Mr Gajendra Maheshwari on Data Privacy

The Legal Arc Volume 1 Issue 1 Interviews

Mr Gajendra Maheshwari

Mr Gajendra Maheshwari is a Managing Partner at Reina Legal, based in Delhi/NCR. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant, a Certified Management Accountant, and a lawyer with an LL.M, LL.B from Jai Narain Vyas University, Jodhpur. His areas of interest are taxation laws, and data protection and privacy laws. 

INTERVIEWER

What are your thoughts on the proposed data protection legislation, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019?

MR GAJENDRA MAHESHWARI

The single most important aspect of the data protection legislation is that it is going to make us (i.e., individuals) an ‘owner’ of our data. Today, willingly or unwillingly we share a lot of our personal data both online and off-line. Most of us cannot foresee how such data can be used, commercially exploited or even manipulated.  

PDPB will require data collectors to notify the individual and obtain his consent for the collection and use of the data. It would also mandate the data collectors not to gather data more than what is required. Further, several obligations would be cast on the persons collecting or processing data depending on the type and magnitude of data they collect. 

Thus, PDPB will be a big contributor in implementing the ‘right of privacy’ insofar as it relates to the personal data of individuals.

INTERVIEWER

How effective and efficient do you think it would be in comparison to foreign legislations like the California Consumer Privacy Act, or the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation?

MR GAJENDRA MAHESHWARI

Let us first understand that the basic framework of PDPB and CCPA is based on EU GDPR.  All these laws call for transparent privacy policies, accountability of data fiduciaries, etc. In a nutshell, the law expects very high standards in the realm of data privacy.

From the implementation standpoint, in the EU the regulator is very strict. Within a short span of the introduction of GDPR, hefty fines have been imposed on internet giants like Facebook, Google etc. for violation of the law.

From the implementation standpoint, in the EU the regulator is very strict. Within a short span of the introduction of GDPR, hefty fines have been imposed on internet giants like Facebook, Google etc. for violation of the law.

The draft law in India also envisages the creation of a regulator (like TRAI for telecom, Competition Commission under Competition law, Anti Profiteering Authority under GST law etc.). The Data Privacy regulator is supposed to act as a watchdog for ensuring various compliances under the law. 

The effectiveness and efficiency of the law would eventually depend on the functioning of the regulator, i.e. how strict and autonomous is the regulator in ensuring the compliances.   

INTERVIEWER

How do you think law students can make themselves more useful as interns considering the switch to virtual modes of operation?

MR GAJENDRA MAHESHWARI

We all know that law internships are usually for a short span of time. However, an intern who is physically present in the office even for a shorter duration does not go unnoticed. Conversely, in virtual mode, the Partners/ Senior Counsels, etc. may not even get to know who all are doing an internship with them.  

In these circumstances, it is important for students to make their presence felt even while interning through the virtual mode. There are practical ways of doing this, such as:

  • Offering to hold a webinar on any new legal development, important case law etc. for the office team;  
  • Writing an article and getting the same published along with the senior;
  • Trying to keep the seniors in the loop on the emails etc. containing material prepared/ researched; and
  • Updating their social media/ LinkedIn profile with the internship status, while tagging the firm, seniors etc.

It is obvious that the interns who can stand apart will be presented with more learning opportunities which will help them get the best out of their internship.

INTERVIEWER

What was your motivation to pursue law as a profession considering your background in Chartered Accountancy and Cost and Works Accountancy?

MR GAJENDRA MAHESHWARI

The beauty of law as a profession is that it presents each individual an opportunity to excel in the area of his liking. For example, a person having IT bent of mind can choose data privacy as his field. Likewise, a person good at science can select patent law to be his area of practice. Within law practice, there are numerous areas of specialization like environment laws, labour laws, civil or criminal laws, real estate laws etc. Apart from the subject matter expertise, one can choose to become an arguing counsel or work with a firm or even take a corporate/ government job, depending on his strengths, liking, etc.

For me, after qualifying as a CA and CMA and having handled numerous tax appeals at the Tribunal level, switching to the legal profession and arguing tax matters beyond the Tribunal level was a very instinctive choice. Getting into the court practice after tax tribunals, was like entering an ocean after flowing through a river. Practising in the areas beyond taxation, enhanced my understanding of laws and the overall spectrum of knowledge.  

The beauty of the legal profession is that it gives an individual unrestricted opportunity to grow, to the extent of his potential and that’s the reason I love my profession.

INTERVIEW

What are some qualities and skills that you would consider essential in an ideal potential employee?

MR GAJENDRA MAHESHWARI

The foremost quality for any employee is ‘common sense’. There is no substitute for this. Then comes, ‘legal sense’ for those who are in the law profession. The top-up requirement for the firm like us is ‘commercial sense’.

Additionally, if the candidate is ‘hardworking’ and ‘street-smart’, i.e. who can handle the client as well as the court smartly, then success is guaranteed. Needless to say, a person with good common sense would know the relevance of honesty.

INTERVIEWER

Do you think the novel GST system of taxation is profoundly different from the previous method?

MR GAJENDRA MAHESHWARI

The past regime was complicated due to the interplay of various taxes at the Centre and the State levels. As many as seventeen such indirect taxes applicable in the past regime merged into GST. 

Thus, at the concept level, GST is much simpler in comparison to the past regime. However, on account of various legal and political reasons, the GST we have is still not the ideal one. Sectors such as petroleum, alcohol are still outside the ambit of GST. Plus, the requirement of obtaining multiple registrations in different states for a person having pan-India operations makes it tedious in terms of compliances.

We should also remember that GST is largely an Information Technology based taxation system. Accordingly, the effectiveness of the government’s GST network, as well as IT preparedness of the taxpayers, is crucial for the success of GST.

INTERVIEWER

What is your take on the virtual court proceedings? In your opinion do the advantages outweigh the costs?

MR GAJENDRA MAHESHWARI

Well, there used to be a debate about multiple benches of the Supreme Court.  Now, with internet connectivity, the apex court can be accessed by a lawyer present anywhere on this planet. Counsels are happy because they can earn more by attending hearings in multiple forums without the hassle of managing dates. Clients are happy because they can save litigation costs. Courts can now expand without much capital outlay. 

The benefits would be more eminent once the courts start substituting the archaic process related to filing, serving copies etc. with the smart e-processes. Such a change could make our justice delivery system much more efficient.  

INTERVIEWER

If courts were to resume offline, would you still consider virtual proceedings as a viable option?

MR GAJENDRA MAHESHWARI

Absolutely. With the infrastructure and technology already in place, the virtual mode will run parallel with the physical one. The best part is that the leader himself has set the right example – if the apex court of the country having senior-most judges can run in the online mode then why can’t the rest?



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