Amit Desai is a leading Senior Criminal Lawyer with nearly four decades of experience. He had the opportunity to work with stalwarts like Nani Palkhiwala, Ashok Sen and Khursetji Cooper and some of the finest civil and commercial lawyers in the initial stages of his career. He assisted the then Attorney General, K. Parasaran, in one of the biggest corporate battles of the 80s – LIC versus Escorts – which was one of his most fascinating experiences as a junior. According to him, “The core of criminal law is about justice – justice for all - to ensure that the accused receives a fair trial, but at the same time societal interests are protected. It is also to ensure that the offender is punished and rehabilitated.” Designated as a Senior Advocate in 2007, Mr Desai’s major practice areas include: White-collar crime; Banking and Commercial Fraud; Economic and regulatory offences; Corruption and Anti-Bribery Matters; Extradition; Capital Markets; Company Law; Taxation and Currency Regulation cases; and Negligence cases (Medical, Industrial and Road). He joined the Bar in 1982 and got involved in several important cases such as the Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1984), Bofors Imbroglio, and Securities Scam (1992) where he represented and advised Harshad Mehta, Bhupen Dalal and others involved in various cases. He got many opportunities to conduct trials. In his view, trial work is about a deep analysis of facts and the law, and the challenge of anticipation in the cross-examination of witnesses that one is pitted against.
Mr Desai’s notable cases include 2G telecom; Bhopal Gas Tragedy; Keshub Mahindra (Chairman Emeritus of Mahindra & Mahindra) and erstwhile Union Carbide India Ltd.; Motorola Inc. in its disputes with Iridium; Price Waterhouse & Coopers in the Satyam case; Ratan Tata in his privacy petition; Bofors corruption case, where he represented the Hinduja Brothers; Tata Sons Ltd. versus Nusli Wadia (defamation) case; Cyrus Mistry saga; Vijay Mallya (Promoter and Director of United Breweries Group and Kingfisher Airlines); Jindal Steel Ltd. and its promoter Sajan Jindal and others in the Yedyurappa (Ex-Chief Minister of Karnataka) corruption case; and 63 Moons Ltd. and its promoter Jignesh Shah. He has represented several accused in the prosecution of ex-Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, (late) Jayalalitha, before the Trial Court and High Court in Karnataka; and Kataria in the Sohrabuddin case. He has represented ITC Ltd. and its Board of Directors in a prosecution under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act; Hindustan Unilever Insider Trading prosecution; and the Malegaon blasts’ case, where he was a Special Counsel for the state of Maharashtra in 2008. He has represented Bollywood star Salman Khan’s appeal in respect of his conviction in the hit-and-run case in Mumbai; Nestle India before the Bombay High Court in a Writ Petition challenging the Maggie ban; Kapil & Dheeraj Wadhawan of DHFL; Tarun Tejpal (sexual harassment bail); Deloitte MCA proceedings to ban auditors; Kalanithi Maran; and Karti Chidambaram (income tax prosecution).
For Mr Desai, trials are one of the most challenging aspects of the legal process, especially criminal trials. According to him, criminal law gives an opportunity for extremely wide exposure to diverse issues and an exhilarating opportunity to participate in the most fascinating aspects of the legal and justice process. “With the breadth of options and multiple quasicriminal areas, my journey of three decades has been intellectually stimulating while being personally and professionally satisfying,” he describes. Mr Desai has spoken broadly on topics connected to corporate criminal law at CII, Indian Merchant Chambers, Bombay Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Bombay Chartered Accountants Association, Chamber of Income Tax Consultants and Forum of Free Enterprise. He was invited to speak on FEMA by the Direct Taxes Regional Training Institute; he was a Speaker on Business Law at the International Bar Association Conference in New Delhi; a Speaker at the Anti-Corruption Compliance Sessions at ‘The Indian Story in Global Mergers and Acquisitions’ conference presented by IBA Asia-Pacific Forum in 2012; Speaker at the Bar Association of India Seminar on Reforms in the Criminal Justice System; Speaker at a seminar on the ‘Use and misuse of power of Arrest by Police: Threat to personal liberty’ organized by the Bombay Lawyers’ Association; and Speaker at a seminar on: ‘Latest Developments in Criminal Law relevant to Corporate India’ organized by Tata Sons Limited.