Sumeet Kachwaha has over 40 years’ standing in the legal profession, mainly in corporate and commercial laws (including cross-border disputes). He is ranked by Chambers Asia, The Legal 500: Asia Pacific and Who’s Who Legal. He has served as sole arbitrator in several construction arbitrations; as amicus curiae to the High Court of Delhi in two matters (including in relation to a BIT dispute); and as an expert witness on Indian law in the courts of England and Singapore. He serves as a vice president of the Asia-Pacific Regional Arbitration Group and sits on the advisory board of the Asian International Arbitration Centre.
Describe your career to date.
I joined the legal profession in June 1979 and had the privilege to work under the senior partner of the then top law firm in India, JB Dadachandji & Co. I worked with them for about two years as a junior, and later as an of counsel. In parallel I trained under Mr Kapil Sibal (who later served as law minister of India). I was privileged to be involved with some landmark cases, not only in India but internationally. These include the Union Carbide Bhopal gas leak case which arose out of the worst industrial disaster known to mankind. Here I worked directly under the doyen of the Indian Bar and an internationally acclaimed lawyer, Mr Fali S Nariman. This case was litigated for over five years in Indian and US courts and finally settled under the aegis of the Indian Supreme Court. My legal experience also includes a few years on the non-contentious side, involving the telecom and infrastructure sectors. In 2002 I set up my own firm which now is well recognised as a leading dispute resolution firm in India.
What motivated you to pursue a legal career?
Way back in 1976, the career options were rather standardised. The prime choice then was to try for the coveted Indian Administrative Service. I was however, temperamentally unsuited for a job (and certainly for a government job!). Given my educational choices (honours in English literature), law seemed the most attractive bet.
What did you find challenging about entering the role of arbitrator in construction disputes?
I have received appointments as sole arbitrator in domestic construction disputes. The biggest challenge I find here is a lack of awareness, in many parties/lawyers, of best practices in construction arbitration. I have to gently guide the parties in the right direction.
What did you enjoy most about setting up your own firm?
It was a sweet challenge to start on a blank slate (with the advantage of 20 years of experience by then in counsel practice). I made a fundamental decision to go for an organic growth only, and not have disparate elements or too many lateral hires in the firm. My two partners, with whom we started off, were young lawyers who had worked with me and we shared the necessary chemistry and I had full confidence in their capabilities. In retrospect, this turned out to be an excellent way to go about it. Thankfully it has been a smooth trajectory. At the same time no one in the legal profession can or should rest on one’s laurels so it is good to be continuously challenged and finally compete against oneself.
What are the main challenges you face when handling cross-border construction disputes?
In any cross-border dispute one has to interact with people from different legal cultural backgrounds, and the biggest challenge is to understand the expectation of a diverse tribunal and align your client’s and your team to their expectations.
How has the legal market changed since you started practising?
It’s a complete sea change. Forty years back a legal practice in India essentially meant a court practice (with a smallish office). No one specialised in arbitrations. There were very few cross-border disputes. A law firm’s reputation was built by word of mouth and (in India at least) “marketing” was frowned upon.
As founder of Kachwaha & Partners, what are your priorities for the firm’s development over the next five years?
As before, our growth will be organic and built on trust, confidence and mutual goodwill. This is fundamental for us. We will continue to focus on our core areas (international arbitrations) and broad base our firm’s resources to better focus on specialities such as shipping/sports arbitration/investment arbitration etc.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
Never lose your credibility.
Sumeet Kachwaha is a pre-eminent name in India when it comes to arbitration matters. He is known for his profound ability when it comes to cross-border construction and government contract disputes.
Sumeet Kachwaha is the founding partner of dispute-resolution specialist firm, Kachwaha & Partners. He has handled many landmark and cross-border disputes.
Sumeet has been appointed sole arbitrator by the High Court of Delhi in several arbitrations. He has also served as amicus curiae to the High Court of Delhi in two matters (including in relation to a BIT dispute). He has also served as an expert witness on Indian law in the courts of England and Singapore.
