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Corona toaster: From the lawyer who sold his scooter

The focus will be on the cost effectiveness of legal services provided and competitive cost will be a defining factor. The customer will be picking up the best package with all the features at the most cost-efficient value.

Sudhir Mishra

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Corona toaster
Corona toaster

The purpose of this article is not to predict the future but to show that this Corona
International Live Event has the potential to serve as a societal inflection point, in addition to serving as a trend accelerant.

A mesmerising Parag P. Tripathi, Senior Advocate for two decades, had told me that genuine sense of humour alone will distinguish you from others in the legal profession apart from other tick lists. With his advice in mind and no coat tails to hang on to, I started my law office on my decade-old Priya scooter in 2000.

After years of toil, today at least in few practices we have earned a stellar leadership reputation. Today, the best companies and law firms from across the world hire us. With the Covid-19 storm brewing over the world, however, our pace and peace too has been disrupted. We are all gasping for breath and fighting for our survival in this new crisis which a nation like Great Britain describes as the lowest economic position in 300 years. 

With the economy hospitalised and the businesses bleeding, the only medication that can help the businesses recover are the ground-breaking structural reforms that one undertakes. These changes will redefine all the existing professional relationships too. The businesses will be looking out for specialised legal services on the issues they face, from the best among the competent and at the most competitive cost owing to a shrinking budget and a sinking feeling.

Now, all the existing law firms and legal service retainers of the companies will be tested qua these bedrock criteria laid down by the businesses. Like every other relationship, the ones built on mutual trust, perseverance and resilience will survive the test of time and the legal profession would not remain untouched by this new relationship paradigm. 

As some experts say, “Clients will increasingly become customers and will buy their services in a way that they buy other services in their lives.” Deep down, we all know that the customer compares all the possible options and finalises the best product/services with all desired features at the bare minimum cost, just like the popular advertisement featuring actor Alia Bhatt, where she mocks the other character for paying much higher price for the same category of room in the same hotel. The same will happen in the legal industry with increased scrutiny of legal budgets by corporates of all shapes.

Alas! Clients may no longer pay for the great grandfather’s pen still being used in the firm or a display of paintings by the talented and much missed M. F. Husain in the conference rooms of large law firms. Now will be the time when the client will be under pressure to pay competitive charges in the new dynamic yet evolving legal service market. 

With the change in role from client to customer, the demands and expectations of the newly developed customer would be different in comparison to the earlier too-busy client. The power equations would change remarkably and as it is said customer is the king and the king dictates the terms of the market.

In the times ahead, as the businesses will struggle to revive, they will be faced with a number of issues and compliances, majority of them being legal due to the new world order. Undoubtedly, the need for legal professionals would rise exponentially as indeed the legal profession’s core role is to support and facilitate the activities of society including commercial activity while protecting the rights and welfare of its members.

At the same time, the client will now find it difficult to pay for the same service at the existing unchecked, exorbitant cost and there the customer would take up the task of looking out to make the “best choice”. The flooding of the internet with webinars by all small and big firms everywhere in this lockdown situation seems like an attempt to showcase the speciality and knowledge, but at the same time, it sends a signal of a Mayday alarm for help to hire the professional services offered.

As the power dynamics are evolving, and the ball being in the court of the client-customer, the focus will be most on the cost effectiveness of the legal services provided and without a doubt, competitive cost will be a defining factor. The customer will be picking up the best package with all the features at the most cost-efficient value. The bills will now be carefully scrutinised and, at last, the customer will treat equals equally.

The firms projecting the same award in different fields will be treated equally by the customer, for instance the IBLJ award, where two firms who won the same award in different categories, serve the client with highly differentiated cost. The client is most likely to go for the firm which offers the same services in a third of the billing hour of other firms and is more generous and thankful in its approach towards the client.

Collaboration, agility, experience, speciality, results, competency, perseverance, integrity and trust will drive the buy-sell dynamic, not pedigree and provenance. The professional relationships will now be built on the foundation of mutual trust, respect and gratitude for each other.

This health crisis, which has propelled an unprecedented economic crisis in centuries has knocked our door with not one but multiple icebergs, and the decades-old attitudinal hardwired practice of law would find it sometime challenging to sail in these rough Covid sea. The smaller super-skilled law firms are a safer bet which can bypass these icebergs and find its way through them as they are more open to reform and are very hungry. Those who can gratuitously ride on these reform boats have a fairly high chance of surviving these prolonged, stormy and rough waters.

