The Indian firm settled a treaty claim for Nissan and is advising Amazon in a high-profile dispute worth billions
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AZB was born in 2004 from a merger between CZB & Partners in Mumbai, and Ajay Bahl & Company in Delhi. Today, the firm has four offices in India.
The firm has moved away from Indian law firms’ traditional family-style structure and has been praised for its clear partnership track.
AZB’s reputation owes much to the personality and profile of founding partner Zia Mody in Mumbai. She spent three years as vice president of the LCIA and has acted in numerous cases under that institution’s rules, as well as those of the ICC, SCC, LMAA, SIAC and UNCITRAL.
Senior partner Rajendra Barot in Mumbai leads the dispute resolution practice. Another partner to know is Vijayendra Pratap Singh, head of litigation in Delhi, who has spearheaded arbitrations related to option contracts, shareholder disputes and intellectual property issues.
Who uses it?
Recent clients include Amazon; Nissan; Tata Group; Eastern India Power Limited; the owners of the Indian Premier League franchise cricket team Kochi Tuskers; India’s largest telecoms company Bharti Airtel; Axis Bank; HSBC; and the Bank of New York Mellon’s London branch.
The firm has also advised Vedanta Resources, KPMG, Philip Morris, Dhariwal Industries and US cable television network ESPN.
The former majority shareholders in Yukos Oil Company also turned to the firm for a short-lived action to enforce their US$50 billion award against Russia.
With co-counsel Allen & Overy, AZB represented Japanese car maker Nissan in a US$660 million investment treaty claim against India relating to incentives for a car factory in Chennai. Nissan reportedly withdrew the claim in 2020 after the government of Tamil Nadu agreed to pay up to US$238 million to settle the dispute. AZB had previously helped to thwart repeated efforts by the state government to injunct the arbitration in local courts.
Another case with A&O saw the firm obtain a US$110 million partial award for Mauritian fund Rishima Investments in 2019 in a Singapore-seated ICC arbitration over a five-star hotel in Kolkata. A final award followed in July 2020 awarding damages, interest and legal costs.
AZB defended Tata Sons in an LCIA claim brought by Japan’s largest mobile operator, NTT Docomo, over a short-lived internet services venture. The arbitration ended in 2016 with a US$1.17 billion award against Tata. The award was paid in the following year, after Delhi litigation that had seen the Reserve Bank of India intervene in a bid to thwart payment.
For clients SMS and Solar Industries India, the firm obtained wins in two ad hoc claims against a mining company owned by the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. The dispute concerned a joint venture to exploit two coal blocks.
Together with P&A Law Offices, AZB has been representing US retailer Amazon in a dispute with India’s Future Group concerning the latter’s planned US$3.4 billion sale of significant assets to rival Reliance Industries. The Delhi High Court enforced a SIAC emergency arbitrator order restraining the sale in March 2021 and the matter has gone before the Indian Supreme Court.
It is advising HSBC in Bombay High Court proceedings to enforce a US$60 million SIAC award, which have already led to a landmark ruling by the Indian Supreme Court on the arbitrability of fraud claims.
In April 2021, Aditya Vikram Jalan was promoted to partner in the firm’s Delhi office, and Priyanka Shetty, Vivek Shetty, Abhimanyu Chopra and Vatsala Rai were made counsel.
AZB’s dispute resolution team is recognized as a market–leading group and is the preferred partner by corporate houses and multinationals in multi-jurisdictional arbitration matters governed by Indian law, and various institutional rules including those of the SIAC, LCIA, ICC, UNCITRAL, Swiss Chambers of Commerce and London Maritime Arbitrators Association. AZB has also been involved in arbitration proceedings under foreign laws such as New York law and English law, where Indian law issues underscored the arbitration proceedings.
The Firm has acted in landmark decisions that define the arbitration landscape in India, including the Supreme Court decision distinguishing the concept of ‘seat’ and ‘venue’ of arbitration (Enercon case), applicability of the 2015 Amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (Kochi Cricket case), arbitrability of cases involving allegations of fraud (HSBC-Avitel case), enforceability of the put/call option in light of a public policy challenge (Banyan Tree case). The Firm’s experience in arbitration and litigation is across almost every industry including construction, manufacturing, energy, mining and natural resources, insurance, aviation, banking and finance, telecommunication, infrastructure, etc. In addition, Firm also advises clients who get dragged in white collar criminal proceedings, often an offshoot of the civil proceedings.
The Firm is the forefront of emerging areas of practice such as high frequency trading technology, Fintech, privacy and technology regulation. The Firm’s experience across areas such as disputes, banking, and investment funds ensures that it is able to provide cutting edge solutions and advice to clients looking to explore opportunities in the space of third party litigation and arbitration funding in India.
The AZB teams have been steadfast in adapting to the “new normal” i.e. digitalization of the courts and catering to client needs amidst the COVID-19 induced lockdown in India.
Zia Mody (the co-founder and managing partner of AZB) is widely recognised as one of India’s foremost lawyers and an eminent arbitration specialist by the International Who’s Who of Commercial Arbitration (2012-2020). She is the recipient of several awards, including ‘India’s Most Influential Women Leaders’ by Business World (2019) and holds appointments on the governing board of the ICCA, SIAC and CIETAC. Zia was the Vice President and Member of the LCIA between 2010 and 2013, and a member of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal between 2008 and 2013.
Rajendra Barot (Head-Dispute Resolution, Mumbai) has attracted praise for his “good commercial mind” and “thorough knowledge of Indian law”. He has been consistently rated as a “Leading Practitioner” by various publications including Chambers & Partners, Legal500, IBLJ, Asia Law profiles. Notably, he was ranked as India’s Best Disputes Lawyer by Asian Legal Business India (2020).
Vijayendra Pratap Singh (Head–Dispute Resolution, Delhi). Vijayendra has spearheaded several key arbitration matters including the recent Amazon – Future dispute. He has consistently been rated as a Leading Practitioner by various publications including Asia Law, Chambers & Partners, Benchmark Litigation, Forbes Legal etc. Notably, he was recognised as Litigation Star of the Year by Benchmark Litigation, Asia-Pacific (2020).
Sonali Mathur has advised and represented clients in several complex arbitration matters and has been Recognized as an ‘Up and Coming’ Dispute Resolution lawyer by Chambers Global (2021) and Chambers Asia-Pacific (2021), and also recommended by Legal 500 Asia Pacific (2021).