A man inspired by the philosophy of Guru Nanak and the legendary JRD Tata. Aseem Chawla surrendered his Chartered Accountant’s certificate of practice in 2006 to pursue a legal career. A member of the Bar Council of India and a Fellow Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Aseem is the Founder Partner of MPC Legal, New Delhi. He is the Co-Chairman of the Direct Taxes Committee of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, India, and the Vice – Chair of the India Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA) , Section of International Law. He is also the Regional Council Member of the Indo- American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) and the Co-Chairman of the Financial Services Committee.
Since his entry into the legal world, he has been advising large Indian and multinational corporate houses on a variety of tax matters, including international tax and investment structuring, and he has been representing clients in tax litigation matters before various appellate for a. Taking about his journey, Aseem says, “proximity with academics has always helped in getting a better understanding and a quick grasp of fundamentals and basic legal principles. The aptitude of quick assimilation of international business and the general macro environment has ensured that my thoughts are well received and universal. As a result, I have been able to enjoy a good relationship with the tax and legal fraternity across jurisdictions.”
Aseem has several publications to his credit, including A Compendium of Advance Rulings on Income Tax with Commentary (published by CCH Wolters Kluwer Business) and has also contributed towards the Institute of Chartered Accountant’s A Study on Drafting & Conveyance. He has contributed to IFA Cahiers, 2013 (Annual World Congress held in Copenhagen) as country reporter for India on ‘Exchange of Information. ‘Very recently, his contribution was acknowledged in Kanga & Palkhivala’s Income Tax Commentary, 10th Edition, an acclaimed treatise on Indian Income Tax laws. He is the co-editor of India Law News, a quarterly publication of the India Committee of the ABA.
Aseem is also a Visiting Associate Professor with the ICAI. He is a regular invitee at various domestic and international fora, and a member of many committees.
His list of illustrious recognitions is long. Aseem has been consistently adjusted, over the years, as one of the leading tax experts in the Asia Pacific Region by Legal 500 & Chambers & Partners Asia, and Asialaw Leading Lawyers’ Survey, as well. He also features in the International Who’s Who Legal 2013, as a leading corporate tax lawyer. Chambers Asia Pacific 2013 acclaims Aseem as both “very knowledgeable and analytic” and “a pleasure to deal with.”
Aseem has also been featured as a leading international lawyer in the Leaders List for the years 2011 and 2012 by City Wealth UK. He has also been recognized as a leading tax lawyer in the PLC Tax on Transactions Multi-jurisdictional Guide, 2012. “My journey has been, with all humility, somewhat path-breaking, as there were far and few precedents and instances of young practitioners keen to pursue tax litigation as a full- time vocation, to begin with. At a nascent stage of professional career, with no such legacy or legal background, such a stance was not commonly heard of. In fact, I am the only lawyer in my family,” he states candidly.
As the eldest son, he was groomed early to be a responsible person and his father, Subhash Chawla, is a practising Chartered Accountant. Reminiscing about his career, Aseem, recalls how he joined one of India’s leading Chartered Accountancy Firms then, RK Khanna and Co, or articled clerkship. “I decided to study law to become a tax litigator, unheard with young Chartered Accountants at that time.” So after completing his Chartered Accountancy, he gradually moved on to set up an independent practice and then joined Amarchand & Mangaldas in December 2005. He was instrumental in setting up the tax practice at Amarchand Mangaldas, a noted law firm. In the year 2007, he became a partner and stayed on till June 2012. Happy about his association there, Chawla says starting the tax practice was a leap of faith for him as well as for the law firm. His tenure was marked with mutual respect for knowledge and devotion towards work.
In July 2012, he moved on to set up his own boutique law firm with two partners. Talking more about this, Aseem says, “The challenge of the dynamic environment is to consistently re-inventing and be contemporary. In this recent phase of my professional career where I have assumed responsibility of co-promoting a boutique tax and business advisory law firm, the same could not have been possible but for the strong camaraderie and mutuality, which I enjoy with the senior partners, the other key members of the team and my family.” The Firm, with reasonable expectations, has taken some sure steps. And the result has been satisfactory.
Tax is not an easy subject, he explains and some call it a “jealous mistress,” so reading and relaxing over the weekends with wife Rupali and family keeps him charged. He married Rupali while he was pursuing law. Prominent among their many common interests is the love for books and visiting bookstores together. While she loves fiction and historical readings, his leanings are towards spirituality and management skills, biographies and non-fiction. They like to relax in the sitting area in their home reading or watching movies on Sunday evenings. Aseem’s all time favourites are The Guns of Navarone and Trishul. They both enjoy Live performances of ghazals and theatre. Quieter times are spent listening to the renditions of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, discourses o Professor Darshan Singh Khalsa and lectures of Giani Sant Singh Maskeen. “I am equally influenced by Nani Palkhivala amd I have vivid memories of attending his popular budget lectures while I was in school,” he says. The Guru Granth Sahib is an encouragement, which inspires him to lead a good daily life. And the languages he fluently speaks are English, Hindi and Gurmukhi.
A lot more to know inspires and keeps him motivated. “A quote by JRD Tata—‘To be a leader, you have got to lead human beings with affection,’ – always keeps me going as being a team player is important,” he quips.
During his school days, his mother Phool Chawla, used to take active interest in his studies. Aseem did his schooling in Modern School, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi. He was a member of the school hockey team and recalls how his father had fondly bought a hockey stick from London. During his high school days, his parents, even with modest means available then, did plan a family holiday and along with his brother, Sumit, visited around 10 countries across Europe and US. “It was such an eye opener, seeing so many cultures.” The trip according to him was a great learning and game changer.
He looks forward to fortifying his legal practice. Given his extensive litigation experience, he is keen to employ the same, effectively strategising and providing his clients with workable solutions and addressing their business needs, and also continue his ongoing academic interest, as part of his professional practice. The mantra for living successfully, “Be consistent, be patient and keep adding knowledge,” he elucidates.