Hailing from a family of lawyers, SS Naganand is one of the most well-known Senior Counsels in Karnataka, especially when it comes to corporate and commercial matters. He has represented some of the biggest corporate names in the country. In this interview with Bar & Bench, the Senior Advocate talks about growing up in a family of lawyers, the problem of judicial appointments, and why he enjoys litigation..Bar & Bench: Were you always interested in the legal profession?.S. Naganand: I am a third-generation lawyer. My grandfather, Ganesh Rao was a leading lawyer of the ‘60s. My father was a Senior Advocate; my brother is also a lawyer..I started of my career as a chartered accountant. Thereafter I realized that there is quite a bit of corporate and taxation work that my father’s chamber was handling and so, in 1981, I joined my father’s law practice. Ever since then, I have continued in the field. I used to do mainly corporate and commercial litigation, taxation and company law work..B&B: What was the profession like at that point of time?.SN: See there used to be a very large quantum of tax litigation in the past. Sales tax, and central excise, state excise etc. This is all before the advent of Value Added Tax. I am talking before the time the CESTAT was set up. At that time, we would have a large number of litigation issues relating to tax and there would be some parallel proceedings under the writ jurisdiction of the High Court as well..Later on though the law has been reformed, with the valuation concept no longer being such an important issue. There was also the introduction of other concepts such as MRP value etc. The amount of litigation has certainly reduced..B&B: What is your opinion of tribunals such as the CESTAT?.SN: You see, if you have specialized tribunals, they are in a position to come to grips [with the matter] immediately. Taxation laws are very complicated; every single comma or full stop has some meaning. So a generalist judge may not be able to appreciate the nuances so easily. That is one aspect to it..The second aspect is where do you find good judges for these tribunals? Most of the tribunals are manned by judges of the cadre of District Judges and officers of the cadre of Senior Commissioners. Now both of them, I would say, really have no wide across-the-board exposure to law. If you take a Commissioner, throughout his career, he would have done excise and customs. And if you put him in a tribunal, he is not going to look at it from any other perspective..So far as the [District Judge] is concerned, he would not have touched a single tax matter and now suddenly you have left him in a tax tribunal..So there are problems of manpower, of what you pay them. See a fairly reasonable lawyer with say 5-10 years of experience – he will be making a far greater amount than what a member of a tribunal is paid today..B&B: But the decision to join the judiciary was never about the salary was it? The people who joined were never really attracted by the money it offered..SN: No, I don’t agree with that. If you look at the time the Constitution was framed, judges were paid a salary of Rs. 4,000. And in 1950, this was a phenomenally huge sum of money..But what has happened is that over the years, this salary was never revised. So it reached a point where the salaries were not sufficient even to make two ends meet. Of course, eventually the salaries were revised. If you look at the revised pay scales of the judges of the High Court, I would say that it is a fairly sufficient salary. They have a house, a car, perquisites etc. They don’t have too much cash in hand but then they don’t have to save too much. They are entitled to a lifetime pension. In fact, many judges today tell me that they don’t know what to do with the pension they get!.But if you compare what a judge gets to what a reasonably good senior counsel will make, then there is no comparison. What a good senior counsel will make in one day, would be a judge’s salary for one month, may be even one year!.B&B: Wasn’t the CESTAT in the news for the manner in which it was functioning?.SN: You see the problem with all these tribunals is that whenever the government is involved, unfortunately, politics takes the front seat. Conveniences take the next seat, and political pressures take the third seat. What is really essential? How to assess competence? These are questions which are never raised. The first question asked, is which community does he belong to. These are all completely wrong premises for selections..B&B: But this is true for the Higher Judiciary as well..SN: Unfortunately it has become so. I remember the times when one’s community was never an issue. I have heard that when my father was offered the position of Advocate General, he had not even met the then Chief Minister. When the Chief Minister asked the then Chief Justice of Karnataka to suggest a name for the post of Advocate General, the judge said, “I have a person in mind.” Now the Chief Justice and my father were from different communities..Without batting an eyelid, [Chief Minister] Virendra Patil said, “Chief, whatever you suggest is okay by me. Just take his consent and thereafter I will call him.” Can you imagine something like that taking place today? It is unheard of..B&B: What was it like growing up in a family of lawyers?.SN: I look at it like this – your own hard work, your own industry, your own abilities all play a great role in your success as a lawyer. However I cannot but admit that the atmosphere at home did play a role. I still remember the time when I was reading for my CA Intermediate exam. We used to get these cyclostyled law reports delivered at home. And I remember one of the judgments I read before my CA paper was the famous BWSSB judgment of Justice Iyer..And that was one of the questions that came up in the exam. I ended up writing four pages on that and I got 90% marks in that paper. Why I am telling you this