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TTA collaboration with ex-CCI chief Vinod Dhall ends • 2018 petition had challenged Dhall’s ability to appear

Vinod Dhall not anymore in collaboration with TTA
Vinod Dhall not anymore in collaboration with TTA

The relationship between Talwar Thakore & Associates (TT&A) competition chief Vinod Dhall - which was branded as Vinod Dhall in collaboration with Talwar Thakore & Associates - is over.

TTA lawyer Ram Kumar - who had been promoted to counsel at the firm last year - will be taking over the competition practice at the firm. He had been with Dhall for around 10 years.

TTA, which is the close best-friend law firm of international law firm Linklaters, commented: “TT&A and Vinod Dhall have, following discussions, mutually agreed to terminate their relationship and will be pursuing their opportunities in the field of competition law independently.

“We understand that Mr Dhall will continue to remain active and practice competition law as before.”

We have reached out to Dhall for comment.

Update 19:53: Dhall reiterated TTA’s statement that they both had “mutually agreed to terminate their relationship”.

Dhall had faced HC petition claiming former chairmen shouldn’t appear before CCI

In December 2018, Dhall had won a permanent injunction from the Delhi high court against Major Pankaj Rai, who had filed a petition against Dhall. While not making any rulings on the merits of their dispute, the high court restrained Rai from “maligning or defaming the Plaintiff in the public domain or tarnishing his professional image in any manner whatsoever. This shall however not bar the Defendant from raising the issue in respect of Rule 7 of Chapter III of the Bar Council of India Rules and Section 37 of the Advocates Act, 1961 in the appropriate fora”.

In June 2018, a public interest litigation (PIL) against Dhall in the Telangana & Andhra Pradesh high court had been dismissed on technical grounds, as not being a valid PIL.

Petitioner Major Pankaj Rai had argued that Dhall should be prevented from representing petitioners before the Competition Commission of India (CCI), because he had been chairman of the body until 2008, before he had joined TTA, as reported by Bar & Bench (paywalled) at the time.

Dhall is a qualified lawyer, and according to Bar Council of India (BCI) Rule 7, which was cited by Rai in his complaint:

An officer after his retirement or other-wise ceasing to be in service for any reasons, if enrolled as an Advocate shall not practice in any of the Judicial, Administrative Courts/Tribunals/Authorities, which are presided over by an officer equivalent to or lower to the post which such officer last held.

Rai, who had lost a case against a client represented by Dhall at the CCI, had alleged (read PDF copy here, via Bar & Bench) that “instead of conducting proceedings in an inquisitorial mode which is mandated, the proceedings are conducted in an adversarial mode where [Dhall uses his extensive insider knowledge and connections to see that the cases of informants are dismissed at the very beginning.”

Rai added: “He also ensures that complex combinations are granted approvals by Respondent No 2 [the CCI]. Respondent No 2’s collusion is evident from the fact that when it was brought to his notice; vide his letter no CPGRAMS/CCI/Legal-II/2017/7221/2389 dated 05 Mar 2018 he has defended and justified the unlawful action of Respondent No 5 [Dhall] by stating that Rule 7 of Bar Council of India Rules is not applicable to it.

The high court had held:

Since the petitioner-party-in-person has a dispute with the 5th respondent, and as he has himself stated in the writ affidavit that in cases instituted by him the 5th respondent is appearing on the other side, the present Writ Petition cannot be characterised as a Public Interest Litigation.

Read the full judgment here, via Bar & Bench,

Rai had vowed to file a review petition at the time.

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