Legal Luminaries


The Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi impacted most Indians. Rajiv Nayar was one. He decided that instead of following in the footsteps of his father- the illustrious journalist Kuldip Nayar—he would take up law. Rajiv reminisces about the dark days: “During the Emergency, my father was imprisoned and that’s when we realised we had no friends. My older brother Sudhir was in Kanpur. My mother and I were totally deserted. Our friends ditched us. There was the paranoia that they would be targeted if they visited us. Seeing this change in attitude, I decided I would become a lawyer and not a journalist.”

Rajiv’s mother Bharti Nayar filed a habeas corpus, and Soli Sorabjee, along with V.M. Tarkunde, took up the case. According to Rajiv, when the government got wind that Nayar was winning the case they decided to release him. The court however, did not heed the request. The judges were transferred as punishment,” reveals Rajiv.

A student of Modern School, Delhi followed by Hindu College, Rajiv completed his law from Delhi University’s Law Faculty in 1979. Even though he became a lawyer “by default,” Rajiv Nayar today is on a roll: “God has been kind. I am satisfied and content with the response I have received.” A Senior Advocate at the Delhi High Court since 1999, he was Standing Counsel for the Government of India in the Delhi High Court in 1989-90 and continues to represent portfolios of private sector and Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) including MMTC, NBCC, Bharti Tele- Ventures group, DCM group, Ranbaxy Laboratories, Hindustan Times Limted, Reliance Industries, Exide Industries, BSNL, Star TV and Public Sector branches like RBI, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Punjab & Sind Bank and ICICI Bank. Among international corporations, he represents Unocal Corporations and Diakin. Dubbed “the lawyer getting the most interim orders” Rajiv also appears for a number of high-profile cases like Sahara, PACL, besides, Uber India.

Though a majority of his cases are commercial litigations, he also takes up criminal cases, and appears for people across all political parties: “I have represented Ashok Chavan of the Congress against the Election Commission and BJP’s Prem Dhumal in his defamation case in Delhi High Court.” However, the case he remembers with most relish is that of Shiv Sena picketing greeting cards chain Archies to protest against Valentine’s Day celebration. “The funny thing is my wife Kavita’s birthday is on 14th February,” he chuckles.

Not loath to admit that the early years were tough, Rajiv recounts his beginnings in a 100 sq ft office with one part-time stenographer and his meticulously planned meetings with his clients, categorized area wise. “I would travel in my second-hand Ambassador car to meet my clients – Monday to Mayapuri, Tuesday to Nehru Place and so on. Today, client come to me,” he laughs.

Hardwork and a dose of good luck, of course, is the potent combination for his success. However, Rajiv says patience too had a big role to play in the rise of his fortunes. “There are many who are similarly placed as me but do not make a mark. I believe one has to wait it out in this profession. Many people make the mistake of doing too much too fast,” he says.

Having opted for law over writing, Rajiv is now keen to pursue his one-time passion –writing –again, but feels he needs to attend a few things like his daughter’s wedding and lecture sessions with youth at law colleges, before he does that. In the past, he was a prolific writer writing on different subjects, including politics, for various newspapers. He started with Youth Times in his college days and in later years, wrote for The Pioneer, and Hindustan Times in recent years.

Even though Rajiv did not become a journalist like his father, his son sure is following in his footsteps. Son Kartik and daughter-in-law Kanika are lawyers. Daughter, also named Kanika, is with Ernst & Young while son-in-law Advitya, is a businessman.

So how does one so successful spend his leisure time? Like the most well-heeled, Rajiv loves to travel. His top favourite travel destination is Thailand – loved for its food, beaches and reasonably priced hotels, followed closely by New York and London. He ‘feels at home’ in the British capital. Back home, the beaches of Goa beckon him the most.

Rajiv has always been a movie buff, never missing a release. Now, it is a more judicious choice based on what the reviews say. Happy to watch any genre of film, his all-time Hollywood favourite is Air Force One and time isn’t impacted his love for Hindi classic Wakt either!

In recent times, Salman Khan’s films give him a lot of joy- his latest Bajrangi Bhaijan – with its message of love, brotherhood and bonding- delights him as much as the actor’s ‘90s blockbuster Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. Another film that transcends borders—Veer Zara – is also much admired. You know his passion for films runs deep when you hear him say, “Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t mind playing a small part and even singing!” and bursts out laughing.

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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