Mukul Kumar Shrawat, member (judicial,) National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai, was born in Kanth, a town of Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district in 1955. His family belongs to Meerut and he pursued his graduation and a law degree from Meerut College. In 1979, he married Mamta Shrawat of Bulandshahr. They have two children, a son Gaurav, who is a lawyer, and daughter Gaurangi, who is a dermatologist.
Shrawat started his career as a taxation lawyer in 1978 from Meerut and Delhi, handling appellate work before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Benches. In 2000, Shrawat joined the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal as Judicial Member and got his first posting in Mumbai. Thereafter he was transferred to the Pune Bench and later on to the Ahmedabad Bench in 2010. He joined the Nagpur Bench in 2015.
Since the inception of the National Company Law Tribunal in June 2016 he took over as Judicial Member of the NCLT’s Mumbai bench. The NCLT was constituted by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs under Section 408 of the Companies Act, 2013. It has 11 benches in New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Allahabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Guwahati, Chandigarh, Allahabad, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. It has 20 members across the country. Shrawat spoke to SWATI SHARMA on various issues. Excerpts of the interview:
Q. Tell us about your school education and early life.
A. My father Shri Gajraj Singh Shrawat was in the Provincial Education Services and worked as principal of government schools. He had a transferable job so I studied in different schools in Lansdowne, Bijnor , Hastinapur, Bulandshahr, etc .My two siblings, an elder sister and a younger brother, and I were raised under my father’s strict discipline. He stressed on daily games, regular homework and eating fruits daily.
Q. Your family has a background of people in the Defence services with your brother in the Navy and cousins serving in the Army in important posts. Then what inspired you to take up law as a career?
A. It is true that my brother and cousins have served in the Indian defence forces. My younger brother Rahul Shrawat retired as a Rear Admiral from the Indian Navy and cousins Lt Gen Deependra Hooda (known for surgical strikes) and Maj Gen Rajeev Sirohi were in the Army. But I opted for law as a career to look after the civil litigation my family was facing at that time although I had not much of a background in this profession. Also, my father wanted me to stay with him. Both my parents stayed with me throughout their lives.
Q. How was the start of your professional career as a taxation lawyer?
A. One of our neighbours, an IRS officer, said I had the temperament for taxation and should take it up instead of civil court practice, so I pursued my career as a tax lawyer.
I started working under advocates K Gopal and H G Malik, both big names in and around Meerut. A few years after that, I started my own practice and received encouraging response by getting a lot of work. I started going to Delhi for appellate work to attend Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Benches. In 2000, the Chairman of the Tribunal suggested I apply for membership. I applied and was shortlisted. I faced an interview panel headed by Justice SC Baruch and was selected as judicial member, getting my first posting in Mumbai.
In 2016 when NCLT came into existence I underwent the entire process of selection again. The selection board consisted of two Supreme Judges and two Secretaries of Government of India.
Q. Why, according to you, is the NCLT constituted by the Corporate Affairs Ministry?
A. Earlier legal proceedings were scattered before several authorities. One was Company Law Board under the Companies Act. Mergers, acquisitions and winding up came under the jurisdiction of a high court only. For loan defaulters there was the Debt Recovery Tribunal. To streamline all this, a consolidated Act came into being and NCLT was formed in 2016. Also, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is now enacted for speedy resolution or recovery from defaulters of non-performing assets (NPA).
Q: Recently huge scams have been reported in public sector banks. Are these coming to the NCLT?
A: I would not call them scams. They are NPAs and are coming to us in Mumbai and other NCLT Benches. There are a huge number of NPA defaulters. There are in fact hundreds and hundreds of NPAs having debts in crores. Big loans are availed from the banks and then they become defaulters. The banks would come to us for the recovery and file a petition. It is a serious situation as also a big challenge for the members of NCLT benches. Litigation is high in number and complicated in nature.
Q: Is the procedure for recovery a lengthy one?
A: Indeed we the members have simplified the procedure. Rather we have tried to make complex situations simpler. It has a provision of settlement so that debt repayment is easy. Also the creditors have a better control on the affairs of the debtors with the assistance of insolvency professionals. Side by side various investors are approaching to participate in restructuring resolution. In the years to come, big players, not only from India but from abroad, may show interest so that the business of stressed companies is revived.
Q: What success mantra would you like to share with the people of your hometown?
A: Meerut is just 70 km from Delhi where people are very aware professionally. This 70 km is not a big barrier for professionals of Meerut to cross for success. Ours is a renowned bar. I am the first who was elevated as a judicial member and my earnest desire is that many more lawyers must join the service of a tribunal to serve the country.
Law provides a promising career with ample opportunities to the youth which they should explore and avail of. It is also a respectable profession but demands strict discipline.