AZB & Partners
Secured a landmark Indian judgment for Amazon recognising an emergency award
|People in Who’s Who Legal||1|
|Pending cases as counsel||8|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$4 billion|
|Treaty cases as counsel||0|
This Indian firm sprang from a 2004 merger between CZB & Partners in Mumbai and Ajay Bahl in Delhi. The firm now also has offices in Pune and Bangalore.
AZB owes much of its reputation to the profile of founding partner Zia Mody in Mumbai. She is a former vice president of the LCIA and has acted in numerous cases there and at other leading institutions.
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 options contracts, shareholder disputes and intellectual property issues.
Who uses it?
Recent clients of note include Amazon, Nissan, Tata Group, Vedanta Resources, Philip Morris, Bharti Airtel, HSBC and the Bank of New York Mellon. The firm has also advised Swiss Timing, Credit Suisse and Solar Industries India. 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.
Together with Allen & Overy, AZB advised Japanese carmaker Nissan in a US$660 million investment treaty claim against India relating to incentives for a car factory in Chennai. The government of Tamil Nadu agreed in 2020 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 Allen & Overy saw the firm obtain a US$100 million award for Mauritian private equity fund Rishima in 2019 in a Singapore-seated ICC case over a five-star hotel in Kolkata. The Singapore courts upheld the award.
AZB defended Tata Sons in a billion-dollar LCIA claim brought by Japan’s largest mobile operator, NTT DOCOMO, over a short-lived internet services venture.
AZB has been representing Amazon in a dispute with India’s Future Group over the latter’s planned US$3.4 billion sale of significant assets to rival Reliance Industries. The firm helped to secure a Supreme Court of India judgment in 2021 affirming that the country recognises emergency arbitration awards. In 2022, Future failed to secure early dismissal of Amazon’s claim based on arguments that a parallel decision from the Competition Commission of India suspending the deal made the arbitration impossible or unnecessary.
The firm is advising Accenture in a dispute against India’s ISGEC Heavy Engineering, over alleged breaches of a consulting services agreement.
It is also acting for KM Toll in its US$315 million claim against the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The dispute arose out of NHAI’s alleged breach of contract, relating to the construction, operation and maintenance of a highway in the state of Gujarat.
In April 2022, Priyanka Shetty and Abhijnan Jha were promoted to partnership. Shetty is an expert in investment treaty arbitrations, and Jha specialises in domestic and cross-border disputes. Anusha Jegadeesh also joined the firm as counsel in the same month.
A partner at an international law firm that has collaborated with AZB in large-scale arbitration matters describes Barot as a “true leader and client magnet”; counsel Jegadeesh as “intelligent and really impressive”; and Pratap Singh as a “great lawyer and strategist” who provides “measured advice”.
Clients also highlight partner Roopali Singh for her “willingness to make herself available” and “practical guidance on all components of crisis management”.
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 Amazon Future dispute regarding enforceability of emergency arbitrator awards, 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), arbitrability of a dispute concerning a put option clause in an arbitration seated in India (Edelweiss Vs Percept), enforceability of a foreign award dealing with 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 Legal (2012-2023). 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 (2021).
Aditya Vikram Bhat is known in the Bengaluru market for his litigation and arbitration practice, which includes cross-border shareholder disputes and fraud allegations. He is experienced in representing multinational clients before various high courts and the National Company Law Tribunal. He has been recognised as an ‘Up and Coming’ Dispute Resolution lawyer by Chambers Asia-Pacific (2023) and recommended by Legal 500 Asia Pacific (2023).
Priyanka Shetty has advised and represented clients in several complex arbitration matters, both in investment treaty arbitrations and commercial arbitrations. She has been recommended by Legal 500 Asia Pacific (2021 and 2022) for her notable experience in investment treaty arbitrations and enforcement proceedings.
The team is highly experienced and other recommended lawyers (Legal 500 Asia Pacific, 2022) include Roopali Singh, Abhijnan Jha and Aditya Jalan.