Being a legal eagle in India, courts & controversies with Indu Bhan

One of the top legal reporters in India, Indu Bhan has always been on the questioning side of interviews. With the launch of her first book ‘Legal Eagles’, the tables have turned for Indu, currently the senior corporate legal correspondent at the Express Group. The book talks about the biographical accounts of seven most eminent lawyers of the country who contributed to cases like 2G scam, Coalgate, and Vodafone tax case to name a few. We bring to you Indu Bhan’s thoughts about the book, women in legal journalism and much more. Here’s an interview with Poorvi Gupta


Q1. What was your inspiration behind writing this book?

A: I was always interested in writing a book related to legal profession especially about the laws that have impacted our economy and corporate world and, in particular, our society. But it all crystallized when a senior editor from the Random House approached me for penning down biographical sketches of some prominent lawyers, who have been changemakers at a macro-level. So I readily agreed to write this book.


Q2. What was the journey like particularly researching other major cases.

A: Legal Eagles is about legal journeys of seven of the top legal luminaries who have helped shape the legal landscape of modern India. The book comprises their crisp and engaging life-sketches. It’s a recap of their personal and professional journeys. They have been the lawyers to watch out for in the post-liberalisation era. Their biographical sketches take one through the finer shades of their personalities and what emerges can at the best be summed up as their perseverance, dedication, quest for perfection in their preparation methods and the finesse with which they carry out their tasks. It’s basically an inspirational book for young budding lawyers. The book is by no means a reflection on the work of others, who have not been featured here. With its prime focus on legal aspects, this book also touches upon and explores some of the most pressing issues of our times especially corporate litigation in high-stake matters.


Q3. What change do you want to bring forth through this book?

A: Change is a relative term and perhaps a short-lived phenomenon in this fast-paced life. The change is more to do with fairness and awareness. And it is this important element that I intend to convey through this book. Recollecting their contributions is something I wish to stress upon all of us in some way or the other. The scale of their prominence and eminence and their contribution to society is monumental. I want to tell the aspiring lawyers that failure should make one’s desire to succeed much stronger; failure can be a turning point and not necessarily a cut off point. We have to be patient enough to sail through. For example, top corporate lawyer Harish Salve failed his CA exams twice and this did not deter him. Attorney General for India Mukul Rohtagi could not get admission in the Law faculty of the Delhi University, but he has still managed to be one of the most-sought-after lawyers. Arvind Dattar, the senior sole counsel for SEBI in the Sahara case, has managed to leave an incredible mark in the field despite having serious health problems.

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Q4. How has the experiences of talking to these eminent lawyers affected your own thought process?

A: It has been a great experience. Interacting with seven top luminaries has greatly affected my thought process and I must say in a positive way. The criss-cross of their multifaceted experiences leaves a trail and room enough to think about the diversified facets of life. It has made me live, recollect and reflect on several moments which I have not witnessed myself as a legal reporter. I guess it happens when you look at the flashback. Getting these live people speak about their journey to the hall of legal fame is an achievement in itself.

It has made me live, recollect and reflect on several moments which I have not witnessed myself as a legal reporter.

Q5. Do you agree that there few women lawyers in comparison to men? Why is that the case?

A: This is quite unfortunate. Despite inroads made by women in notching up significant places in the legal world, females continue to lag their male counterparts, both in terms of numbers, seniority and in the judiciary. Legal profession still continues to be a male-dominated profession and is a very demanding field. It’s not that we don’t produce enough women lawyers, but some drop out due to family commitments. The rise of corporate law firms may have improved women’s legal career prospects, but struggling with the demands of a legal profession and a family is still far from easy. The lady of the house has to do a balancing act and eventually career takes a back seat. In the very top tier, there are perhaps fewer women but I think in the next few years I see the graph moving up. Times are changing. The new generation of women lawyers is ambitious and their hard work will definitely pay them dividends. Motherhood does make things hard, but women lawyers are now more focused and do not want to compromise now when it comes down to their careers.


The new generation of women lawyers is ambitious and their hard work will definitely pay them dividends.


Q6. You have been writing on legal matters for a long time now having worked with top media houses. Have you always been interested in this field?

A: To be frank enough, I never thought I would be a journalist in the first place. I always knew what I don’t want to do but never had any clarity on what I wanted to do. It’s my teachers and friends who thought I am fit to be in media. That’s how I landed here even after studying law. I think I would have been a better lawyer, but I had no mentor/relative when I finished my law degree. But I have no regrets and I love what I am.

Q7. You have been working at the Express Group for over 5 years as a legal reporter. You have also worked with the Business Standard, Mint and PTI as the legal reporter. How is it being a female legal reporter in the industry?

A: I think I am a better-informed woman now. The experience has been great. I really don’t feel that our male counterparts on the beat have advantages over female colleagues. It’s all about ones understanding about the legal issues. The legal beat has its own advantages and disadvantages. It’s too much of hard work and understanding of the intricate issues, correct interpretations of courts orders and judgments. One cannot and should not go wrong, otherwise one will be hauled up for contempt of court. It is too much of responsibility as a legal reporter can’t afford to go wrong. There are no source-based stories, one has to report on facts and with documents to prove a point.


Q8. Are there any plus points or minus points of being a female legal correspondent? What are those?

A: I don’t look at this beat from a gender point of view. I don’t think my male counterparts have done better than any women journalists here because of gender. In fact, some women have turned to be better legal reporters.


In fact, some women have turned to be better legal reporters.


Q9. Please give some advice to the young women who find it difficult to get into this field of legal journalism?

A: As far as legal journalism is concerned, you should have the desire and urge to learn finer nuances of law and legal issues confronting the society. It’s a continuous learning process. Good writing does come handy, but the most important part is to understand the legal technical points and interpret it in an easy, reader-friendly way and from litigants point of view.

 All lawyers can’t become legal journalists as they don’t have the expertise to understand the issue from a public point of view.

Even if they understand, they can’t put it across in a readable format. Then, one needs to be patient. It needs a lot of running around between the courts. Good PR skills are an added advantage as one needs to get information from the lawyers and that becomes difficult when high-stake corporate matters are involved.