the Legislative Intent behind Section 12A :
The Court examined the object and legislative intent behind Section 12A and read it with rule 3 which is made for the mediation process. The Court held that language of Section 12A and strict timelines as provided in the rule pointed out that the legislature intends to make mandatory in nature. The Court further emphasized the point that the language used in Section 12A is imperative in nature. Even by going through the sublime object of the Act, the Court fully reinforced its opinion that the pre-litigation mediation is intended to produce results, which has a direct bearing on the fulfillment of the noble goals of the Lawgiver. Moreover, the settlement under section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act is accorded the status of an award under the Arbitration & Conciliation Act, it unerringly points to the object of the legislature to make pre-litigation mediation compulsory.
Whether the Provision of Section 12A is Mandatory in Nature :
To determine whether section 12A is mandatory, the Court relied on the case of Sharif-ud-Din Vs. Abdul Ghani Lone. In this case, it has been held that, if the object of the law is defeated by non-compliance with the provision, then it would be regarded as mandatory. In the present case if the pre-litigation mediation is not complied with then the whole object of the Amendment Act would be frustrated. Therefore, the Court declared that the provision of Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act is mandatory in nature.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court, while dealing with the question of the mandatory nature of Section 12A, referred to the analogy drawn in the case of Bihari Chowdhary and Anr. vs. State of Bihar and Ors and stated that since the pre-requisite for filing a suit against the government or public servant is mandatory by the grace of section 80 CPC therefore the pre-requisite for filing a suit under Commercial Courts Act must also be mandatory and 12A must be complied with before institution of a suit.
The author herein believes that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has erred in drawing the analogy from Section 80 of the Civil Procedure Code, which lays down the provision with respect to the mandatory notice given before the institution of a suit. The Court failed to realize that the interpretation given to Section 80 is with respect to the suit filed against the government and public officials. Whereas section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act deals will commercial disputes which can also be between two private parties. The rationale behind the mandatory nature of the notice under section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure is not apt for interpreting Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act. The object behind the notice under section 80 is to provide an opportunity for the government or public officer to thoroughly investigate the legal proposition and settle the claim put forth by the plaintiff. The time of two months given under section 80, is to enable the government to assess the matter objectively and seek proper legal advice. The legislative intent behind this provision is to save the expenditure of the public exchequer and give apt time to the government to try and settle the claims and not to indulge in litigation thereby saving on public money and time. In the case of section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, the same analogy cannot be ascribed because the intent of mandatory nature of Section 80 is in furtherance of public money and time whereas, the intent of mandatory nature of Section 12A is with respect to expedite the resolution of the dispute and to ease the burden of the Courts.
Furthermore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court used the golden rule of interpretation, which is interpretation in conformity with the plain language to interpret the provision of Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act.
Moreover, the Hon’ble Supreme Court also settled the legal position with respect to the manner in which Section 12A would operate. The Court held that amendment of Section 12A will be applied prospectively, however, this judgment would be effective from 20.08.2022 so that the stakeholders become completely aware. The Court also explained how certain situations would be dealt with. These situations are as follows:
1. In case the plaint is rejected for non-compliance and no steps have been taken within limitation period, the matter cannot be reopened on basis of the prospective effect of this judgement.
2. If upon rejection of plaint, a fresh suit has been filed the benefit of prospective effect of this judgement would not be available to the plaintiff
3. In case the jurisdictional High Court has already made Section 12A mandatory and a suit is filed without adhering to Section 12A, then this judgement would not be applicable
While determining a similar question of law, the Delhi High Court, in the case of Bolt technology Vs. Ujoy Technology Pvt. Ltd placed reliance on the judgment of Patil Automation Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Rakheja Engineers Pvt. Ltd. (supra) on the point of object of the Act and how Section 12A would operate. The High Court concluded that an application under Order VII Rule 11 ought to be dismissed for non-compliance with the provision of section 12A of the Commercial Court Act unless the relief sought is urgent in nature.
The intention of the legislature is clear from the moment section 12A was introduced. However, owing to the different interpretations of High Courts, this amendment never got its teeth. By this judgment, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has given impetus to this section by making it mandatory. The Court has also held how the section would apply prospectively and explained certain situations. This new strategy aims to handle a problem at its early stage by preventing a conflict from progressing to the point where a lawsuit ever needs to be launched.
Chirag Singla is an Associate and Akash Kumar is an intern at Seraphic Advisors, Advocates & Solicitors, New Delhi.
By B S Mahajani
November 9, 2022
Hon’ble Mr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has assumed the office of the Chief Justice of India from today. He will have a tenure of two years as the CJI, which is fairly long. In these two years, he will have to deal with some of the pressing issues faced by the Indian Judiciary, as summarised in this write up.
1.0 Huge pendency of cases across the board:
1.1 It is a known fact that there is huge pendency of cases in all courts. As per the figures available from the official websiteecourts.gov.in, in 39 High Courts (establishments) there are 5.95 Million cases pending & in 3429 District & Taluka courts there are 42.71 Million cases pending as on today.