is because the atmosphere in which you grow up, the things you talk about at the dinner table or during holidays, about difficult situations one comes across in the profession – these ideas kindle interest in you..B&B: But even professionally, it must have helped you in some ways?.SN: Certainly. People know you or your family. More than anything else, just sitting next to your senior and watching what he is doing, how he is conducting the case – I was fortunate to be very close to my father. I used to be with him all the time. There are lessons that I have learnt sitting quietly, how the judge reacts, how research is done – these are all fantastic tips and they mold you..But at the same time I must tell you that there are many successful lawyers who are first generation lawyers. They have worked with a senior, and they have been equally successful..B&B: What is your opinion of the institution of Senior Advocate?.SN: I think it is a good step. What happens is that after some time, you get mired in the problems of the client, you get involved with the client. As a Senior Advocate, you rarely meet the client. I am not so finicky; if the briefing lawyer says, “Sir, the client wants to be there during the briefing”, I don’t refuse..B&B: One of the concerns often cited is that it is difficult to get a patient hearing in, say the Supreme Court, unless one is a Senior Counsel..SN: It is very difficult to generalize. I will tell you that in the Supreme Court there are judges who will listen to the junior most lawyers without any reservation. So that is one category. In the other category are judges who will not even look at a junior. So it all depends on the concerned judge..B&B: What do you think about the system of appointing judges?.SN: It definitely needs to be changed. A Judicial Commission is a solution but I am not too sure as to how it will function. Today, the collegium system is mired in politics, in caste identities. Now if a judge of a particular community, wants to suggest a judge from say community “A”; then the very next judge will say, “Ok you want to appoint someone from Community A, I want someone from Community B”. This is how the system is working. So I don’t think that is good for the judiciary at all..B&B: What do you think about the violent confrontation between the lawyers and the police in the Bangalore City Civil Court?.SN: That was a very unfortunate aberration..B&B: But the behavior of the lawyers was no better..SN: What happened was that the minute the police started indiscriminately beating the lawyers, the lawyers ran helter skelter. And various lawyers went to the upper floors of the courtroom. And the police continued to target the lawyers and lathi charge them. I was there on that day, I went the next day as well. I have some idea of what happened..I think the police went completely out of control. Even when the senior police officers tried to stop them, they did not heed the instructions. They went around the building, wherever they found lawyer’s stickers on a car, they smashed that car..B&B: But how was boycotting of courts the solution?.SN: I was against it. There were three meetings of the Bar and I spoke against the boycott. The thing is, these are all on the spur of the moment issues and there is a vociferous section of the Bar that feels that unless they shout, they are not heard. Unless they go on the streets, they are not recognized, unless they throw stones at the police, they are cowards. There is a section of the Bar that thinks like this..I certainly don’t agree with any of these things. As members of an honorable profession, we should surely conduct ourselves in a better manner. We should take recourse to legal means. If an FIR is filed and the complaint is not registered, then there are other legal means..I suppose you can’t avoid it, you can’t stifle a person’s right to criticize or conduct themselves in a manner they choose to..B&B: How do you choose your juniors?.SN: Well, I am also connected to a law firm called JustLaw. This law firm has lot of litigation work, so we have a set of juniors with us. And most of the time they are the ones I work with..B&B: Is that a standard practice in Karnataka?.SN: Not every Senior Advocate has the benefit of a law firm. In the North, this is not heard of at all. Most of the Seniors in Delhi for instance, are like a one-man army. In the South though, particularly in Bangalore, I have found that many Senior Advocates are associated with firms..B&B: Do you think lawyers should also take the blame for the growing backlog of cases?.SN: If a judge has got the skills to handle the lawyers, to conduct his court in a good manner, then the lawyers will never be a problem. A judge can be fully occupied during court hours without a lawyer being the cause of any case not being heard. See, if a lawyer comes and asks for an adjournment. Why should the judge waste ten minutes of his time in deciding this? Why should the judge say, “No, I will not give you an adjournment, this is the tenth time you are asking for one”.Instead, why doesn’t the judge ask him, “You want adjournment? Okay can you come in the afternoon? Can you come tomorrow?” There are judges who do this, and it works..B&B: Looking back, were there any great moments in your legal professional life?.SN: You know, we generally tend to forget our cases once they are over. This is not being disrespectful but your life is so busy that you rarely have the time to sit down and think, “This was a good case, this was a bad case.” Every case comes with its challenging moments. The judge may not agree with you. Sometimes you have to persuade them, cajole them etc. You have to tell them, “What you are saying is nonsense” without it sounding like that. Every day is a battle of wits..This is the fourth and last interview of Senior Advocates in the Karnataka High Court. The previous three interviews were those of Udaya Holla, KG Raghavan and BV Acharya.