1. Sir please inform our readers about your diverse work profile.
I am Balbir Singh Chauhan, senior advocate at Himachal Pradesh High Court. I had been in this field for the last 36 years. I started with litigation in 1980 in District Court, Shimla and then moved to H.P High court in 2000. Since then I have been practising in High Court.
2. Tell us about your educational background. What prompted you to choose law?
I have done my schooling from village only. I completed my graduation from S D College, now known as RKMV College, Shimla and then did LLB from Himachal Pradesh University. As far as the reason behind choosing law is concerned, truly, there wasn’t any reason as such. I had to do something and so did law.
3. What problems did you face as a young lawyer?
As a fresher, the biggest problem I faced was not having an office. Since litigation requires hours of sitting, file work, an office and a personal library is a must. Apart from this another hurdle one might face in the initial days of practise is having no or very few clients. But slowly as you get into the mainstream of this profession, the problem eventualy diminishes.
4. Sir it is generally believed that one must have a strong legal background in order to succeed in this profession. What are your views on this? Do you really think that it is comparatively more difficult for first generation lawyers to establish themselves in litigation?
No. I firmly believe that it doesn’t really matter if one has a legal background or not. One’s sincerity, dedication and hard work are the keys to his or her success. However the one with a legal background has certainly an edge over the others but at the end of the day the efforts one puts in counts the most.
5. In the last ten years, you must have seen a tremendous change in litigation. Now women are equally going in for independent practise. What do you have to say on this? Also, what do you think are the reasons behind relatively lesser no. of women than men in practise?
Yes. There has been an increase in the participation of women in litigation like never before, which is a good sign. I know quite a no. of women who are doing really well in the courts. The main reason I think behind lesser participation of women is the household responsibility they are shouldered with. Spending 5-6 hours daily in office after court hours is a normal routine for the ones in practise, managing which becomes quite difficult for women. However, women are in no way behind men be it in practise or otherwise
6. How has been your experience in litigation so far? You come across a no. of cases every day. Is there any memorable incident that you would like to share with us?
It has been a wonderful journey. Every day is a new day, a new experience. There are a lot many incidents but all I can recall at the moment is an incident where I got in to a heated argument with the judge at dist court after he used some offensive words against me. He took the matter to another dist judge who refused to believe in him and showed complete faith on me over him. The incident made me realise that if you are right on your part, nothing can go against you.
7. Corporate v Litigation. Comment. Which is better and why?
There’s no comparison between the two. It completely depends on one’s own choice so as to what they want to go for. However having being served as an elected member of the Bar Council of India, I had encounter with people from litigaton as well as from the corporate side. In my personal opinion, all with due regards, lawyers from litigation side are more intellectual than others. Reason being they are far much more involved in the day to day court work than the one belonging to the corporate world and so have an advantage over them.
8. How important is an LLM if somebody wants to go in for litigation? Specialisation in which field you think gives the highest future prospectus?
There isn’t any need of LLM if somebody wants to do his own practise. Law is very wide and LLM would probably restrict or limit the options. However if someone wants to go in for teaching, LLM would certainly help since it will provide an in-depth knowledge of the subject.
Specialisation depends on one’s own personal interest and choice.
9. Any tips or message to the starters or freshers as on how to become an excellent litigator and on mastering the art?
To become a successful lawyer requires a lot of hard work. There is no substitute for it. As long as you work with dedication and sincerity, nobody can stop you from achieving your goal. One must be patient enough, calm and composite both inside as well as outside the courtroom. Moreover, one must have done plenty of research work before laying down the arguments before the judge. Never talk of something you ain’t sure about. Be confident and everything will work well for you.
10. Surrogacy (regulation) bill, 2016 has been recently approved by the cabinet banning commercial surrogacy in India while allowing altruistic surrogacy. Also, only legally wedded Indian couples can have children thus excluding single parents, live in partners, homosexuals and unmarried couples. What are your views on this?
Before jumping on to any conclusion, it is necessary to go through the aims and objectives of the bill and intentions behind introducing the bill. In the present case, the bill has been introduced by the govt with the main objective of curbing down the exploitation of the poor women in need of money, by the rich. The bill will definitely serve the purpose. As far as excluding single parents, homosexuals, unmarried couples is concerned, this has been done with a view of providing a happy homely environment to the surrogate child like any other child deserve.
11. NRI and overseas citizens have been barred from becoming the commissioning parents. What is your opinion on this?
This would have a terrible effect on the medical tourism in India. Of course, there was a need of some stringent law on surrogacy but debarring overseas citizens and NRIs from carrying surrogacy is no solution in my opinion.
12. Another historic bill passed this year is GST bill i.e. one nation one tax. Do you think this is going to be a success?
Yes. We are quite hopeful that GST will meet the expectations. GST would not only simplify the tax administration across the country but small states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and other north eastern states which remained neglected for the past many years will also be benefited. They will now be seen contributing to the centre govt. and would now have an equally important share in country’s growth.
13. INBA is running a sexual harassment drive. Sexual harassment be in the form of eve teasing, molestation, use of abusive language etc. is an alarming issue which requires immediate attention. What all laws do we have in India for the protection of the vulnerable class?
Every citizen in this country has right to live with dignity and honour which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution of India. Sexual harassment like eve teasing of women amounts to violation of rights. Normally complaints are registered under section 294, section 354, section 509 and section 376 of IPC. Though our country has stringent laws against the harassers but there is lack of effective implementation.
Interview By: Dhriti Sharma