1.2 Normal reaction to this would be that the high number of vacancies in various courts are responsible for the huge pendency of cases. However, in my opinion, following illustrative reasons are more responsible for this age-old problem than the vacancies of judges.
a) Vacation system in the courts:
Apart from regular holidays, the courts in India have seven to eight weeks’ vacation during a year. This system eithershould be abolished or reduced by at least 50%.
It is amazing to note that the vacation mood sets in one or two weeks prior, which has a crippling effect on the functioning of the courts. Such colossal waste of time has to stop, if we want to get rid of the huge pendency.
b) Poor or no system for Appraisal of Performance of judges:
There is no mechanism for monitoring a judge’s performance. It is totally a grey area.There is no fear of losing job unlike in other government departments. In the lower / district judiciary, there is an increasing trend that judges do not hear the matters so that they do not have to pass orders/ judgments.
Concrete steps need to be taken to make judgesaccountable. It is high time that mediocrity is replaced by meritocracy in our judiciary.
c) Transfer of judges done without reviewing pendency of their judicial work:
Invariably judges are transferred without taking into account pending judicial work left by them. Many times, it is observed that a judge whose transfer is due, either does not hear the arguments or if he hears the matter, he will not pass final orders/ judgments. As a result, whenthe new judge takes over, the Advocates have to get the matters heard afresh.Due to this, the matters are dragged on & on. There should be system in place to ensure that the transferee judges do not leave pending/ part heard matters.
d) Adjournment culture:
The infamous adjournment culture of our judiciary has to be ended. There are many cases pending, for non- prosecution by the Plaintiffs/ Complainants etc. There should be system of imposing heavy costs on such litigants/ lawyers, who are not serious about conducting the cases lodged by them. In High Courts also, many petitions are admitted but how many of them are heard finally & disposed of?
e) Frivolous & vexatious litigations:
There are many frivolous & vexatious litigations/ PILs etc. lodged in various courts. Although, of late, the courts impose costs, still, the ratio is much less than desired. Abuse of legal process/ courts must be viewed seriously & courts should not be made instruments to settle personal scores / hidden agenda of litigants.
2.0 Need to introduce reforms in system of Judicial Appointments:
The Court innovated the apparatus and apparition of the collegium wresting to itself the power of appointments and transfers. This is clearly opposed to the intent of the Constitution. The collegium system is being sought to be elevated to a status higher than the law and the Constitution.The present system of collegium (i.e. Judges appointing judges) is a stark disaster and an illegitimate judicial creation. Hence it should be scrapped at the earliest.
The SC has been tirelessly advocating bringing transparency in appointments of other institutions of our country. Then, why should judiciary be spared from such pathbreaking measures.
If we intend to bring credibility & efficiency in judiciary, these are some of the important & much needed measures.
3.0 Upgradation of infrastructure of Courts ~ Training of Judicial Officers:
a) Although many effective measures are taken to upgrade the infrastructure of courts across the country, there is still much to do. It is astonishing that in India, there are still many courts in remote areas where basic necessities of water, toilets etc. are not provided.
b) Mr. Justice Chandrachud, as Chairman of E-Committee/ e-courts has done remarkable work to digitize court infrastructure.However, there are still many judges at the district level who are interested in adapting themselves to the need of the hour. Not only is the status of cases not updated, the orders passed by the courts are also not uploaded.
c) The Court staff (including lower judicial officers) need exhaustive training in this regard so as to make our courts effectively digital.
The above are some of the challenges which need to be addressed with a definite plan &in a time-bound manner, to improve the justice delivery system.Rather, in my view the CJI designate hasa very good opportunity to chart a course of action to make Indian Judiciary world class, especially when Indian Judiciary will celebrate its 75th year in 2025.
Best Wishes to Hon’ble Justice Chandrachud for a successful stint as the 50th CJI.
B. S. Mahajani is an Advocate based in Mumbai with over 30 years’ experience.
By Vipul Lamba
October 10, 2022
We all live in an economic world where our focus is to build our business and profession and take it to new heights. But one of the major concerns of all the businesses, startups and professionals is how to deal when a client / debtor / customerasks for credit, as most of the times we aren’t able to do the necessary exercise of due diligence about such client / debtor / customer either on account of lack of ignorance, negligence, lack of knowledge and resources, or with a narrow objective of improving our sales and turnovers. Unlike banks or big corporates, the primary focus of medium scale businesses, startups and professionals is to bring in business without much focus on the financial standings of clients. Lack of such required due diligence, many a times, leads to mounting of huge bad debts or delay in payments which acts as a slow poison for any business and adversely impacts future growth of resources and opportunities. A German proverb appropriate to mention here is: ‘HE WHO IS QUICK TO BORROW IS SLOW TO PAY’.
Asking for a debt to be repaid is an uncomfortable but sometimes necessary part of being a business owner. These following steps may help as a guide for recovering an overdue payment :-
a. Always Raise Tax Invoice:
Whenever, you provide any service or supply goods / products to any client / debtor / customer, first and foremost step to be taken is to consideration is to always raise an ‘Invoice’ against such supply of goods or serviceand charge applicable tax onto the Client. After supplying of such goods or services, it is advisable to always take an acknowledgement on such invoice from your Client. The company seal / stamp of your client along with the signature of the authorized person also becomes important in case your client is a company or an entity having separate corporate legal personality.
