Ravi Nath wins high praise from sources who say he “has a tremendous amount of experience in contentious matters and deserves to be listed”.
Ravi Nath is managing partner at one of India’s oldest established legal firms. He has been recognised several times by Chambers, Euromoney, The Legal 500 et al, as a leading lawyer. He is the first Indian lawyer to have held office as President of IPBA (Inter-Pacific Bar Association), as well as the first Indian to chair the Aviation Committee of the International Bar Association. He has also lectured at Oxford and other universities and bar associations, various seminars and lawyers business gatherings in London, Zurich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Chicago, Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong on legal topics.
What did you find most challenging about entering aviation practice?
Entry was considerably easier for me compared to some others because of having articled at Sinclair Roche in London, which specialised in aviation and shipping law. Both Air India and Indian Airlines, government-owned airlines, served international and domestic markets. In the early 90s, the market was opened to private enterprise. By this time, I was regularly advising a number of industry players such as Boeing, US Exim and others on aviation finance and leasing, and similar issues. We soon became the first port of call for overseas lessors, manufacturers and banks. The most challenging part was to get our overseas clients to understand Indian work environment which has good substantive and procedural laws but delays in courts and red tape in the government has to be overcome. We were able to do so for almost all our clients mainly due to our aforesaid experience and ability to anticipate road blocks and our ability to steer clients clear of bottlenecks. Now there is much less red tape and procedures are streamlined, but it is still important to visualise obstructions and difficulties that may stand in the way.
What qualities make for a successful aviation lawyer?
A deep understanding of the laws and procedures especially in their cross- border application. Good drafting and negotiation skills are required at threshold of transactions, along with the ability to put in long hours.
What has been your most interesting case to date, and why?
Among a number of interesting cases, one where we faced a challenging task was with respect to Sahara and NEPC, two low-cost airlines. In both cases, enforcement proceedings had to be taken. Quick action was required to ensure that aircraft are not damaged or cannibalised and handed back in redelivery condition. Sahara was later taken over by Jet Airways and renamed JetLite, but they inherited a number of issues for which there was no precedent. It took us a fair bit of time to sensitise the government agencies to problems peculiar to India’s aviation sector.
In your opinion, what will be the long-term effects of covid-19 on the aviation industry and what are the greatest challenges aviation lawyers will face in the next five years?
Along with the hospitality sector, aviation has suffered the most and it may take about two to three years for normalcy to return, but the product mix is bound to be different. Large passenger planes such as A-380s will disappear. Most 747s have already been retired. The demand will be for fuel- efficient medium and long-range aircraft. In the short term, aviation lawyers may see a reduction in new transactions, but there will be an increase in work relating to claims, restructuring etc. Overall, aviation-related work for lawyers will perhaps take a 10 percent to 20 per cent hit depending on various factors and jurisdictions and indeed the standing and expertise of individuals and their firms.
Looking forward, what do you believe will be the main legal challenges that new technologies such as unmanned aircrafts and drones will pose?
Unmanned aircraft and flying objects such as drones are already becoming useful. Depending on artificial intelligence and availability of better storage batteries, other products will follow but I do not, as yet, see an unmanned passenger airline, nor do I see a battery-operated one as yet.
How does RNClegal distinguish itself from competition?
Because of our experience, efficiency and competitive cost, we expect to continue to remain in forefront in India and remain the first port of call for those who seek sound advice. First-time clients are easily able to see, in the very first conversation, that we have rich experience and will be able to steer them clear of the hurdles and difficulties. Our existing clients continue to give us repeat work. Our new and innovative ways of dealing with situations, get known and are usually copied.
You have had a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
My effort is to further streamline and polish to perfection Indian regulations and practice and remove some uncertainties which continue to lurk in the system and bring about more efficiency. India has an ambitious programme of privatisation of airports and related services.
What advice would you give to younger lawyers hoping to one day be in your position?
There are no shortcuts. Sincerity to your work and your clients will surely get you there.