Unfortunately, the issue that bigger law firms face is also that they tend to lose too many of their people who find their way to other or newer firms purely for commercial reasons. This creates scepticism in the minds of the Client. Whereas on the other hand, the smaller firm tends to keep its key personnel intact with them, which creates better trust and coordination amongst the legal professional, client and the firm.

The industry will accelerate its gradual transformation to a multidisciplinary, integrated, platform-driven, capitalised, data-based, problem-solving, customer-centric marketplace all around the world. The business and profession of law, after all, reflect the needs and trends of society as a whole, and will adapt to serve those needs in whatever ways are necessary. Adopting to the new tools, technology and mechanism will become crucial. Here the smaller firms also will have to spend more and catch up with big law firms as they have the leverage in adopting to new technologies.

Whereas on one hand, the independent advocates are facing economic hardships in paying the salaries of the staff and meeting the expenses as the litigation is at a standstill, on the other hand, the bigger firms are taking huge pay cuts at the top level to strive. In such circumstances, where both the extremes are facing big problems, those who are sailing in the middle sea are in a better position to meet their expenses, shield their staff and employees and deliver to the client.

In order to safeguard ourselves from the virus, it is imperative that we reboot the existing system and upgrade to the humbler version, as the old feudal version will soon become outdated and the support to the historical version would sooner or later be replaced by the new agile humane legal service provider.

Needless to say, the faster to adapt to these changing times would be the ones to reap the best out of it. But one thing is certain that these times would go down in history, and only if we knew what the future holds for us, we will be able to make better decisions today. But as it is said, if decisions were made in hindsight, fools would rule this world. The tie from Milan or the Gucci from Paris will alone not decide the “effect” of the law firm on a client anymore, the critical deciding factor may well be, apart from excellent practice of law, thankfulness, humility, gratitude and a captivating dose of humour.

Sudhir Mishra is an Advocate and Founder & Managing Partner of Trust Legal.

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SC Collegium Recommends elevation of Justice Prasanna B. Varale as Karnataka HC Chief Justice; Recommends New CJs For Orissa, J&K

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Supreme court

The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended elevation of Justice Prasanna B. Varale, Bombay High Court Judge as the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court.
Justice Prasanna B. Varale was born on 23rd June, 1962 and enrolled as an Advocate on 12th August, 1985. He also served as a lecturer in Law at Ambedkar Law College, Aurangabad from 1990 to 1992 and as the Assistant Government Pleader and Additional Public Prosecutor, High Court Bench at Aurangabad and also as an Additional Standing Counsel for Union of India.
On July, 18., he was elevated to the bench at Bombay High Court.
The Supreme Court Collegium also recommended to elevate of Orissa High Court Judge, Justice Jaswant Singh, as its Chief Justice.
Justice Singh was February 23, 1961 and was enrolled as an Advocate in 1986 in Haryana. In April 1988, he moved to Chandigarh and held the posts of Assistant Advocate General, Deputy Advocate General, Senior Deputy Advocate General and Additional Advocate General, in the office of Advocate General, Haryana, since March 1991.
On December 5, 2007., he was elevated as a Judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court and on 8th October, 2021., he was transferred to the Orissa High Court.
The Collegium also J&K High Court’s Judge, Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey to take charge as the Chief Justice.
Justice Magrey was born on 8th December, 1960 and enrolled as Advocate in the year 1984. However, he remained as standing counsel from 1986 onwards for various State instrumentalities and was appointed as Additional Advocate General in February, 2003. In September 2009, he was appointed as Senior Additional Advocate General.
On 8th March, 2013., he was appointed as Permanent Judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

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Supreme Court Collegium Recommends Transfer Of 3 Judges To Bombay, Jharkhand & Tripura High Courts

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Supreme Court

The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended transfer of three Judges in its meeting held on 28th September, 2022 in the following manner:
The transfer of Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra from Uttarakhand High Court to Jharkhand High Court
Justice Mishra was born on December 29, 1961 and has obtained his LL.B. degree in 1987 and in February 1999 joined as Additional District & Sessions Judge. However, he worked as District & Sessions Judge, Sundergarh, Dhenkanal, Special Judge (CBI), Bhubaneswar and has joined as Registrar General of Orissa High Court.
On October 7, 2009., he was elevated as Judge of the Orissa High Court and was transferred to the Uttarakhand High Court on October 11, 2021. Between December 24, 2021 and June 28, 2022, he served as the Acting Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court.
The transfer of Justice K. Vinod Chandran from the Kerala High Court to Bombay High Court
Justice K. Vinod Chandran was born on April 25, 1963 and has started his law practice in 1991. Also, he served as a Special Government Pleader (Taxes) of the Government of Kerala from 2007 to 2011. In November 2011, he was sworn-in as Additional Judge of Kerala High Court and was appointed as a Permanent Judge with effect from June 24, 2013.
The transfer of Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh from Jharkhand High Court to Tripura High Court
Justice Singh was born on 7th July, 1965 and got enrolled as an advocate at Patna in 1990. On 24th January, 2012., he was elevated as an Additional Judge of Jharkhand High Court and was confirmed as permanent Judge on 16th January, 2014. Presently, he is holding an additional charge as Executive Chairman of Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority.

