In Conversation With Senior Advocate Pramod Dubey

In a candid conversation with Krishnendra Joshi, Editorial Lead, BW Legal World, top criminal lawyer Pramod Dubey talks about his early days in law practice, learnings from an illustrious career and trends in litigation in 2022. From the art of cross examination to issues plaguing money laundering and white collar crime cases, Mr Dubey's interview is a must read for lawyers and law students alike.

Senior Advocate Pramod Dubey | BW Legal World

Formative Years and Mentors

Mr Dubey, you did your B.Sc. Electronics (Hons), having an outstanding educational background in the science stream. What motivated you to study law? What were the initial years of the illustrious journey like?

I lost my father at a very young age of  46 years. He died of renal failure in Delhi in 1991 when I just completed my graduation.

Since I had science background, my family advised me to shift to Delhi for further education. I shifted to Delhi in the last week of September 1991 but I was completely clueless about my future education. 

I permanently shifted to Delhi in 1991, and without any help and started preparing for the competitive exams. It was during this preparation I was advised by my friends to appear for entrance examination conducted by faculty of Law, Delhi University. I appeared and got admission in Campus law Centre, Delhi University in the batch of 1992-1995.

Even after completion of my LL.B, I was completely clueless as to what to do and how to do it. I did not know any person in the legal fraternity. So much so, I was unable to find a guide mentor/senior to join and learn from in Delhi and I decided to go back to my native place and start practicing by joining the Bar in Patna High Court, Bihar. During that process, I visited my (Prof.) Dr. B. B. Pande for his blessings and informing him about my decision to leave Delhi. Prof. Pande convinced and encouraged me to start practicing in Delhi and made me to join my senior’s Chamber in Delhi.

Many young and first-generation lawyers are clueless and seek direction early on in their career? Did you also face decision paralysis when you started out? What would be your suggestion to young first-generation lawyers wanting to make a mark in litigation?

The initial year of my practice was very challenging. In quick time, I realised that I will stay in this practice only due to hardwork, honesty and loyalty to the chamber.

Not compromising with my integrity, even in difficult times was a big learning in the initial days of my practice. I had no particular goal or ambition from the inception of my journey in the law practice. Upon joining my Chamber in 1995, I decided not to take any financial support from my family and I managed to survive in whatever I was getting from my Senior’s chamber. Here, I would also like to mention that it was not easy to navigate with very limited resources but honestly I enjoyed everyday of my initial period with full satisfaction. 

I used to travel in public transport between all District Courts, High Court and often worked till late hours. I lived in a one bedroom house with family but did not have any regret for not taking financial support from family. I knew at every step that my perseverance and hard work will take me through.

Every first generation lawyer is challenged in terms of the fact, that there is no support from the system and you enter this new world, thinking to leave a mark but then you realise you have nowhere to go. 

But, one thing is clear that where ever there is a legacy, some one started it, i.e., to say that the first person to join the profession was a first generation lawyer and must have gone through the ups and down in litigation. So, one should not carry this impression that being a first generation lawyer, he will not get support.  Today you might be a first generation but you are making a path for many generations.

To succeed in law, first and foremost one must be regularly updating yourself in development of law. Law must be seen as a cloud-scape and not a landscape. It is constantly and rapidly evolving and to be able to succeed you need to be fully aware of the law and its repercussions. 

Second is to work with integrity, utmost sincerity and honesty. In law, at some point of their careers many lawyers would find or be asked to do things against their principles. It is at these times, one must hold their fort and continue working sincerely.

Third, to succeed, one must learn to work in a team. I strongly believe that a team is only as strong as its members  collectively. Hence one must strongly support team work by sharing and ensuring constant flow of information, research amongst my team and colleagues.

Lastly, one must introspect everyday! The work one did, the presentation of arguments one did, amongst others. Introspection plays a big role in ones development as a lawyer and as well as an individual. In my experience, with this profession, no one is your competitor and you are competing with yourself. Legal mathematics is all together different from in as much as in legal profession, specifically in criminal practice 100 minus 1 is not 99, it is Zero, meaning thereby you are as good as your last performance.

These things ensure you improve and better yourself everyday. 

Expert insights

Many young lawyers believe that mastering the art of cross examination is an important ingredient in the recipe for success in a criminal trial. What would be your suggestion for conducting effective cross examinations from the treasure trove of your experiences?

Cross-examination is the heart of any proceeding. Cross- examination is a core aspect of the trial process, both criminal and civil. One of the objects of cross-examination is to elicit truths and detect falsehoods in the testimony of a witness. A well conducted cross-examination is designed destroy the credibility of the witness or the reliability. The Cross-examination must be organized in a manner with a clear objective to get a certain answer.

For this, there are three things, Firstly, one should be the master of facts and law.

Secondly, the end-use or purpose of conducting the cross of a particular witness should be kept in mind.

