Updated: Jul 30, 2020
ADVOCATE KAJAL BHATIA
Expertise: Corporate Litigation, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code
Ques 1. Before we delve in, may we request you to kindly introduce yourself and share your journey with our readers
Firstly, I would like to thank The Legal Outlook for this interview and for giving me an opportunity to share my experience as a first-generation lawyer.
Like many Indian households, Law was not my first option as a career. I graduated from Delhi University in the year 2015 from Gargi College and after that I pursued law from ILS Law College, Pune. With every semester my interest changed and it was very difficult for me to decide between Litigation and Corporate. I did multiple internships in varied fields and not only did I intern in the most reputed firms, but I also interned with an independent lawyer and tried to analyze which field best suits me. The lesser-known fact is that internships do play an integral role in deciding your career and it helped me too to make an informed decision. One advice I would like to give here is, don’t be afraid to do internships in varied fields, as internships can be considered as a practice ground and not only do they help you decide what to choose but also helps you to decide what not choose after your graduation.
Soon after graduating from Law school, I joined the Chambers of an Advocate-on-Record (AOR), who along with Appellate Court matters also dealt in the original jurisdiction. Thereafter, I joined an advocate specializing in Corporate Litigation and White Collar Crimes.
For the past one year now, I have been extensively practicing Corporate Litigation before all the Courts and forums, particularly dealing in insolvency, bankruptcy, and recovery matters. In my spare time, I enjoy reading to stay abreast of all the legal developments, which I feel is necessary for every lawyer.
Ques 2. As a young advocate, what challenges did you face while practicing in Supreme Court? How did you overcome them?
The first few months were a struggle, like any other first-generation lawyer who decides to take up litigation in a place like Delhi and establish oneself and it was no different for me.
Coming from a small town like Dehradun, with no friends or family members in the legal fraternity, I was faced with a monumental task of establishing my practice in the Supreme Court. Soon, I realized that the functioning of the Supreme Court, the drafting, and even the Court craft was entirely different from what we had learned in our College.
In my initial stage as an advocate, I was seldom given the opportunity to appear before the Court and argue a matter. The first few months, the only work I was assigned was to prepare the complete matter overnight and file it the next day, remove defects the very same day and get it listed. Most of my weekends were spent preparing petitions or preparing briefs for senior advocates for matters that were listed on Monday.
I think the extra number of hours that I had put in, along with taking up every task be it related to clerical work or taking pass-overs or arguing a whole matter, helped me build confidence and understand the nuances and Court craft.
An incident that I would like to highlight here, one day I was in Supreme Court and was told to take an adjournment for a matter. However, as soon as I pleaded for an adjournment, the Judge refused and asked to argue the matter. When I started to brief the matter to the Judge, he stopped and praised me on my preparedness of the matter and subsequently, adjourned it. That day I realized that the Judge was giving an opportunity to a Junior advocate like myself, to be heard and argue in front of Supreme Court Judges.
Therefore, this taught me that one should always well be prepared for a case even though your senior asks you to take an adjournment or a pass-over.
Ques 3. Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is one of the niche practice areas. What influenced you to practice in this specific area of law? What advice would you give to someone who plans to choose Insolvency and Bankruptcy as one of the practice areas?
Approximately a year ago I decided to expand my practice and do Corporate Litigation and honestly speaking I had no knowledge of Insolvency laws. I joined an independent Advocate who predominantly handles such cases and I was privileged that my senior gave me a plethora of opportunities and exposure to various laws.
On my first day, I was asked to independently appear in a matter before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). It was altogether a new experience. Gradually, I started appearing regularly before NCLT and that is when I developed an interest in Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). Moreover, I also got the opportunity of attending various Committee of Creditors (CoC) meetings, which widened my knowledge to a lot of practicalities which are taken into consideration while resolution of a Company, thus giving me a clear picture of step-by-step resolution of a Company.
Besides, I also keep myself abreast of the recent amendment in IBC and have been independently representing Clients before the Tribunal.
For everyone who plans to build their expertise in Recovery matters, I advise, one should practice before all the forums and not just NCLT, for instance, RERA (Real Estate Regularity Authority) and DRT (Debt Recovery Tribunal). Further, work closely with the Resolution Professional and try and attend CoC meetings for a better understanding of the Resolution procedure.
Ques 4. Lately, the Government of India had issued an ordinance to suspend Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) for six months. What are your views on the same? Do you think it is a welcome move considering the current COVID-19 situation?
Certainly, it is a welcome move!
The novel COVID-19 has hit businesses adversely, thus impacting a large amount of cash flow. The suspension of IBC is co-terminus with the imposition of moratorium by RBI for 6 months.
However, a blanket ban over the cases is not the solution as the objective of Section 7, 9, and Section 10 operates on quite a different footing of the Code. Due to suspension, the lenders are left with very few remedies and they are resorting to alternate, commercial or civil remedies, which take years to resolve, as a result of the prolonged result, the businesses would be closed.
Further, the ordinance largely aims to protect the MSMEs, and the government should not let the rights of creditors go unaddressed. Also, there will be a flood of cases post the 1-year window; hence the Code will lose its ornament of disposal of cases in a fixed, speedy, and efficient manner.