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SNG gets nuclear capacity with former Ashurst India heads, rebrands

Exclusive: SN Gupta & Co has rebranded its transactional practice to SNG & Partners, shifted into new Delhi corporate offices and has hired former Ashurst India office heads Ashok Mubayi and Preet Malik as senior advisers to build up the firm’s nuclear practice.

Former India Administrative Services (IAS) officer Mubayi, who had been heading Ashurst’s India office for 16 years until it was closed last year following the Lawyers Collective judgment, has joined SNG as a nearly full-time senior adviser.

The Indian nuclear case

“The problem in India is that our coal is of such abysmal quality and such high ash content, that you completely bugger up your atmosphere – I think there’s no escape to set up more nuclear power and that’s going to be the area for future growth,” said Mubayi.

He noted that the uncertainty surrounding nuclear power was a “temporary blip” in the market. “The [Japanese] Fukushima plant had the problem that each one of them is 40 years old and were actually in line for decommissioning.

“Second thing, I think there is an element of human error also involved. If you do things properly it’s a very safe area to work in because you take all these extremely important precautions to make sure.

“Part of the legal process is to make sure that the laws are correctly identified and put in place - the requirements for the suppliers, vendors as well as the operators are in sync with the legal requirements and that’s part of the whole process.”

Malik, who was a member of the Indian Foreign Services, acted as Indian ambassador to countries such as Burma and co-managed Ashurst’s India presence, will also join SNG as a senior adviser.

SNG & Partners managing partner Rajesh Narain Gupta said: “They have been brought in to develop infra and energy laws with a focus on nuclear law. The idea is for them to set up nuclear law capability and to support them on nuclear law we have two scientist advisers attached.”

Gupta said that US National Laboratory member Dr Vinod Mubayi and ex-nuclear safety head at the Indian Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) S.P. Singh, would assist on nuclear project regulatory and technical issues on a consultancy basis when required.

Mubayi said that he had to committed to set up a nuclear law practice for SN Gupta, by training lawyers and introducing industry contacts, although he would not be fee-earning because he is a chartered accountant and not a lawyer.

“It’s full-time in the sense that I’m not doing anything else for anyone else. But really is an advisors’ job so I’m free to spend as much time as I want and there is a certain amount of freedom to do other things on my own,” Mubayi said, adding that at the age of 72 having the option to limit working activities to make time for other pursuits was important.

Malik noted that the role was almost full-time and he would visit SNG’s offices at least two or three times a week, although he would be free to advise others too. “I’m here as an advisor and I would be advising them on certain areas of interest – nuclear liability law, nuclear industry and such –these are the sort of things I would be doing.”

Both Malik and Mubayi confirmed that their formal association with Ashurst was now formally over. An Ashurst source also confirmed that their consultancy contracts had ended.

SNG & Partners’ Delhi corporate law office has also moved to a larger office of roughly 8,000 square feet in One Bazar Lane in Bengali Market from Barakhamba Road. The Delhi litigation office remains in the same location.

The rebranding to SNG & Partners only effects the corporate, transactional and real estate practice but not the underlying partnership structure; the litigation practice would continue to be carried as SN Gupta & Co for the purposes of filing vakalatnama.

SNG has also hired as senior advisers Essar Group’s general manager for institutional relations KK Kumra, private equity and business consultant Sanjay Khanna, who had brought TV channels Discovery and Animal Planet to India and South Asia, and former bank in-house counsel Anjali Seth. The three will be involved in business development and strategy for the firm on a part-time basis.

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