Raian Karanjawala is the Founder and Managing Partner of Karanjawala and Co, the law firm that briefed Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi and other lawyers who secured bail for Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan and Arbaaz Merchant in the cruise ship drug case.
After helping get a favourable verdict for his clients, Karanjawala spoke to Bar & Bench on the strategy employed, the activity inside the camp with some of the best legal minds in the country, and more. Excerpts follow.
Q. Your thoughts on the bail order.
Raian Karanjawala: We were obviously very happy with the verdict, but in my view, it should have come out earlier. I think we should have got it in the Sessions (Court).
Q. Karanjawala & Co. has been associated with some high profile cases in recent times. Is there a heightened sense of responsibility in these cases?
Raian Karanjawala: Obviously some cases are slightly larger than life in proportion, because of the personalities involved. This was certainly one such case. On the other hand, when shorn into its basic components, it was another case for bail in which bail should have been granted.
Q. Did you speak to Shah Rukh Khan at any point? What were his thoughts?
Raian Karanjawala: I spoke to Shah Rukh only twice. Once before we were actually involved in the matter, when he discussed with me the possibility of bringing Mukul Rohatgi down to Mumbai. The second time was after the matter, when he personally thanked me. Rustom Mulla, who was a solicitor and known to us, was with him. He put Shah Rukh on the line, and he thanked me.
On both occasions, we spoke for a very short while. Obviously, on the second occasion, after his son was released, after bail was granted, he was very relieved, he was thankful, grateful. Obviously, a little more surcharged on the emotion than he would been on the earlier occasion.
Q. Often there are questions raised over the privileged getting the best access to law firms and eminent lawyers in high-profile cases. What is your take on that?
Raian Karanjawala: There is no doubt that in all parts of world, wherever you go, people who are privileged are going to have easier access to justice than people who are not. Some people live in big houses and some people live in small huts. That is the life we lead, unfortunately, and that’s how things are.
Q. What was the preparation like?
Raian Karanjawala: I was not involved in the preparation, except with an overview of things. Two of my partners - Ruby Ahuja and Sandeep Kapur - flew down to Mumbai. They joined an already established team having Amit Desai, Satish Maneshinde, Rustom Mulla and others. The rest of them were already there. A lot of preparation had already been done. Then Mukul (Rohatgi) came and gave it his own direction. He said, 'I am going to argue this particular way, I am going to keep it to the basic facts, I am not gong to get involved in unnecessary verbiage or controversy,' and that is how it was argued.
Q. What is the mood at the Karanjawala office?
Raian Karanjawala: Obviously, everyone is happy and kicked. Much more relieved because had we not got him bail, then all pressure would have been on us to get the matter listed early in the Supreme Court, to get the relief early. So, everybody is happy. It is natural, Isn’t it?
Q. Were you following the case closely?
Raian Karanjawala: I was following it, as they say, ball-to-ball on Bar & Bench. My younger daughter, Niharika, was also following it because she was involved in the case, but hadn’t gone to Mumbai. So she was also keeping us abreast with whatever was happening.
Q. Did you ever feel it could have gone the other way?
Raian Karanjawala: At the end of the second day's arguments, I spoke to both Amit Desai and Satish Maneshinde. Satish said 'I think we will get something.' Amit is always more cautious, measured. He said, 'All I can say is that the judge has not come with anything negative against us.' I asked Mukul. No point giving my view. I have to take it from people on the spot. So Mukul said that, “theek laga raha hai” (It seems fine). And Ruby told my wife (Manik Karanjawala) that Mukul had given a thundering rejoinder - bang, bang, bang, and during the rejoinder, the judge suddenly said bail granted. I think that is how you also saw it. That’s how it was.