Focus: India 2009

(About a week ago, the National Law School at Bangalore hosted Focus: India 2009, which was designed to discuss and facilitate greater dialogue on pertinent economic and legal issues. In the following post, Sandeep Uberoi, Convenor of Focus: India, 2009 reports on the highlights of the event)

Focus India Conference was held on the 15th and 16th of May 2009, a unique and innovative exercise by the students of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU). Unlike other student run conferences which are often focussed on academics and the theoretical aspects of law, this conference focussed on the practice of commercial and corporate law in India and the challenges faced by them. It is due to this emphasis that partners of leading law firms from all over India decided to make their way to the NLSIU campus and share their experience and insights on various legal and economic issues which might affect India in the coming years.

Keeping the current state of the Indian and global economic atmosphere in mind, the conference had eight sessions, viz. India as an Emerging Superpower in the Twenty First Century; Foreign Investments in India; Mergers and Acquisitions: Challenges and the Way Forward; Innovations in the Financial Sector including Bankruptcy and Restructuring; Banking and Finance; Capital Markets; Infrastructure and Project Finance; Competition Law; and Taxation Law. Luminaries in the field of commercial law such as Mr. Cyril Shroff, from Amarchand Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff, Mr. Rajiv Luthra, from Luthra and Luthra Law Offices, and Mr. Ajay Behl, from AZB & Partners, came as chairs of various panels with Mr. Cyril Shroff officiating the conference as Conference Chair. Due to the interesting subject matter of the conference and its uniqueness of approach, partners from leading global law firms such as Clifford Chance LLP, Linklaters, Jones Day, Latham & Watkins, Debevoise and Plimpton LLP also attended and gave the an international perspective to the various issues raised in the Conference.

The conference was inaugurated by Dr. Venkata Rao, the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor of the National Law School of India University, and he was pleased to have the honour to host so many of the brightest legal minds in the area of corporate and commercial law in India. He also took this opportunity to create an Advisory Committee consisting of pioneers of corporate law in India, such as Mr. Cyril Shroff, Mr. Shardul Shroff, Mr. Rajiv Luthra, Ms. Zia Mody, prominent industry figures such as Infosys mentor N R Narayana Murthy and Jugnu Uberoi, owner of Uberoi Trading, as well as some alumni of NLSIU such as Ms. Madhurima Mukherjee, and Mr. Umakanth. This high level body will advise NLSIU on various issues such as providing cutting edge global legal education, improving facilities, and expanding internationally. Sandeep Uberoi, final year student and the convener of Focus India stressed upon the idea of Focus India was to “initiative to bring together the legal community to share their views and vision for the future legal policies and practice of India with the student community” and added that Focus India aims to provide a platform to discuss and debate India’s role as a superpower and the challenges which will need to be faced to deliver the India story in its entirety.

Mr. Cyril Shroff, as Conference Chair, addressed the issue of legal education in India and the future of the legal services industry in a concise yet comprehensive manner. After Mr. Shroff’s address, the first session discussing India as an Economic Superpower in the Twenty First Century was underway with the charismatic Mr. Luthra officiating events as the Chair. In his introduction to the topic, he raised several key issues which he sought to be answered from the panel, the basic underlying question was whether the optimism about India was based on fact or just hype. After an enthralling session which was filled with Mr. Luthra’s characteristic wit, the next session on Foreign Investments was chaired by Mr. Cyril Shroff who eruditely focussed on the regulatory regime regarding foreign investments, as well as the methods to raise such investments, the final issue dealt with judicial perspectives regarding foreign investments. After lunch, there were parallel sessions on Taxation Law and Capital Markets held in different venues on the NLSIU campus. The former was Chaired by Mr. Ajay Behl, who focussed on discussions related to tax havens and took the Vodafone saga to illustrate the challenges faced and policy responses required. The latter was Chaired by Mr. Sandip Bhagat, of S&R Associates, a leading boutique law firm in India, and had Ms. Madhurima Mukherjee, partner at Luthra and Luthra Law Offices as Co-Chair. The Capital Markets Session was engaging with pertinent questions being raised by the Chairs for the panel to discuss and had a huge draw of interest among the students. Mr. Mohit Saraf, partner at Luthra and Luthra Law Offices, Chaired both the session on Mergers and Acquisitions as well as the one on Infrastructure and Project Finance, both these sessions were highly interactive with the Chair and panellists inviting students to ask questions and clarify concepts.

Each of the sessions was informative and students of NLSIU got a rare chance to interact and learn from leading legal professionals. The success of the Conference was evidenced by the enthusiasm of both the speakers and the audience and that fact that this Conference is now being made an annual affair.

– Sandeep Uberoi

About the author

Umakanth Varottil

Umakanth Varottil is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. He specializes in corporate law and governance, mergers and acquisitions and cross-border investments. Prior to his foray into academia, Umakanth was a partner at a pre-eminent law firm in India.

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