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Of course it was a lawyer who finally broke Arnab: Nirav Modi counsel keeps anchor on ropes for 23 minutes

Lawyer Vijay Aggarwal faces off against Arnab
Lawyer Vijay Aggarwal faces off against Arnab

And now for something completely different.

“So, Arnab Goswami finally met his match?” Bangalore-based advocate KV Dhananjay told us earlier today on WhatsApp, adding:

You could be forgiven for taking this video to be some ‘Comedy Show’. It isn’t, sadly. It is supposed to be a very serious discussion over a matter of national concern. Instead, it is a fitting reminder of 1) the broken and neurotic state of our television media and of 2) the empty defence that scamsters and fraudsters often manufacture through their ‘pricey’ lawyers.

Indeed, as Dhananjay points out, the exchange (see video below) is hilarious but that aside, Aggarwal, court- and TV-craft no doubt schooled by years of dealing with hard-of-hearing judges, demonstrated a textbook defence against the classic Arnab Goswami attack pattern.

And, after 14 minutes of shouting at each other Aggarwal had worn his opponent down sufficiently to where he managed the unprecedented feat of speaking nearly uninterrupted at Arnab for minutes, after the latter had run out of steam.

Fight night

In the Republic TV corner, standing and gesticulating from his TV studio in Mumbai, Arnab Goswami. He needs no introduction of course.

In the other corner, Vijay Aggarwal, lawyer to disgraced jewelry playboy baron Nirav Modi, recording via video link presumably from his office in Delhi.

Aggarwal is not unused to controversy of course. He defended several 2G scam accused, such as Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom, as well as winning anticipatory bail for troubled AAP legislator Somnath Bharti.

In 2011 he faced a complaint from then Bar Council of Delhi member Rajiv Khosla, for allegedly practising chartered accountancy and law at the same time (Aggarwal claimed that while he had a CA degree, the CA website under his name was not his).

Learning from Arnab 101

Proceedings start out as usual for Republic TV, with Arnab shouting at his guest (unusually, in a head-on-head split screen without any other guests). Arnab, desperately trying to establish the presence of Modi, shouts repeatedly: “He’s in Hong Kong, I know he's in Hong Kong, you know he's in Hong Kong, in whose home is he hiding? You know he's in Hong Kong. Is he a fugitive, is your client a fugitive.”

Aggarwal responds with eloquence, repeating phrases like “you have to stop, then only I reply”, or “after asking your question, keep quiet”, or “go quiet” dozens of times until Arnab stops shouting, or starts exasperately counting the number of Aggarwal's repetitions.

In a lull in Arnab's onslaught at around the 1:30 mark, Aggarwal says: “You may be hard of hearing, Arnab, I am not.”

“You may be hard of basic intelligence, I am not,” Arnab rebuts.

“I never learnt so much in court as I've learned from Arnab,” says Aggarwal. “You are spoiling me, I'm learning it from you.”

Desperately, Arnab begins to punt “breaking news”, that Nirav Modi is indeed in Hong Kong - you are not denying he's in Hong Kong, says Arnab, which the exclusive headline text ticker dutifully mirrors. “It's your duty to answer on behalf of your client,” tries Arnab.

“You just keep quiet I give you an answer,” Aggarwal keeps repeating in response.

“I have a live poll on social media right now,” Arnab desperately tries as a strategy of controlling Aggarwal, unsuccessfully. “78% of people are saying you have not answered the question.”

“There is only summons, not even bailable summons against him,” says Aggarwal.

You are a lawyer who has made his reputation in court by being “pugilistic, pugnacious and aggressive”, Arnab says, trying to regain the initiative. “Vijay, a simple question to you is,” starts Arnab.

“Would you give me fee?” asks Aggarwal, cheekily, adding that Arnab couldn't even afford him.

Arnab doesn't take this lying down. “I am not bothered about you, you've even filed cases on me, you know I can fight you till many years to come. I am not worried about you and your legal threats.”

After a while, Arnab begins shouting: “He's running away from my question viewers.”

Aggarwal: “I am sitting here, I am not running away, I am sitting here.”

Schooling Arnab

At the 8:18 point, Arnab starts getting more visibly irate. “Vijay come on, I thought you were an aggressive lawyer, why are you avoiding my question man. Tell me, tell me, tell me now, don't run away from my question.”

“Go quiet, go quiet, go quiet,” Aggarwal keeps repeating at Arnab again.

Arnab: You look nervous, have some water Vijay. “Come to my studio, I'll offer you water.”

You are not interested in a dialogue, says Aggarwal, truthfully.

“Shell companies in Hong Kong,” Arnab then starts repeating, over and over and over, ad absurdum.

But, incredibly, faced with immovable object Aggarwal, Arnab then runs out of steam and lets Aggarwal talk for minutes.

Other banter highlights

Aggarwal, after his earpiece falls out: “With the pressure of your voice my earphone fell off.”

Aggarwal, when asked when he last spoke to Modi: “You may not believe me, but I do not even maintain a diary of my conversations... I am not a foreign counsel who bills according to the number of conversations.

Arnab: “He's running away like a rat, like a scared sparrow, hiding somewhere behind a bush...”

“I have a very poor IQ compared to yours,” says Aggarwal disarmingly.

Aggarwal: “I am not here to perform in front of you, you don't pay me.”

Aggarwal: “There is only one word, an excellent Hindi adage, for you totha jhana, baje chana [Hollow lentil makes more noise - those who are not capable of delivering talk more], that only describes you very well.” 20:36 mark).

At this, the crew in Arnab's studio appears to erupt in audible laughter.

The exchange ends with Arnab repeating “9 o' clock tonight, 9 o' clock tonight, you will face me at 9 o' clock, thank you thank you thank you”, as Aggarwal repeats: “Wherever, wherever, wherever, wherever, wherever.”

Of course, neither journalists nor lawyers come out of all this looking great, but we think it's fair to score this one as a decisive win for the legal community: Aggarwal 1 - Arnab 0.

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