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Kerala High Court Directs Union Health Ministry And Department of Pharmaceuticals To File Response: Patents On Life Saving Drugs

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The Kerala High Court while taking serious note in the case XXX v. Union of India of the unaffordability of a life-saving patented medicine for breast cancer, the Court directed a competent officer of the union health ministry and the department of pharmaceuticals for filing their response on the issue within a month.
A direction has been issued by the Court after noting that the matter had to be taken up at the higher level.
The bench of Justice V.G. Arun observed and has warned that if the counter is not filed within the stipulated time, the court would be constrained to proceed with the case based on the “uncontroverted averments in the writ”.
During the hearing, the counsel appearing on behalf of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and the Controller General of Patents, Patent Department, Standing Counsel T.C. Krishna submitted that the situation to invoke Sections 92 and 100 for compulsory license of the patented drug as sought for in the petition and was not prevalent as of present.
Further, it was asked by the counsel that how far the court could interfere in this case, since the plea had sought that the drug be made available at a reasonable price. Adding to it, he questioned that weather the Court could suggest what a ‘reasonable price’ would be to the government.
In response to the question, it was clarified by advocate Rahul Bajaj that cancer was not part of the list of the notifiable diseases list issued by the Central Government.
The Amicus Curiae, Advocate Maitreyi Sachidananda Hegde submitted that the authority to take decision under Section 92 or Section 100 of the Patent Act ought to be of the Joint Secretary level as the Assistant Patent Officer could not decide whether the issue falls within the government realm or not.
It was also argued by the Amicus that the legal question which has been raised could be decided by the Court.
Further, it was submitted by Amicus that the counter Affidavit that had been submitted by DPIIT and Patent Department suffered from certain drawbacks for not addressing whether reasonable discretion had indeed been exercised in the instant case or not.
The Counsel appearing for the respondent refused while stating that the government has to take the decision in this regard, before the Patent Department could go ahead with compulsory licensing or any other such measure.
Representing an intervenor, Advocate Bajaj pointed out that the right to health in Indian and International spectrum includes within its ambit the right to life-saving medicines, as well. Hence, it was submitted by the counsel that the issue could not merely be looked into from a policy lens alone, but that it is a rights-based issue in itself.
The Court on 16.09.2022., had taken a suo motto cognizance of the issue of unaffordability of patented life-saving medicines, in light of the death of the petitioner who had espoused this cause having not been able to afford the Ribociclib drug for the treatment of her breast cancer.
Accordingly, the court posted the case for the next hearing on 2nd November 2022.

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Allahabad high court: Not mandatory to summon lower court record before deciding state’s plea for grant of leave u/s 378(3) crpc

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The Allahabad High Court in the case State of U.P. v. Vakil S/O Babu Khan observed and has held that it is not mandatory for the High Court to summon the lower court record in every case before deciding the State Government’s application for grant of leave to appeal against an acquittal order as provided under Section 378(3) Cr.P.C.
It stated that section 378 Cr.P.C. provides for filing of appeal in case of acquittal by the State and sub-section 3 of Section 378 Cr.P.C. contemplates for grant of leave for the entertainment of such appeals filled.
The bench comprising of Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra and Justice Shiv Shanker Prasad observed and has stated that it is for the High Court to decide on the basis of the facts and circumstances of each case that whether the application filled for grant of leave requires the perusal of the lower court records or not.
However, the court was of the view that though the right of the appellate court to summon the lower court record in an appropriate matter always subsists and it is not necessary for the High Court to call for the lower court records for consideration of an application under Section 378(3) Cr.P.C., in every case or as a matter of routine.
The Court also referred to the Apex Court’s ruling in the case of State of Maharastra Vs. Sujay Mangesh Poyarekar (2008) 9 SCC 475, wherein it was observed that the High Court while exercising the power to grant or refuse leave must apply its mind and considering where a prima facie case has been made out or arguable points have been raised and not whether the order of an acquittal would or would not be set aside.
It was observed that the court also took into account sub-section 2 of Section 384 Cr.P.C. which provides that before dismissing an appeal, summarily, the Court may call up for the record of the case. Thus, the court noted that non-summoning of the lower court records in an appeal against conviction is not fatal and that the use of the expression ‘may’ in sub-section (2) clearly suggests that the power to summon the record is only an enabling provision and as shall it is not to be read.
Further, the court stressed that every appeal is not required to be admitted inasmuch as leave must not necessarily be granted in every matter and the exercise of power in that regard is dependent before the Court upon a prima facie assessment of the material placed so as to ascertain whether the appeal raises arguable points or not.
Subsequently, the Court came to the conclusion that it is not mandatory for the High Court to summon the lower court record in every case before deciding the application for grant of leave under Section 378(3) Cr.P.C.
It was added by the court that the right of the appellate court to summon the lower court record in an appropriate matter always subsists and It is for the High Court to decide on the basis of the facts and circumstances of each case that whether the application for grant of leave requires the perusal of the lower court records or not.

