Kanika Singh is a highly reputed, independent, first-generation lawyer. She practices at Delhi High court and has tremendous experience in the field of arbitration, insolvency, commercial and civil litigation. She is also Member Executive at the Delhi High Court Bar Association.
She has also authored several articles, which have been published by esteemed platforms. She has also recently started a social media initiative, known as ‘Kanika’s club’ where she discusses important judgments and encourages reading of case laws to keep lawyers updated.
In an interview with Legal Bites, Kanika Singh speaks about the current challenges faced by Courts in light of the COVID – 19 Pandemic, her motivation in choosing law as a career, her role as a DHCBA member, and much more.
Legal Bites: What motivated you to study law? What led you to choose litigation as a career?
Kanika Singh: Both happened by accident – gave the law entrance on a lark and got through but even through college, I didn’t feel any great connect – it was only when I started working with a great senior in the Delhi High Court that it started to fall in place and I discovered that I had an aptitude for litigation.
So as much as it would make for better reading, if I had always known that this is what I wanted to do, the truth is, it was just the happiest turn of events.
Legal Bites: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for a lawyer in litigation? What would be your advice for those who also want to become independent litigators?
Kanika Singh: Extremely long gestation periods and just the sheer numbers which make carving out an identity for oneself difficult.
My advice would be to acquire domain knowledge – make a particular field of law your own and persevere.
Legal Bites: You won the Delhi High Court elections one year ago and joined the Delhi High Court Bar Association as Member Executive. Please tell us about your campaigning experience.
Kanika Singh: So my first real senior in the profession contested bar association elections and lost when I had just entered the profession. You would think that to be part of an unsuccessful campaign would turn one off the whole process, but it made me fall in love with it and ignited the desire to contest elections at least once and I finally took that plunge last year.
In fact, I love all things about campaigning that people hate – having to meet people/interact with a large number of them /basically put oneself out there. During my campaign, everyone was really encouraging except for the odd remark as to whether I was too young for this or why I was not contesting for the Lady Member post.
Legal Bites: What was it like to work for the Delhi High Court Bar Association? What are some objectives you aim to achieve by the end of your term?
Kanika Singh: It’s been amazing. One of the reasons I had contested elections was because Delhi High Court and its bar had been a second home for me and had welcomed me as a first-generation lawyer with no connections in the legal fraternity and I wanted to make sure that any lawyer coming to the High Court has the same experience in terms of having the best facilities and support system.
So all of us in the executive committee had a bucket list of agenda items and we were well on our way into achieving some of them including advances with a new consultation chamber facility and also starting planning in earnest for the crèche facility.
However, COVID-19 has ensured that there is a re-look at the agenda items and now the two most pressing agenda items have been to render ex- gratia financial assistance to our members in need and we had a scheme for the same and secondly to ensure the transition of ‘courts to online platforms’ which is smooth from the hearings to the filings and we have been closely working with the Administrative Committee of the Delhi High Court for the same.
COVID-19 has ensured that while our challenges have been particularly daunting, the same can actually provide an opportunity to make significant contributions and putting in place systems that will endure.
Legal Bites: You have extensively worked in arbitration, a field of law that has recently evolved and become popular. Would you like to comment on the growing popularity of arbitration in recent years as well as its function as an alternative to litigation?
Kanika Singh : With recent amendments in the Arbitration & Conciliation Act and several key judgments doing away with unilateral appointments of the arbitrator as also the principle of the automatic stay of awards, it seems that arbitration in India is finally set to fulfil the potential it always had, to become an effective and preferred mode of alternate dispute resolution.
The two advantages/attractions that arbitration as a medium of dispute resolution offers is:
- the right to choose the adjudicator of one’s disputes and thus ensure one’s faith in the process and
- timely adjudication of the disputes.
The introduction of specified time periods for completion of arbitral proceedings is also an emphasis on reduced interference by Courts in arbitral awards and has also re-inspired the faith of parties in arbitration and owing to the backlog in courts, arbitration continues to be a necessary and viable alternative to litigation.
Legal Bites: Force Majeure is currently a subject of concern for most people, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and you have been actively speaking and writing about it, as well as other issues. What would you like to say about your online initiative called ‘Kanika’s Case Club’ which encourages case law reading and learning?
Kanika Singh: It has just been an attempt to not permit a crisis go to waste. On a serious note, though the pandemic has given all of us a little more free time and I found myself doing a lot more case law reading during the said time and thought just like we have book clubs we could have case clubs where we discuss and debate the key takeaways or even oversights in a case.
In India, as precedent law is so heavily relied upon having a nuanced understanding of case laws, it can prove crucial and be the difference in winning or losing a case at times. As lawyers, we are taught to argue both sides of a case and the same applies to case law reading and the more we discuss and debate, there are more insights to be gained from case laws.
Legal Bites: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual proceedings for Courts, what do you think is going to be the ‘new normal’ in litigation? What do you perceive will be the challenges and changes in courts as an aftermath of the virus?
Kanika Singh: So e-filings are here to stay as also court hearings on Online platforms. In fact, the virus ensured that we compress/fast-track the developments that would have taken a year or more, into a couple of months in terms of getting systems and modules ready for online filings and hearings. The biggest challenge post the virus will be an additional backlog of cases which would have increased substantially due to the suspension of hearings in all but urgent cases.
The other challenge would be to ensure that the impetus towards e-courts and e-filing doesn’t get wasted and we can capitalize on the systems put in place now and to resist the urge to just go back to the way things were and lose the progress that we have made in putting an advanced system in place.
It has ensured that a lawyer sitting in Delhi can effectively attend hearings in Bombay, thus making litigation truly pan-Indian.
Legal Bites: What is the most memorable case that you have worked on?
Kanika Singh: So the most memorable case in my short career in litigation was the case challenging the imposition of president’ rule in Arunachal Pradesh which led to the falling down of the government in power and formation of a government by a faction.
I was involved from the side of the party whose government had toppled over and we had challenged the governor’s actions. After several days of continuous hearings and late-night briefings to senior counsels, the 5 judge bench of the Supreme Court passed a judgment declaring the actions of the governor unconstitutional and granting status quo ante which meant that our client’s government got restored.
The case was special not only for the seminal questions of law involved and for the legal luminaries who I got to brief, from Mr Fali S. Nariman to Mr Kapil Sibal but also because it showed me the power of the court as to how it can correct the chain of events, which included government formations, that had prefaced on unconstitutional actions.
Legal Bites: What would be your advice for the law students out there?
Kanika Singh: To not get daunted by how it might seem that there is a lack of opportunities due to the pandemic and its aftermath. The current pandemic and its aftermath will only throw up more disputes and opportunities for legal professionals.
A cursory look at Linkedin always reinforces my belief that law students in India right now are the most woke and enterprising hustlers out there, writing articles, blogs, setting up legal portals etc. This is also a challenge because in the overload of online articles, webinars, portals etc. what will be of utmost importance is how you differentiate yourself and carve out a niche.
Legal Bites: Thank you so much for talking to us. It was our pleasure.