Sumeet has been ranked in Band 1 in the arbitration section of Chambers Asia since 2009. He features as a “leading individual” in The Legal 500: Asia Pacific for dispute resolution, and is also recommended by WWL: Arbitration, WWL: Asset Recovery, WWL: Construction, WWL: Government Contracts and WWL: Procurement.
Sumeet currently serves as vice president of the Asia-Pacific Regional Arbitration Group (APRAG). He also serves on the six-member advisory board of the Asian International Arbitration Centre (formerly KLRCA). He served as the chair of the dispute resolution and arbitration section of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association for three years.
Publications include: “The White Industries Australia Limited: India BIT Award – A Critical Assessment”, Arbitration International, Vol 29, Issue 2, pp 275–293 (2013); “Interim Relief: Comments on the UNCITRAL Amendments and the Indian Perspective”, Yearbook on International Arbitration, Vol III, pp 155–161 (2013); “Enforcement of Arbitration Awards in India”, Asian International Arbitration Journal, Kluwer (2008); “The Indian Arbitration Law: Towards a New Jurisprudence”, International Arbitration Law Review, Sweet & Maxwell (2007); and “Arbitration Law of India – A Critical Analysis”, Asian International Arbitration Journal, Kluwer (2005).
Sumeet Kachwaha is identified by respondents as one of India's top construction arbitration specialists. His speciality lies in international infrastructure disputes.
Sumeet Kachwaha is a founding partner of the New Delhi based law firm Kachwaha & Partners. He has 40 years’ standing as a lawyer. His work focuses on dispute resolution, contracts, infrastructure, construction and procurement.
Sumeet has been involved as counsel in over 40 construction-related arbitrations, and one as a sole arbitrator. He has been involved in several power projects and has advised extensively on privatisation of railways, roads, airports, bridges and other infrastructure projects. He is a frequent speaker on construction-related issues in international forums.
Sumeet is a founding fellow of the International Academy of Construction Lawyers.
Sumeet has some of the highest ratings from law directories in dispute resolution. He also features in the procurement and government contracts section of Who’s Who Legal. He served a three-year term as chair of the dispute resolution and arbitration section of the IPBA and a two-year term as co-chair in a subcommittee of the international construction project (ICP) committee of the IBA. He is currently serving as vice president of the Asia-Pacific Regional Arbitration Group (APRAG) and is a member of the advisory board of the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (now known as the Asian International Arbitration Centre).
Sumeet Kachwaha draws high praise from market sources for his first-rate work handling complex commercial disputes and arbitral enforcement proceedings.
Sumeet Kachwaha is the founding partner of Kachwaha & Partners, a New Delhi-based dispute resolution specialist firm. He has been in practice for about 40 years, focusing mostly on cross-border litigation, arbitration and infrastructure projects.
Mr Kachwaha was involved in the Union Carbide Bhopal Gas leak case – one of the largest damages cases ever, arising out of the worst industrial accident known to mankind. He was also involved in the Oleum gas leak matter in Delhi, a landmark case involving over 5,000 individual suits arising out of an industrial accident (which were ultimately settled under the aegis of the Supreme Court of India), with the Supreme Court laying down significant principles of environmental law and liability.
Mr Kachwaha has deposed as an expert witness on Indian law in the courts of Singapore and England. He also recently served as amicus curiae to the High Court of Delhi in two matters, including the Vodafone-India bilateral investment treaty dispute arbitration. Mr Kachwaha’s assistance as amicus curiae in the latter was generously acknowledged by the High Court in its decision of 7 May 2018.
Mr Kachwaha served as the chair of the dispute resolution and arbitration section of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) for three years. He currently serves on the advisory council of the Asian International Arbitration Centre (formerly known as KLRCA). He also currently serves as a vice president of the Asia-Pacific Regional Arbitration Group (APRAG).
Mr Kachwaha has been ranked in Band 1 in the arbitration section of Chambers Asia-Pacific since 2009. He also figures as a “leading individual” in The Legal 500: Asia Pacific for dispute resolution.