Commercial disputes in India - Senior Advocates

India has a unique system of a de facto split legal system, with dedicated advocates appearing in many of the largest cases. In terms of economic factors affecting India, Covid-19 has been a major factor in case load increases for many Senior Advocates, with lots of parties failing to exclude themselves from cases on the basis of disruption, leading to a lot more instructions than ever before as these cases come to fruition. Insolvency practices have also seen an increase from this. Furthermore, Due to the pandemic, there has been a dramatic shift to adopt and finally accept technological advances such as video conferencing and online hearings, whereas before this old systems were still in place, rapidly bringing the Indian legal system up to speed with the broader economy.Designation as a Senior Advocate is highly selective, with thirty seven appointed in 2019 (only six of them women), and has undergone some degree of recent change. Pre 2018, the way in which a senior advocate was assigned was that the senior advocate as a whole had to vote in support of over 213 in majority. This led to criticisms over the years, with many expressing frustration at a system that appeared to be designed to be biased towards favouritism. In response to this, a new set of rules were drafted in response to the calls for transparency, with a new objective test was formed to keep the playing field level with each advocate aspiring to become a Senior Advocate, based on the above and the specific specialization of each advocate. Indian chambers are generally headed by a senior advocate, but do not feature more than one like an elite English set would. The apex of the Indian legal system, is the Supreme Court. Each state, or a group of states, as a High Court, and advocates are admitted to a particular court – the Bombay High Court (which, like many High Courts, retains its pre-1990s name) being one of the most active for commercial disputes. It is unusual, but not impossible, for advocates to have polycentric practices, with Supreme Court work being a specialism on its own. It is common for advocates to have more thematically broad practices, which is reflected in the scope of this section.Indian advocates are sole practitioners. That said, a number of Indian senior advocates have, in part to bolster their international recognition and international arbitration practices, have developed connections to barristers’ chambers (themselves, of course, networks of self-employed professionals rather than providers of legal services) in London – some of these apply the postnominals “SA” to Indian senior advocates, although this usage is not applied locally.

3 Verulam Buildings

Gopal Subramanium SA, a former Solicitor General of India, is also an associate member of 3 Verulam Buildings.

Blackstone Chambers

Harish Salve is also a member of London set Blackstone Chambers, and is also appointed a King’s Counsel in England and Wales.

Essex Court Chambers

Gaurab Banerji is an overseas associate at Essex Court Chambers.

Fountain Court Chambers

Fountain Court Chambers has three Indian senior advocates as associate members: Arvind Datar, Zal Andhyarujina and Gaurav Pachnanda.

Quadrant Chambers

Prashanto Chandra Sen is an associate member of shipping-led set Quadrant Chambers.

Twenty Essex

Nakul Dewan is a member of Twenty Essex  – his arbitration-based practice has strong connections to Singapore.