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All women, married or unmarried, entitled to safe and legal abortion: SC

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All women, married or unmarried, entitled to safe and legal abortion: SC

In a landmark judgement this week, the Supreme Court held that all women are entitled to a safe and legal abortion. A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that the meaning of rape must include marital rape for the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
The Supreme Court said that the distinction between married and unmarried women for the purposes of the MTP Act is “artificial and constitutionally unsustainable” and perpetuates the stereotype that only married women indulge in sexual activities.
The rights of reproductive autonomy give similar rights to unmarried women as those to married women, the bench held.
Insisting on a “forward-looking” approach, the Supreme Court on 7 August opined that any discrimination between married and unmarried women in respect of the medical termination of pregnancy law in India that does not allow a single woman to go for an abortion after 20 weeks violates her personal autonomy.
The top court had said that it would interpret the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the related rules to see if unmarried women could be allowed to abort up to a 24-week pregnancy on medical advice.
The upper limit for the termination of pregnancy is 24 weeks for married women, with special categories including survivors of rape and other vulnerable women such as the differently-abled and minors; the corresponding window for unmarried women in consensual relationships is 20 weeks.

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SEBI v/s RIL : Review Petition Admitted

The present issue relates back to certain share transactions of RIL in 1994, whereby around 12 crore equity shares of RIL were “fraudulently” allotted to its promoters and group companies.

Tarun Nangia

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SEBI v/s RIL : Review Petition Admitted

The Supreme Court in the case Securities and Exchange Board Of India vs. Reliance Industries Limited & Ors observed and has allowed for listing of the instant petition in open court.

The bench comprising of the Chief Justice Of India U.U. Lalit, Justice J.K. Maheshwari and the Justice HimaKohli observed while considering the facts and circumstances of the case and on the submissions made by the counsel in the review petition. The bench deemed it appropriate to allowe the application filled for the listing of the instant petition in open court.

Background of the Case:

The present issue relates back to certain share transactions of RIL in 1994, whereby around 12 crore equity shares of RIL were “fraudulently” allotted to its promoters and group companies. In 2020, a complaint was filled by S Gurmurthy, the regulatory initiated probe into the alleged irregularities. An opinion was sought by SEBI of former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna twice and also the opinion of a Chartered Accountant named YH Malegam.

It was requested by the RBI for disclosure of these opinions and related internal documents. The RIL filed a writ petition before the Bombay High Court, when SEBI turned the request and the same was dismissed in February 2019.

A Criminal complaint was lodged by SEBI in 2020 before Special Judge, Mumbai against RIL alleging offences punishable under SEBI Act and Regulations. The same was rejected by the Court as time-barred. A revision petition was filled by the regulatory before the Bombay High Court challenging the dismissal of the complaint. However, in SEBI’s revision petition, RIL filed an interlocutory application seeking the disclosure of the documents. The High Court adjourned RIL’s application on March 28, 2022 by stating that it can be considered only along with the main revision petition. Therefore, this led to filling of the special leave petition before the Supreme Court.

On September 29, 2022., the matter was circulated in the Supreme Court. Accordingly, the court listed the review petition for next hearing on 12.10.2022.

Case Title: Securities and Exchange Board Of India vs. Reliance Industries Limited & Ors
Case No: W.P.(C) No. 250 of 2022 & W.P.(C) of 1167 of 2022.
Coram: Chief Justice Of India U.U. Lalit, Justice J.K. Maheshwari, Justice Hima Kohli
Date Of Order: 29th Day of September, 2022.

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