Raising the Bar: P.H. Arvindh Pandian
By Sanjay Pinto

Suave but camera shy, he clocked in the long years that the legal profession entails. Without riding piggyback on his family surname, this son of former Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker P.H.Pandian, known for propounding the theory of  ‘Sky High Powers’ of his chair, seemed keen to steer clear of politics and focus only on his practice. In 1994, a ‘law’ story began. Under the tutelage of a doyen of the tax bar – Mr. K.R.Ramamani for close to ten years, P.H. Arvindh Pandian cut his teeth in Corporate Law and Taxation. Appearing in court barely a week after his enrollment as an Advocate, Arvindh was raring to go with his arguments in a merger case, but it got indefinitely adjourned. An early sign perhaps that great things come to those who wait.

Patience paid off. In about eight years, Arvindh branched out on his own to start his independent practice. Teaming up with his Law College batchmate Hari Shankar Mani,a veteran orator, the duo built an impressive clientele in the Corporate and Commercial Law arena, with Hari being “a great source of support for the last twenty years”, well before they got together.

As a second generation lawyer, Arvindh does not shy away from admitting that his legal luminary father Dr. P.H. Pandian, who was recently felicitated by the Madras Bar Association on completion of fifty years of practice was a “great influence” in his decision to choose law as a career. But the guidance of his first senior Mr.Ramamani, who was “generous and gracious enough to hand over my maiden stipend barely two months into my practice”, catapulted him into a scholarly realm.

(Pic: P.H. Arvindh Pandian, Additional Advocate General of Tamil Nadu)

“Guide to Take Overs and Mergers” was a book that Arvindh co-authored in 2002 with Mr.N.R. Sridharan, who retired as a senior officer from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and is now into its 4th edition. “Though it took us a few years to write the book, it had come out very well and has been one of the guiding books on the subject. Mr. Sridharan has been a great source of support and inspiration during my initial years of practice.” Armed with this expertise, Arvindh attended a session on Mediation at the Harvard Negotiation Institute, Harvard Law School in 2010. The tax background also saw him occupy the post of Secretary of the Revenue Bar Association and provide inputs on amendments of the Income Tax Act as a nominated member of a FICCI Expert Committee

At forty one, Arvindh was among the youngest in the Bar to get the coveted ‘Senior Advocate’ designation, proposed by his “mentor” Mr. Arvind P. Datar and the late Mr. Habibullah Badsha. “I never thought it could happen so early and it was purely by the grace of God.”

In quick succession came another turning point. Arvindh used to send his views in writing on issues concerning the State to former Chief Minister Ms.Jayalalithaa. That had caught the AIADMK supremo’s eye and eight months into her tenure beginning in 2011, she called him over to the Secretariat. At the end of the tete-a-tete, “Amma’ pulled a copy of the Government Order appointing me as the Additional Advocate General! It was a complete surprise to me.” The almost four and a half year tenure was “a fulfilling professional experience.” The position was much more than a title to flaunt and it gave me “a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge I acquired from each and every case.”

Probe further with the most obvious query on the nature of these landmark cases and Arvindh goes into a characteristic shell. “I would not like to mention any individual case as there were so many critical issues and cases during my tenure lasting roughly seven and half a years, till date, with a break of fifteen months.” By nature, Arvindh is not fond of publicity and likes to downplay his achievements in court. But he doesn’t disagree that convincing a Division Bench of the Madras High Court on prohibiting any demonstrations or activities on the Marina Beach, would probably rank as one of his milestones.

The Pandians are a family that literally breathe law. Almost. Except for his late mother Dr.Cynthia Pandian, who had served as the Vice Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, and a doctor brother Naveen in Doha and his sister Devamani, an infertility consultant in Vellore, Arvindh’s brothers Manoj Pandian and Vinodh Pandian are both lawyers. Manoj was an MLA and MP and a leading light of the AIADMK Legal Wing. Arvindh’s wife Bharathy is also an advocate, “practising in Real Estate matters, having her own niche clientele.” Quick to give her credit for  adrioitly juggling her time between her work and family, especially taking care of their daughter Nidarshana, a final year student of medicine and a  Bharata Natyam dancer trained under Dr. Sudharani Raghupathy, Arvindh reveals that “in the initial years, Bharathy completely sacrificed her profession and was of great support putting up with my unpredictable timings of the profession, that  kept me completely away from the family till the wee hours on many days.”

Not many are aware that the Pandian Brothers were ace athletes at Don Bosco School, Egmore, where year after year, they virtually reserved for themselves the gold medal in the 100 metre sprint in different age categories. Till a few years ago, not many would have believed this too! But of late, Nidarshana can play the piano and hum the Carpenters number ‘yesterday once more’ as her dad is back to her earlier fitness level. “I have been doing a lot of training for strength and running, attending boot camps and advanced training at The Quad Fitness for the last five years. On non-work out days, I run about 10 Kilometres.”

Will our legal eagle migrate to the Supreme Court one day? “I have a very consistent track record of not even arguing one matter before the Supreme Court till date. I hope not to break this record as my hands are full here before the Madras High Court, various Tribunals and other commercial arbitration which keep me busy throughout the day.” Then comes a legal rider to “never rule out anything. I leave it to my destiny to guide my future.” Does a capital shift include, without admitting, but not limited to, offices like Attorney General or Solicitor General? Destiny teaches us that you cannot stop a man whose time has come.

(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, a Columnist, Author & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)