India’s two top lawyers will be arguing in the Singapore Court of Appeal the case of Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo Company and Ranbaxy Laboratories of India, according to a media report. Ranbaxy has taken on senior advocate Harish Salve who is also the first non-Queen’s Counsel (QC) foreign lawyer, and the first from the Indian Bar, to be allowed to argue a case in the Singapore High Court, the Straits Times reported today. Daiichi has assigned on an equal stature advocate Gopal Subramanium for its team. The case involved some 20 Ranbaxy shareholders, including five young people, who had sold a controlling stake in the multi-national pharmaceutical company to Daiichi Sankyo Company in 2008. But in 2012, the Japanese pharmaceutical firm started arbitration proceedings in Singapore against the Indian firm, claiming it had been misled during negotiations for the sale agreement. The sellers of Ranbaxy, who were in two groups, then applied to the High Court to set aside the award on several grounds when Daiichi sought to enforce the order here.
By a two-to-one majority, the arbitration panel in 2016 found in favour of Daiichi and awarded the company more than 500 million Singapore dollars. Under the law, a foreign counsel can be admitted to argue cases in court in Singapore on an ad hoc basis if he is a QC or holds a rank of equal distinction from any other country, and has special qualifications or experience for the purpose of the case, according to the Singapore daily. The Court of Appeal, in judgment grounds released last week, explained Salve’s ad hoc admission, saying it “was satisfied that the need for the assistance of qualified Indian counsel had been amply demonstrated” in the circumstances of a case that had involved arbitration proceedings in Singapore. “Given our findings on the complexity of the Indian law issues, the court hearing the Singapore proceedings would definitely be more assisted by Indian counsel than by local counsel,” the Straits Times quoted the judgement grounds. The Indian firm also sought to have Salve admitted so that “he might address difficult and novel Indian law issues inherent in the Singapore proceedings”.
The High Court turned down the application last year and Salve, represented by a leading Singapore law firms Rajah & Tann and WongPartnership for the two groups of sellers from Ranbaxy, then appealed to the apex court. They succeeded in the Court of Appeal last year before Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Judith Prakash and Tay Yong Kwang. Daiichi was defended by a team of lawyers led by Suresh Divyanathan, while Jeyendran Jeyapal served as lead counsel for the Attorney-General. Christopher Daniel was lead counsel for the Law Society of Singapore. In written grounds last week explaining its decision, the Court of Appeal said it found it relevant for Salve to represent the parties in their challenge.
Noting that one group of sellers in the case were minors, it said their issue involved Indian public policy and accepted that Salve, having been Solicitor-General of India for three years, would have considerable experience in Indian public policy and broad experience in Indian law. It added that the Singapore case arose out of an international arbitration matter where the governing law was foreign law but the seat was Singapore. Stressing that not every such case governed by foreign law will see foreign counsel admitted, the top court clarified that “it is all a question of what the court needs to assist it in achieving a correct and just result in the case before it”.
“Given our findings on the complexity of the Indian law issues, the court hearing the Singapore proceedings would definitely be more assisted by Indian counsel than by local counsel,” The Straits Times had Judge Prakash writing on the court’s behalf.