Thirdly, and most importantly, when to stop the said cross. In trial, more particularly Criminal Trials, it has become ubiquitous to see lengthy cross-examinations. Such examinations can often be detrimental as it allows a witness to cover or explain any lacunae. 

However, these days lawyers including Senior Advocates, who are on the criminal side prefer Appellant side practice and are very reluctant to do Trial work in as much as it is a widely believed notion that Trial Court practice is not lucrative -financially , publicity-wise and for garnering wide recognition in short period of time. 

I would say that a lawyer practicing on the criminal side with no experience in cross-examination is not a complete criminal lawyer. The legend, Late Mr Ram Jethmalani who was an institution in himself especially in criminal law, had a vast experience of Trial Court , Appellate Court and Supreme Court.  

In my opinion, if a lawyer dreams to become good arguing counsel in Appellate Courts including final arguments in the Supreme Court, he must carry the Trial Court experience to extend best assistance to the Court.

You are one of the top lawyers for Money Laundering and all White Collar Crimes cases in India? What loopholes do you see in the system that require some fine tuning?

In the past few years, there have been significant legislative and judicial developments to deal with the complexities of economic offenses and those accused thereof. However, the special statutes such as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 ("the Act"), and their central tenets, such as bail under Section 45 of the Act continue to remain highly controversial. Despite, clarification by the Supreme Court of India in the judgments of Siddharth vs. State of U.P. 2021 SCC Online 615 and Satender Kumar Antil Vs. CBI, there are many Courts across India, which are being misled by the incorrect interpretation of the law. 

The broad and vague interpretations of important terminology under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act have further attributed to the problem of prosecution. In my opinion,  arrest should not be made in a routine and casual manner where arrest is not required. 

Investigating agencies are habitually intruding into lawyer client relationships. What are your thoughts around this issue?

This issue is debatable and sub-judice before different Courts. Recently, the Supreme Court has also expressed its view on this issue. Since, the commutations between a client and his attorney are privileged and are essential to the right to a fair trial,  balance must be struck.

Learnings, Experiences and Trends

Litigation is a jealous mistress. What has been your biggest learning in the profession? Which has been your most memorable case so far? 

The biggest learning from my experience as criminal lawyer  is that I have understood the value of personal liberty of every individual, in order to uphold the rule of law and protecting the dignity of the society. 

The second part of the question is tricky. I have many cases I cherish and fondly remember but my most memorable case would be a case that I argued in the early days of my independent practice before a single Bench of the Delhi High Court under the Official Secrets Act. The case involved charges on a journalist for conducting a sting operation in respect of infiltration of foreign NGO’s in North-Eastern States. The matter was successfully argued on many aspects including the basic concept of criminal law and special law and the person got discharged and the decision was a landmark decision.

What is your take on virtual hearings? Has the experience been convenient and fruitful?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was of the firm opinion that virtual hearings would not be a sustainable option in the longer run but seeing the advancement in technology  and the quick ability of the members of the legal fraternity/judicial system, it can be safely said that virtual hearings are here to stay. In fact, Technology and virtual hearings have played a pivotal role in delivery of justice even during the pandemic. The Virtual Courts and hearings have also drastically reduced the financial burden on litigation and significantly reduced cost of litigation by measures such as removing hard copies of pleadings, judgments and service of process, which apart from cost, reduces time in justice delivery. 

Not only one group is technologically developed but whosever including judicial officers, lawyers, clerks, litigants amongst others all become technology friendly. Virtual hearing is not only saving time in travelling from one place to another place, let it be Court hearings, conferences with the counsel, filing of Petitions, obtaining the certified copy of the order, but reducing the financial burden. 

What are the top three trends that are going to rule the litigation ecosystem in India in 2022?

We already have some High Courts across the Country, which are now indulging in live-streaming of Proceedings. I think live-streaming of Proceedings is the future and it is important that matters involving issues of Constitutionality and National importance, [which do not affect the security/sovereignty/peace/public order]  of the Country, should be live- streamed for a wider audience and to spread awareness.

Another trend, which is likely to come up in the litigation ecosystem is the use of Artificial intelligence. Use of Artificial intelligence in banking and other forms of life and business have shown benefits and reduced time and cost in operations. Similarly, law and justice delivery system is likely to gain by use of artificial intelligence for case dispensation, especially cases at a nascent stage or cases which are technical in nature.

Lastly, recording of evidence online in a transparent manner while protecting the legal rights of all the stakeholders is another trend, which is likely to rule the litigation eco-system.

What is your biggest strength in the journey from your first day of practice and designation as Senior Advocate and as Top Criminal Lawyer?

My biggest strength is my belief  in the golden three virtues of handwork, perseverance and integrity. These three core values have guided me since the beginning at every step in the legal profession.

Apart from this, my biggest strength is my wife, Pinky, who always stood by me and guided me at every stage of my journey.

Around The World