Legal Luminaries

Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi

He is someone who has no doubt been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth; and neither has life thrown many hard knocks his way. Yet, Abhishek Manu Singhvi says, “You may have the best degrees from the best of universities but education is not complete without a degree from the university of adversity.” It is, therefore, not surprising that someone with such a profound viewpoint says that his guiding motto is to “work hard, enjoy life and die with your boots on!”

And working hard was something he did for sure! Give the fact that as a child he was the only male progeny in the family and was pampered no end by his grandparents, he turned out to be quite a well-grounded child. Yet, he was naughty enough to often remind his grandmother “but for me the Singhvi line would become extinct!” Adulation, however, did not take away his will to work hard and he invariably ranked either first or at least among the top three students throughout his years in school and college. He went on to top the Senior Cambridge in India.

One might even say that his will to outdo his own performance stems from the achievements of his illustrious forbears. “My grandfather was a lawyer and my father was the first Rotary Scholar to Harvard from the State of Rajasthan, that, too, in the early 1950s,” in Abhishek’s words. Abhishek’s father, the illustrious Laxmi Mall Singhvi, having done his LL.M. from Harvard and Ph.D. from Cornell, started teaching at Berkeley but returned due to his father’s deteriorating health. It was hardly surprising that Abhishek endeavoured to put in his best efforts to add further fame to the family name.

“Interestingly in none of the generations was law forced upon anyone. My father not once pushed or pressurized me to take up law. In fact, he encouraged me to choose a different profession,” he says. It was his mother who, terrified at the idea of squandering the law practice built by L.M. Singhvi, nudged Abhishek towards law. Abhishek’s education, apart from Economic Honours at St. Stephen’s has been entirely in the UK including undergraduation and Ph.D. from Trinity, Cambridge. “To supplement my income I taught while doing my Ph.D. and would have remained in academia, but for my mother I began practising law.” The statistics on Ph.D. at Trinity, Cambridge, were not quite encouraging. While 50 per cent did not complete, those who did complete were able to do so only in six to eight years. Abhishek managed to complete it in three years. “In retrospect, I see that my Ph.D. stood me in good stead because it created an impression of solidity and erudition about a young entrant like me.” Perhaps, he could do so because as per him “from learning to earning fastest as drilled into all Indian law school students.’’

Singhvi too, like his father, never pressurised his two sons to take up law, yet law is the profession they chose to follow. “I consider Azlan, a Turkish shepherd dog, to be my eldest son.” Thankfully he has never really sent him to any law school, let alone law school! While his younger son Aviskhar holds degrees in Economics and Social Political History from University College, London, and works as a litigator with a Senior Counsel after LL.B. from Warwick University, elder son Anubhav, after having finished his LL.B. from Buckingham University followed by LL.M. from Cambridge, practices in the Supreme Court. He is fond of bird watching and has encyclopaedic knowledge of ancient and medieval Indian history. He is the co-founder of solicitor firm and is now an international consultant.

Abhishek’s career has seen a constant upward graph since the time he was 27. He continues to hold the record for being the youngest ‘Senior’ designated by the High Court at age 34 in 1993, the youngest SG appointed at 37 and one of the youngest Vice Presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association, at age 39. “I have been awarded the Global Leader of Tomorrow at Davos,” says a deservingly proud Abhishek. An active politician belonging to the Indian National Congress Party, he was also a Member of the Parliament of India representing Rajasthan in the Rajya Sabha. Incidentally he has been the party’s youngest spokesperson at 43. “I am privileged to enter the House of Elders at the young age of 46 and to chair a Parliamentary Standing Committee of Law and Justice.”

Abhishek, within his family, has been lucky to be surrounded by people who have excelled in their chosen fields. Yet, he regrets not being multifaceted like his father and says: “My father was a Renaissance man. He served as the longest serving High Commissioner to England. Law day is his invention—the name was also coined by him.” His mother Kamala Singhvi, a well-known author, has five books in Hindi to her credit. She was also instrumental in getting him married to Anita, albeit at the early age of 23. With the slightest hint of laughter in his eyes, Abhishek says “I was the most eligible bachelor in the Marwari community.” While his wife does hold a degree in law, she is today known for her ghazal singing.

Abhishek’s interest in music, however, is mostly limited to old Hindi film songs. Speaking of his singing abilities he says, “I am fond of Sachin Dev Burman and Hemant Kumar, but I only sing in the bathroom.” Second to music comes his interest in reading and writing, which he has done for a number of newspapers and portals. Last but not the least of his hobbies is travelling.

He is self-proclaimed gizmo crazy but not gizmo savvy. “There is an admirer of mine who gets me the latest gizmo as soon as it is out,” shares Abhishek. To say the least, he is not the only admirer that Abhishek has…

We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin (Lexis). The multicolour coffee table book printed on art paper in Hardbound is priced at ` 5995/- and is available at Universal Book Traders, C-27, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001.

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