Judge Sundaresan: Sifting legalese with a dash of humour

He will bring to the court a deep knowledge of securities and corporate law.

From being an Assistant Editor in the business editorial section of a national daily to being sworn in as an additional judge of the Bombay High Court, Somasekhar Sundaresan has had a challenging yet rewarding journey.

Even as he moved from one job to another over the last three decades, the things that remained constant throughout his career has been his integrity, serene demeanour, and deep insights which made him a man who was sought after by the rich and the famous.

“Sundaresan is a lawyer of impeccable integrity and thorough in corporate law and SEBI regulations. He has been part of several committees formal and informal of SEBI and corporate affairs. He even appeared for Cyrus Mistry against Ratan Tata,” says a Chennai-based CA who has observed Sundaresan’s career as a lawyer.

Sundaresan graduated with a B Com degree and chose to study LLB from Government Law College, Mumbai. He graduated in Law in 1996. Interestingly, the study of law was not really driven by a choice of career. “Each one of us should be fully conversant with the rules of life, which is what law is. I got into journalism within months of enrolling for law, and thereafter my study of law was driven by the need to be a better informed and more legally aware journalist. Over time, when things changed in journalism, I wanted to test my professional skills before it got too late,” Sundaresan had said in an interview to Superlawyer.in in 2015.

After leaving journalism, he worked at Udwadia, Udeshi & Berjis for the first four years of his legal career before joining J Sagar Associates. One of his first clients was  National Securities Depository Ltd, whose Managing Director, CB Bhave, reposed confidence in him and encouraged him to focus on securities laws. He gave Sundaresan his first “own” assignment. Over time, he got to build up the securities law practice at Berjis. “Real-life practice of law exposed me to a different dimension of human behaviour and I realised how truly trusting one has to be of others, and indeed be trustworthy, to be able to do well in the world of commerce. Accepting and acknowledging the pain of the counterparty is the only way one can bring about a reasonable bargain and balance of rights and obligations in transactions one handles as a lawyer,” he said in the 2015 interview.

Those who have worked closely with Sundaresan say that while he brings a lot of empathy to the profession, he also has a sense of humour. “There have been many occasions in the courtroom when Sundaresan has made everyone laugh during highly intense arguments. For example, while representing a credit rating agency, he said that faulting the credit rating agency would be like blaming the commentator for not predicting a batsman’s dismissal. In another instance, he compared a regulatory action to using a machine gun to take down a mosquito,” said a lawyer, who has been to many of the hearings where Sundaresan was representing a client.

“Sundaresan has a distinguished career of being a journalist, high profile lawyer and now a judge. His dedication and knowledge on securities law led to his astounding success in this field which compelled clients and professionals to seek his insight into any complex matter around it. Many of my clients have worked closely with Sundaresan and he always has guided them well providing a legally sound pragmatic solution. Today when SEBI and securities law have overwhelming reach on all stake holders, with Sundaresan’s presence on the Bench the litigants, bar and bench will be immensely benefitted,” says Rajesh Narain Gupta, Managing Partner, SNG & Partners public policy

Sundaresan is also an active contributor to public policy in the financial sector. He has has been a member of organisations such as the High Level Committee to Review SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 1992, and the Committee to Review Policy on issuance of Global Depository Receipts.

As an advocate, Sundaresan has represented clients in notable cases, including the National Stock Exchange co-location case, Subhash Chandra on allegations of siphoning funds and was one of the key advisors to the late Cyrus Mistry in t his fight against the Tata group controversies.

He has had his share of controversies, too. In February 2022, after the Supreme Court Collegium recommended the appointment of Sundaresan as a judge of the Bombay High Court, the government asked the collegium to reconsider its decision because Sundaresan allegedly posted views on matters that were sub-judice on social media. The government submitted that he was selectively critical on social media on the important policies, initiatives and directions of the Government. In March that year, after he was appointed a member of a committee set up by the Supreme Court to review the actions of SEBI in the Adani-Hindenburg case, a petitioner alleged conflict of interest because Sundaresan had represented the Adani Group in previous cases.

Throughout these challenging times, Sundaresan kept his calm. Perhaps, his love for climbing mountains helped him to weather the storm. At the age of 24 Sundaresan had trekked to the Thyangboche Monastery on the Everest trail. At 4,000 ft above sea level, he discovered exhilaration could be therapeutic. At that time he had expressed his desire to climb Mount Everest one day. Seventeen years later, while that still remains a dream, Sundaresan has climbed up ‘mount legal’ with his appointment as an additional judge of the Bombay High Court.

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