In memoriam

From left to right: Ajoy Halder, Rajiv Bhatnagar, Sumita Singh, Sundeep Dudeja

A lethal second wave of covid-19 is ravaging India and the legal fraternity has not escaped its wrath. Many lawyers have fallen ill with this more aggressive variant of the virus. Sadly, several have succumbed, leaving in their wake grief and tragedy for loved ones, colleagues and peers.

The legal community is mourning the loss of senior counsel Soli Sorabjee (see obituary), Sundeep Dudeja of L&L Partners, Ajoy Halder of Halder & Associates, Sumita Singh of Pier Counsel and Rajiv Bhatnagar of Anand and Anand, among others.

Ajoy Halder was a partner at HSA Advocates until 2017, when he left to start his own firm. He said at the time that he had spotted an opportunity for a new firm in the energy and infrastructure space that would provide a “high-quality legal service with partner-level attention”. Mr Halder realised his vision and this year his firm Halder & Associates is a winner of India Business Law Journal’s Indian Law Firm Awards, receiving an award in the environment category.

“Ajoy was a wonderful person, who made an impression on everyone he met,” said Harsha Peechara, a partner at the firm. “He lived life on his own terms, and he was kind, helpful and generous to a fault. He was a good lawyer and was successful in setting up his own firm, with a remarkable list of clients. His untimely demise is a big blow to his family, his friends and to everyone at Halder & Associates.”

Despite Mr Halder’s loss, the firm will continue operating to carry forward his legacy.

Sundeep Dudeja had worked in L&L Partners’ corporate practice since 2007. His colleagues remember him for being soft-spoken, down to earth and supportive of others in their hour of need. Snigdhaneel Satpathy, a partner at the firm who worked closely with Mr Dudeja, pays this moving tribute:

“Nothing can truly express what we feel for you. There are some who shine a light so bright that even after they are gone, the afterglow remains. It was our privilege that we caught glimpses of your brilliance … and it is our misfortune to have it taken away so early. There are no goodbyes for you today. Wherever you are, you will always walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near; still loved, still missed, with dear imprints in our hearts and minds.”

Mr Dudeja, who was 46 years old, is survived by his two-year-old daughter, Pranshi, and his wife, Rashmi.

The passing of Sumita Singh, 48, an of counsel at Pier Counsel, came as an unexpected shock to colleagues. Friends and peers remember Ms Singh as a vibrant, warm person who was great company. She had worked in the legal field for 17 years.

Prior to her association with Pier Counsel, she had been a partner at Singh & Associates and started her own IP boutique, Ascentialls.

“The legal fraternity has lost a gem,” said Pier Counsel’s managing partner, Anand Kumar. “Apart from being an accomplished lawyer in the field of IP law, Sumita will always be remembered as a hearty and jovial human being, with her interests ranging from technology to much deeper social and humanitarian issues. She was passionate about women’s inclusivity and growth at work, and often used to spend hours with women entrepreneurs. The loss is tremendous but her legacy will live forever. We will continue to miss her boisterous laughter.”

India Business Law Journal’s publisher, James Burden, who has known Ms Singh for almost 20 years, has fond memories of their regular meetings in India and at various INTA conferences around the world. “She was an incredibly vibrant and warm person – and above all, great fun,” he said. “I always looked forward to our meetings. They were filled with laughter. India has lost a well-respected lawyer and a wonderful person.”

Rajiv Bhatnagar, a senior director at Anand and Anand, passed away at the age of 68 after a tough battle with covid-19. He was a registered patent agent with specialisations in electronics, telecommunications and software. He joined Anand and Anand in 2009, after initially approaching the firm as an inventor-entrepreneur seeking protection for his own intellectual property.

“Mr Rajiv Bhatnagar was a beautiful soul,” Vaishali Mittal, a litigation partner and strategist at Anand and Anand, told India Business Law Journal. “I am very fortunate that I met him. He was highly intelligent, well qualified, very down to earth, and competent. His offerings were straightforward and structured. He could impress anyone with his knowledge of science, technology and his old-school mannerism. His IQ, emotional and spiritual intelligence will remain unmatched and will be bitterly missed.”