Ashima Ohri

A business economist, lawyer, and writer. Editorial Consultant for BW Legal World.

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In Conversation with Sidharth Sethi, Partner, J. Sagar Associates and Advocate on Record, Supreme Court of India

At the early age of 12, Sidharth was seen arguing his first case at a race competition. Little did anyone know how this penchant for justice was going to translate into a glorious career in law. In this interview with Ashima Ohri, Sidharth shares his views on some of the burgeoning legal issues, his experiences, and what it takes to be a 40 Under 40 top lawyer!

Sidharth, would you please tell us where did this illustrious journey begin and at what age did you decide to study law. Please walk us through your early years of education and the decision of becoming a lawyer. 

At the outset, my sincere gratitude to BW Legal World for the opportunity and the honour bestowed upon me. I was born and raised in a small town called Solan in Himachal Pradesh. I did my schooling at Geeta Adarsh Vidyalaya, Solan; and studied law from ILS, Pune.  

I am a first-generation lawyer and do not have any pedigree of lawyers in the family. I cannot recall a definitive moment when I decided to become a lawyer. I can only remember my parents imbibing in me the values, pursuit of justice, social welfare, and standing up to any atrocities, early on.   

There are many instances, which may have attributed to my career choice. Moreover, there is this one incident, which is still so fresh in my mind. When I was 12, I won a cycle race competition (the first prize was a bicycle). The boy who stood 2nd should have been disqualified because he was overage. I pleaded with the organizers that the boy who stood 3rd be given the 2nd prize. The organizers refused; I protested and did not accept my prize. The organizers ridiculed me for this behaviour. Nevertheless, I received letters of appreciation from various people. I still remember one letter, which complimented me by saying that Gandhi Ji would have done the same thing. The penchant for justice and the way law allows me to think would always be my reason why I chose to be a lawyer. 

Who have been your guiding North Stars and the biggest inspiration in this journey? 

Everyone who has touched my life has shaped me into who I am today. However, my guiding North Star would always be—the pursuit of happiness. The state of mind to be satisfied with what I do and accomplish is my purpose in life.  I hope I can continue to do so until I can. 

If I must take any name, I have several people whose blessings I can count on in my life and who have been my inspiration. I am grateful to God for giving me the privilege of meeting Sh. Dattopant Thengri Ji, Sh. Nanaji Deshmukh, Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Sh. L K Advani and Sh. Shanta Kumar at a very young age. My father—who is my mentor— would always tell me how relentlessly they worked for society and the nation.  

After joining the bar, I have had the privilege of working with Mr Sudipto Sarkar many times. Mr Sarkar is a gifted lawyer, and there is nothing like seeing the world of law through his eyes. I am also a big admirer of Mr Harish Salve, and the immense wealth of knowledge that he imparts makes me want to be like him. I am a huge fan of Mr Maninder Singh, Mr Sidharth Luthra, and Mr Kevic Setalvad, all exceptional lawyers and great human beings. The humility in which they approach life is uplifting, and I wonder where they derive this energy and positivity. 

As I mentioned, there are several others whose blessings I can count on in my life. JSA and my seniors in JSA have been my teachers—guiding and mentoring me all along.       

Would you please tell us more about the array of work you handle at your firm? 

My practice covers diverse areas of corporate commercial litigation, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution. 

I have considerable expertise in shareholders’ disputes. I regularly represent clients in commercial arbitrations, both domestic and foreign seated, arising out of Shareholders’ Agreements, Share Purchase Agreements, Concession Agreements, and various other commercial contracts. 

I also advise and act for various clients in insolvency proceedings, product liability litigations, constitutional & administrative law litigation, and proceedings relating to penal laws, white-collar crimes, and corporate and forensic investigation. I have appeared in more than 15 High Courts of India. In addition, being an Advocate-on-Record with the Supreme Court, I also regularly appear before the Supreme Court. 

Would you please summarily tell us the current status of the sectors of the economy you work in, the roadblocks in our path, and the way forward.  

The world economies are grappling with the aftermath caused by COVID-19. India is no exception, and neither is the legal industry. The clients that I cater to in all the sectors— be it primary, manufacturing, or service—have had to withstand the worst of the pandemic. It is forcing everyone to confront a host of challenging questions about how they can and should conduct business during this global crisis. The epidemic has presented us with such a decline in GDP ever seen due to the lockdowns and various social distancing norms sometime between March and May. Whilst the staggered re-opening of the country over the following months improved economic activity, the concerns around the rebound of the market remain; and uncertainties around COVID-19 are likely to continue. Having said that, I believe that we as people have come together in this crisis and I am optimistically cautious that this shall pass. 

Please hold tight for BW Legal World's inaugural issue of the print magazine that will feature Sidharth Sethi's full interview and much more from the world of law. Stay tuned...

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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