Raising an invoice and charging the applicable tax on the same, will make the amount to be recovered a legally enforceable debt and acknowledgement of receiving on the invoice confirms that client has accepted such goods or service being provided or supplied under the terms and conditions of such Invoice.
It is also advisable to put points / highlights / clauses in respect of interest on delayed payments, place of delivery and jurisdiction of courts as per your convenience. Although such highlights may not sound very important on ears but plays very important role in case of any future recovery proceedings.
b. Continuous Follow Ups
This, can be done through sending continuous letters through speed posts, emails, WhatsApp Chats for confirming the amount due and for confirming the amount due. Once a confirmation of an outstanding amount is received, the confirming party becomes liable to pay for the debt and cannot afterwards take a contrary stand.
c. Send a Demand Letter
If the Client is still dilly dallying from making the payments due, send a written Demand Letter to the Client directing the Client to clears the dues within the prescribed time, otherwise he would have to face the legal consequences.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE PARTY REFUSES TO PAYITS DUES AND REMEDIES AVAILABLE THROUGH COURTS
a. CIVIL SUIT FOR RECOVERY UNDER ORDER 37 OF CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, 1908
The most common civil remedy for recovering of money is suit for recovery of money under Order 37 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. The Suit under Order 37 of the Civil Procedure Code is called Summary Suit, which can be filed when there is written agreement between the parties and acknowledgement of debt by the other party. Once the Suit is instituted in the Court, and the Court has issued a summons to the Defendant, then the defendant has to make an appearance within 10 days in the Court and if the Defendant fails to make appearance then the Court assumes that the plaintiff’s allegations are true and accordingly awards the plaintiff. If the defendant makes an appearance, then the defendant has to satisfy that he has a defence and only when the Court is convinced that there are some triable issues, then only leave to defend is granted otherwise the Suit is Decreed in favour of the Plaintiff.
b. COMMERCIAL SUIT UNDER COMMERCIAL COURTS ACT, 2015
Commercial Dispute as defined under Commercial Courts Act, 2015 are the Suit which arises out of Commercial Transactions between the parties and includes ordinary transactions of merchants, bankers, financiers and traders, agreements relating to immovable property used exclusively in trade or commerce, agreements for sale of goods or provision of services. Thus, for recovery of money arising out of commercial transactions, the Commercial Suit are maintainable over other types of recovery suits. Under this type of suit also the disposal is summary in nature and the Court only goes into the trial or evidence only when it appears that there are issues which can be resolved after the parties lead the evidence, otherwise Court give its Judgment after going through the pleadings and documents filed in support of the pleadings by both the parties.
c. SECTION 138 OF NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENTS ACT: DISHONOURMENT OF CHEQUE
Giving goods and Services on Credit after taking the Blank Signed Cheques from the parties, is most prevalent practice for giving the goods or services on credit. Once the Cheque issued by a party Dishonours for any reason including but not limited to insufficient funds, payment stopped by the Drawer or for any other reason, then the issuing party is liable to prosecuted for an Offence under Section 138 of the NI Act, which in itself is a penal provision and issuer of the Cheque if found guilty may be punished for the imprisonment which may extend to two years along with the fine which may be double the amount of Cheque dishonoured. For instituting a Cheque Bounce case under Section 138 of the NI Act a defined procedure has to be followed. Firstly, a legal notice for dishonourment of the Cheque has to sent to the drawer within 30 days of the dishonourment of the Cheque and then if no payment is received within 15 days of the receipt of the legal demand notice, then the Complaint has to be filed in the Court within 30 days from the date of expiry of 15 days. The recovery of money through dishonoured Cheque is the fastest way to recover as the drawer has fear of imprisonment and in 90% of the Cases the drawer of the Cheques settles the dispute and makes the payment.
Hope this Article is helpful in letting you know how to safeguard your money and how to get the same recovered through Court of Law.
Vipul Lamba is advocate practicing in various Courts of Delhi. He specialises in Civil matters pertaining to Property Laws, Recovery of Money, Commercial Disputes, Arbitration and Cheque Bounce Matters. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and 9911725864.
In APO 64 OF 2022-CAL HC- Pensionary benefits should not be withheld for indefinite period when State has failed to conclude criminal proceedings within reasonable time frame: Calcutta HC asks Municipal Corporation to release pensionary benefits to employee subject to final decision in criminal proceeding
Justices Arijit Banerjee & Apurba Sinha Ray [25-11-2022]
Justices Arijit Banerjee & Apurba Sinha Ray [25-11-2022]
In CWP No.10047 of 2016-PUNJ HC- Employee, who stands dismissed from service on account of criminal proceedings initiated against him, would be entitled to reinstatement if he stands acquitted and would also be entitled to all benefits for period he was out of service: P&H HC
Justice Jaishree Thakur [17-11-2022]
Justice Jaishree Thakur [17-11-2022]
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