Being invited to dinner by none other than Nani Palkhivala! But what would have the famed jurist and economist have to discuss with Ranji Dua, a college student who had just completed his Master’s degree in Economics? Palkhivala, who was friends with Ranji’s father, Justice I.D. Dua, talked about the state of the economy and everything else with Ranji, except law. It was only when Dua was leaving that he asked, “Have you thought of doing law? You must come and join my chamber in Bombay!” Overwhelmed by Nani’s interest in him young Ranji was motivated to take up law.
Until then his love for Economics had found him in the lecture halls of Delhi University, where he did his undergraduate course in Economics Honours from the prestigious St Stephen’s College. He went on to pursue his Masters in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics. Thereafter, he was all set to go to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D., until he met the expert in jurisprudence, Nani Palkhiwala, in Delhi.
Although his father was a judge and he had observed him all through his growing –up years he was never much enthused to take up law. “Those days less than 10 per cent of those who studied law, actually practiced law. Hence, I was not interested either,” says Ranji. I.D. Dua was one of the first four judges of the Delhi High Court when it was established in 1966. His illustrious career took him to the courtrooms of the Supreme Court.
Born Chittranjan Dua, Ranjit had a comfortable youth and went about life without care in the world. While in Law College he joined the well-known law firm, Dadachandji & Co. But this did not mean that he had started to earn. It was only after he graduated in 1976 that he started to get a stipend. He finally quit in 1986 and started his own firm, Dua Associates. Initially he converted one room in his flat into an office. Soon, he started getting work from MNCs who were striking roots in India. In fact, a surprised Dua even asked American Energy Corporation, Chevron, “Why come to me and not go to one of the well-established firms?” They said, “We are small in India, so let’s grow together.”
Believing the American system of managing law firms to be better, Dua has modelled his firm similarly. He does not make any professional in his firm adhere to prescribed hours. It is the work that matters here and not the hours. “Discipline has to come from within,” is what this lawyer feels. “One must remember a professional is free and not your property,” is his ideology. Although at times partners have left the firm, when they do return Dua is happy to take them back. “After all a known devil is better than an unknown one,” adds Dua with a grin.
However, he has not limited himself to the running of his firm only. Always keen on regulations and public policy he is on the boards of a number of companies, both listed and private, including subsidiaries of multinationals. “Everything is a hotchpotch in India. Today a lot of the firms are big because of the perceptions created by the rating companies who don’t have any clue of how to go about it here, in India,” says an exasperated Dua, who would want to concentrate more on regulatory and policy aspects and less on the operations of the firm. And towards that end, he is already working on a succession policy for his firm.
“In this world nothing is permanent. You will go as you come. So learn to give and keep an open mind,” is the philosophy which has helped him achieve so much. Hence, he would like to extend the same values to his colleagues. He would want his partners and associates to have a well-rounded life. He does not limit himself to only preaching. He even supports a Dehradun boarding school for girls from impoverished families—the Him Jyoti School.
With so much on his plate, it is hardly a surprise that he did not find time to get married. Finally on his mother’s insistence he did get married, albeit at the age of 44. His wife Amrita’s father too was a lawyer and a judge. They are blessed with a daughter, Shreya.
Dua is a multi-faceted personality as he enjoys sports, theatre and music, alongside his career in law. Having done some fair amount of acting in school, he has also indulged in watching some great plays both on and off Broadway and in London.
Tennis too is a passion of equal strength if not more. Even while he was working and studying for law, it was tennis that helped him concentrate better on everything at hand. In fact, he gives the racquet credit for begging some of his international clients. “I got my overseas client because of my tennis connections,” is what he says with candour. Today he is an invited member of the executive committee of the International Lawn Tennis Club of India. What an ace of a lawyer!