Dr. Farrukh Khan is a diversified litigator as well as the Administrative Head and partner of Diwan Associates and has an exuberance in the civil, criminal, and corporate framework. We were privileged to have a discussion with him. Let’s discuss more about his journey of law in the conversation ahead.
Can you tell us about your journey of law?
I come from a remote District of Bihar, Kaimur. My education till high school was from Varanasi and then I joined Aligarh Muslim Law University to pursue Law. In university, I was a student activist, the general secretary elected by a student union. I completed my law in 2007 and did practice in Delhi for a while, thereafter I got a job in a foreign law firm in Qatar where I worked in the field of the paralegal. It was a struggling period, I stayed in Dubai, Spain and I came back to India in August 2009. My active effective practice started in 2010. By this time I did my LLM and Ph.D. It took me 6 years to complete my Ph.D., as I had to take permission from the Executive Council of the university which was delayed. Pursuing studies while working was very difficult. I was in student politics, it was a course I had to enroll in but due to my graduation in law, I had no other option. The phase was difficult like it is for any other fresher, but thanks to almighty that the phase passed soon.
Can you elaborate on your preference for Corporate Law?
I started as a trial lawyer and I believe the trial is of paramount importance to any lawyer. Even if a budding lawyer wishes to be a corporate lawyer or a criminal lawyer in any branch of law. I firmly believe that a lawyer must spend his/her time in the trial court. When I say trial, trial incorporates everything, court procedures, appearances, drafting, and even arbitration. It helps in getting the first-hand experience of trials in District Courts where your skills as a lawyer are groomed.
Law, as a field, is interconnected. Principles of laws are universal. In the field of medicines, some doctors have specializations but it is not the same for a lawyer. I feel that trial practice is what makes a lawyer. What we study and what we practice is entirely different. First of all, initially, one must remember court numbers, try to maintain cordial relations with court staff. My niche practice is corporate, commercial disputes, and corporate disputes with criminal matters.
Practice makes a man perfect. In law, you are never perfect, every day one interpretation is there onboard, new laws are made. When you have learned the art of trial and learned how to cross-examine, then you may proceed to the field you wish to choose.
Can you share with our readers any of your memorable cases?
For lawyers, every case is very interesting. Law is not a monologue job. There was one case in 2012-13 where I was defending a trademark infringement matter filed against my client by Rajnigandha Pan masala. My client was developing a residential complex project of more than 2000 flats in Greater Noida. The company was sued by Rajnigandha alleging that there is an infringement of the trademark. It was a tough case as Rajnigandha had multiple trademark registration and we had none. So I prepared my defense on the basis that “Rajnigandha” is a generic term and it had traced back from Hindu mythology. I framed my case of 1000 pages and the matter was in front of Justice Murlidhar, honorable judge of Delhi High Court. The opposition were renowned counsels of Delhi High Court and I was comparatively inexperienced. The argument went on for 2 days, I lost the case but was satisfied as my arguments and research was appreciated and it became my first reported judgment. I was applauded in court. Winning/losing doesn’t matter, but the satisfaction of my sincere efforts.
Another instance is of a recent matter in NCLT, the connected matter was pending in Supreme Court. My colleague and I were sure that the court would not hear the matter as the objective was to seek an adjournment. Unfortunately, the court asked us to present the matter then. The volume of files would not be less than 2000 pages. The matter was related to Section 7 of IBC. So I had to argue the matter and argued for 3 hours without preparation. Based on my general understanding of the subject and general information on the case, my colleagues Shantla and Natendra were of great assistance. The files were not flagged but we still managed to succeed. Like I said, every case for a lawyer is a remarkable case when you try to step into the shoes of your client. There is a perception in the non-legal industry that lawyers are not attached to the case. I can say with my experience that I feel more anxious than the client.
Corporate Law is correlated with long working hours: What is your take on that?
There is a time to enter the office but not for an exit. Even after 14 years of practice, there are some days when we leave the office at 5 am and go to courts at 9-9:30 am. When you have opted for practice law, then you must know it was never and will never be a 9-5 job.
After courts when you reach your office, you are already exhausted. Then, you have to meet your clients, give dictations, write/check emails, and to prepare cases for the next day.
I have a habit of reading the files I have to argue before going to bed, while I’m in the car and till the time my matter is called out, so a lawyer must make it clear there are no fixed working hours, be it litigation or corporate jobs.
What is your “out of box strategy” while dealing with a case?
First of all, you have to go to the roots of the facts of the case. The facts of the case should be on the tips. A Client is the master of facts whereas a lawyer is dependent on the facts provided by him /her. You have to start digging the facts and cannot depend on the factual matrix given by the client. You have to check whether such a factual matrix is complete or not, for that you need to keep inquiring the client for the facts as it is in its realistic approach.
Dates and events should be on the tips, when you have facts you need to synchronize it with law. Say, a matter of IBC arises and you are defending a corporate debtor, in such a type of summary litigation technically there is no defense.
For example, in Section 7 of IBC, the courts look for debt and default for which there is no defense. Here the question arises; how you raise your defense, when there is no substantial defense. In such situations, we came on the technical defense. Therefore, you must know the facts on par with your client.
Secondly, synchronize your facts to strategize defense with the law and then do research accordingly. Sometimes, while quoting a judgment, we are unaware of the fact that it is overruled. When you shortlist certain precedents to have relied upon you must check whether such precedents are good law or have they been overruled or have they been re-interpreted against your case ( not applicable for your set of facts).
The third is hard work. You need to burn the midnight oil. There is no shortcut in litigation or reading files. If the file is 1000 pages you will have to read every page because you have to take to the court through those pages.
Further, a lawyer should never be worried about the consequence of the case. You might feel anxious if you are not able to plead your case. You should be worried about two things: that your efforts were honest and sincere.
What are the qualities you look for in an intern or a fresh lawyer?
The qualities that are non-negotiable for me are discipline and punctuality. Discipline for me means that one must give their time in understanding the things whereas punctuality means that say if I was traveling for a case out of the station and let’s say I landed at like 2 am. Irrespective of this I must report to my office/court at the usual hours. This would generally happen once in a while.
Further, when you are being trained for something don’t be affirmative unless you understand the concept. I say to my juniors you ask me things n number of times, I will explain to you n number of times. But the moment you say that I have understood and you haven’t actually, that trait is not acceptable.
What is one piece of advice you would like to give to the aspirants?
I assume that there is no short cut to success, the efforts must be honest and sincere as one must be hardworking when in the field of Law.
How can aspirants apply with your firm for internships?
Due to the pandemic, we are currently not inviting applications for physical internships. Earlier, we did a virtual Internship for more than 100 interns to impart practical knowledge by conducting webinars, etc.
However, the process for applying for a physical internship is:
- Go to website www.diwanadvocates.com
- Go to ‘Apply for Internship’.
Alternatively, you may also send your resume with a cover letter at our email address. The concerned department will further shortlist the applications. We try to provide exposure to applicants from various universities.
INTERVIEW WAS TAKEN BY LEGALREADINGS AND TEAM