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Video Interview: Attorney General G E Vahanvati

Legal training, recruitment and management consultancy Rainmaker speaks to India's Attorney General G E Vahanvati. Interview conducted by Aju John.

Video and below interview transcript reproduced with permission of Rainmaker.

G E Vahanvati, the Attorney General of India told Rainmaker that he owed a lot to Fali Nariman. "I came into contact with Fali in 1973-74. There was a very big litigation for a personal friend of Fali's and I was briefed. After that Fali used to recommend my name in a lot of matters. Fali was a phenomenon, an irresistible force."

"From Fali, you learnt the importance of hard work. He is a tremendous taskmaster. He used to give us things to do in the sugar price-determination matter and he wanted it by 9 o'clock in the morning. We would dictate till 11:30 in the night and the drafts would be ready by 4 o'clock in the morning, and we had to keep it ready for him word perfect at 9 o'clock in the morning. I used to work about 18 to 20 hours a day at that time."

"I also worked with people like J C Bhatt, one of the outstanding senior lawyers in the Bombay High Court. Ashok Sen, Atul Setalvad, Ashok Desai and later Soli Sorabjee. So I've had the benefit of working with some of the finest minds."

In conversation with Rainmaker, the Attorney General said that he hero-worshipped his father who was a lawyer, and that even as a young boy, he wanted to become a lawyer.

"I had a very good academic record, and my teachers were very upset with me that I chose the "liar's profession" as they called it, but I was very set in my mind that I wanted to do law."

He had all his education in Mumbai, studying in St. Mary's School, Xaviers College and then the Government Law College before going on to join the bar. In August 1972, he joined his father who was working at the High Court. "Unfortunately he died very suddenly in May, 1975," he said.

"Practice in Bombay was very very different in those days. Judges never read the papers and today you cannot enter a court if the judge hasn't read the papers. There used to be a miscellaneous court and the judge did everything. On Mondays he did chamber work, on Tuesdays he took short causes for directions, on Wednesdays he took rules for admission, and so every day was different. At 2:45 every afternoon, there would be ad-interim applications or ex-parte applications. and decisions to award or not award an order were made in less than two minutes.

"Prior to 1999, I did a lot of varied commercial work and I had a lot of work internationally. I used to appear in the scam matters, I have given evidence in New York, I've appeared in matters in England, I used to be consulted in matters in Singapore and Thailand. Then I thought it was about time I settled down to serious litigation work, and I thought the best way to do that was to become Advocate General. I became Advocate General of Maharashtra in December 1999. After that, I have been a law officer now for eleven years."

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