INTERVIEW WITH AVIN CHHANGAI, ADVOCATE AT RAJASTHAN HIGH COURT BY SHUBHANI MITTAL

Q.1 Tell our readers about you.

I am a third generation lawyer; practising at Rajasthan High Court. I have been practising since 2014. I am a student of public policy and electoral politics, which I find quite fascinating. I am quite fond of writing and public speaking, which are important traits to possess in the legal profession.

Q2. Why have you chosen law as a career and what inspired you?

I belong to a family of lawyers, so the initial interest in Law was developed on that account. However, the biggest inspiration for me has undoubtedly been the late Shri Arun Jaitley. Watching his parliamentary interventions, when I was in school, had a huge impact on me and I gravitated towards Law. The other figure who inspired me is Nani Palkhivala, possibly the greatest lawyer India has ever had. Soon after joining law school, I picked up his books, based on my grandfather’s recommendation. Reading his books made me realise the true role of a lawyer and made me gravitate towards constitutional law – my favorite branch of law.

Q.3. Being the founder of Forum for Public Policy Disclosure, tell us about it and motivation behind it?

I believe every citizen must be deeply interested in public policies and their decision making process, as these policies impact every one. In 2018, I felt something must be done to facilitate dissemination of informed opinion. That led me to setting up Forum for Public Policy Discourse.

Q.4. Share an experience of your life , which would motivate our readers .

A few months into practice, I was waiting in a courtroom, waiting for my case to be taken up. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the senior judge (it was a Division Bench) called me to the dias. They were hearing a murder appeal and the convict’s lawyer was not present. The senior judge asked the PP to give me the file and asked me to read some portions. Thereafter, I was asked what is the law obtaining in the factual matrix. Naturally, I got surprised and was not sure what to do. Nonetheless, I decided to grab the opportunity and argued on the basis of my understanding of the applicable principles of law.

I managed to impress the Hon’ble Judges. The junior judge, Hon’ble Mr Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal, praised me; which acted as a confidence booster. Subsequently, Justice Grewal was transferred to Punjab and Haryana High Court, his parent High Court. In December 2019, on the occasion of inauguration of the new building of Rajasthan High Court, Justice Grewal came to the inauguration and I had the opportunity to meet him. He told me he still remembers the aforementioned appearance I had made before him. I was pleasantly surprised and grateful to the Hon’ble Judge. The lesson being, when an opportunity – even a seemingly daunting one – presents itself, grab it.

Q.5. Tell us about a recent S.C judgement you disagree with and why ?

I don’t necessarily disagree, but perhaps the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s judgment on AGR (adjusted gross revenue) dues of Telecom companies  can harm the Telecom sector and, by extension, the economy. Law neither exists nor operates in a vacuum. It has to be implemented in a given set of facts. In that backdrop, the judiciary must be conscious of the impact of its decisions on the economy at large.

Q.6. What are your thoughts about Indian legal system and what are the areas of improvement ?

It’s well known that India’s legal system is marked by inordinate delay. In this regard, to my mind, two things ought to be done: a) Curtail the time of oral arguments and make it compulsory to file written submissions. More often than not, lawyers get repititive while arguing. b) Improve judicial infrastructure and facilities. Judges have a task which is both intellectually stimulating and mentally exhausting. Those outside the legal system cannot even fathom how difficult it is to hear more than 100 cases a day, and dictate orders in a large number of cases. The number of law researchers should be increased. Their pay should be increased, so talented law graduates take up the job. This would ease the colossal burden on Judges, which would augur well for our legal system.

Q.7. Tell us your outside interests and how it helps you ?

Apart from law, I am fascinated by policymaking and electoral politics. I have a keen interest in USA’s politics and policymaking. It has helped me even professionally; inasmuch as, it has helped me broaden the horizons of my mind. Good lawyering essentially boils down to sound logical reasoning. Reading and watching American public intellectuals has helped me refine my reasoning skills.

Q.8. What was the greatest challenge you faced in the early days of your career ?

In the initial days of my career, I faced the same obstacles as every other young lawyer. In the initial days, people find it difficult to repose faith in you. It was a struggle to justify my fee to clients. However, this is only natural and should not big down a young lawyer. I decided to work on my skill set, which has stood me in good stead.

Q.9. What would you do if you were assigned a case you were morally opposed to? How would you reconcile the conflict between your personal beliefs and the case ?

I suspect, it is not possible to answer such a question in abstract. It is only when one faces a specific dilemma, that one would decide the best course of action. However, it can be said with some certainty that if one adheres to some fundamental beliefs, then it would not be desirable to compromise with them.

Q.10. Anything you would like to say to our young law students.

My biggest advice to law students: read and write. Yes, it’s a bit of a cliche; but there’s a reason why it’s become that. Reading does not entail just legal texts. Lawyers have historically been leaders of the society, so it is imperative to read on a range of subjects. Even on legal issues, one should not restrict themselves to only Indian issues. I have personally benefited a great deal by reading judgments of the U.S. Supreme Court, especially those authored by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Writing is a very important skill to master, especially for lawyers. If you are a law student, start a blog and start writing on contemporary legal issues. Do not have unrealistically high expectations, just focus on the process. A famous man once said, ” Do not write to become a better writer; write to become a clear thinker.” Internalise this mantra. Writing disciplines the mind and compels you to reflect on a topic.

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