A Leading Legal Leader for Tax – Deepak Chopra: Balancing the Spirit of Law and Practical Business Implementation

Deepak Chopra
Deepak Chopra

Tax litigation is the Everest of legal specializations. It’s a realm of intricate regulations, ever-evolving case law, and high client stakes. To thrive in this challenging environment, a lawyer needs more than just a sharp legal mind. They require a unique blend of unwavering passion, the patience of a Sherpa, perseverance that outlasts a monsoon and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Beyond these core attributes, tax, accounting, and finance success hinges on a formidable trifecta of knowledge, experience, and expertise. An exceptional tax lawyer isn’t merely well-versed in legal principles; they possess a deep understanding of accounting practices and financial intricacies. This comprehensive grasp empowers them to understand the legalese and translate it into the realities of the business world, building a powerful case for their clients.

Brimming with all these and many more qualities, Deepak Chopra is one of the most successful lawyers and is a legal luminary in India’s tax litigation field. With over three decades of experience under his belt, he spearheads the Tax Litigation practice at AZB & Partners, one of India’s leading law firms, as a Senior Partner and Head of Tax Litigation.

Deepak’s expertise extends far and wide. He has previously served as legal counsel for the Big 4 accounting firms and held esteemed positions with the Income Tax Department, including Senior Standing Counsel for the High Court of Delhi. His illustrious career is marked by representing many multinational corporations across various sectors and achieving precedent-setting judgements that have shaped the landscape of tax law in India.

Recognised as a ‘Leading Individual’ for Tax by Chambers Asia-Pacific, Deepak is a name synonymous with excellence and unparalleled insight in the realm of tax litigation.

Deepak’s journey into the legal world began with a deep-seated passion for justice and a keen interest in the complexities of law, especially in the tax field. From an early age, he was drawn to the idea of using legal expertise in tax to positively impact society after seeing his father practice in this area of law. The opportunity to advocate for clients, navigate intricate legal frameworks and contribute to the development of the legal system motivated him to step into this field, and he has never stopped since. Deepak says, “I firmly believe that there has to be a balance between the spirit of law and its practical implementation to business and citizens, and that’s what I try to achieve in every matter I undertake. He practices and strongly advices his client to be in full compliance of the law at all times

Deepak’s League of Legal Stalwarts

However, behind every successful legal leader is his team. He says, “My team consists of three partners and two counsels, along with other highly experienced professionals.” Their recent accolades and indicative experience showcase their expertise in handling complex tax matters for multinational corporations, ensuring practical and solution-oriented advice aligned with the ever-evolving tax and related law landscape.

Harpreet Singh Ajmani (Partner)

An Advocate-On-Record in the Supreme Court of India and a qualified Company Secretary, Harpreet has around 15 years of experience in handling complex litigation and advisory work. Harpreet has been associated with Mr. Chopra ever since he was a Senior Standing Counsel and as such has had a front row seat in litigating from the departments perspective which makes him uniquely qualified in giving out of box yet practical solutions to his clients. He regularly represents multinational clients including major telecom giants across various fora, focusing on international taxation, transfer pricing and white-collar crimes as well as investigations under FEMA, Customs Acts , PMLA and the Black Money Act. One of his recent achievements relate to successful representation of a chinse telecommunication company regarding quashing of the provisional attachment order for over a few thousand crores. His other accolades include recognition as “Future Legal Leader for M&A Restructuring & Insolvency, Taxation, White-Collar Crime” by India Business Law Journal-2024. He has been consistently “Recommended” for “Tax” by Legal 500 Asia over the last many years.

Dr Abhimanyu Chopra (Partner)

Dr Abhimanyu has over 13 years of experience in diverse areas of laws including Civil and Criminal Disputes, Gaming, IPR with a special focus on Technology Media and Telecom and their interplay with other areas of law including tax. He regularly represents HNIs, leading banks and financial institutions, private equity funds and various multinational companies before all major fora in India. His notable cases have garnered extensive media coverage that highlights his expertise in handling complex legal disputes with their interplay in tax leading to significant legal precedents. He has recently been ranked as “Asia Super 50 TMT Lawyers 2024” as well as ‘India’s Top TMT/Fintech Lawyers’ and ‘India’s Top IP Lawyers’ for 2023 by Asian Legal Business besides being “Recommended” for “Dispute Resolution” by Legal 500 Asia . He holds a Ph.D. in Cyber and Constitutional Laws. He has also authored two books and has over four dozen articles to his credit in multiple and diverse areas of law.

Rohan Khare (Partner)

With a decade of experience, Rohan specializes in direct tax advisory and litigation specializing in transfer pricing and international tax issues. He represents fortune 500 companies as well as other multinational clients. Rohan has successfully handled complex litigation matters involving international tax issues for companies engaged in the business of freight logistics as well as media and broadcasting companies. His expertise also lies in handling complex transfer pricing matters. He regularly advises and represents clients in the Insurance sector, merchanting sectors and HNI’s on diverse tax issues, investigations before various judicial authorities pan India and has contributed to securing landmark judgments in tax matters.

Anmol Anand (Counsel)

Anmol Anand is an Advocate-on-Record before the Supreme Court of India (all India Rank 1, batch of 2023).  With an overall experience of over 10 years, his primary focus is representing multi-national companies before all judicial and quasi-judicial authorities pan-India on international tax and corporate tax issues. He regularly advises clients on transactional tax issues including mergers and acquisitions and has also contributed various articles in tax columns on latest developments of law.  He also advises and assists clients on issues arising under FEMA & PMLA and proceedings in connection therewith before the Enforcement Directorate.  Anmol holds a tax LLM (with focus on international tax) from the Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington D.C. (2015).  Prior to AZB & Partners, Anmol worked as a Senior Consultant with PDS Legal (Delhi) and International Tax Analyst with Bloomberg BNA (Virginia, USA).

Ankul Goyal (Counsel) 

Ankul Goyal has over ten years of experience and specializes in tax litigation and advisory. He has assisted various clients in resolving multiple international tax and transfer pricing disputes across India. He has been directly involved in representing clients before various Courts in India involving interpretational issues and has secured landmark decisions. His grasp of procedural aspect of tax has played pivotal role in resolving long standing disputes with authorities. He represents clients across diverse sectors like Edtech, Telecom, Aviation, Power generation, Consumer Electronics, Multinational Banks, NGOs, Foreign Portfolio Investors, BPO and UHNI’s in tax disputes and investigation, and regularly advises such FPIs, UHNI’s and Multinational Banks on matters pertaining to international tax, inbound and outbound investment structuring, mergers, acquisitions, and general corporate tax planning. Ankul has also been advising clients in disputes, enquiries, and investigations arising in relation to the FEMA aspects and the Black Money Act.

Manasvini Bajpai (Senior Associate)

With over 13 years of experience, Manasvini specializes in income tax litigation, representing clients focusing on corporate tax, international taxation and transfer pricing. Manasvini has extensive experience relating to tax issues in the telecommunication sector and her client profile includes various national and international telecom giants, multinational automobile manufactures, white good manufactures as well as HNI’s. Prior to being associated with Mr. Chopra, Manasvini was a judicial clerk with the High Court of Delhi and with a well-known Senior Advocate specializing in tax matters. She has dealt in diverse tax issues before various judicial authorities pan India.

Priya Tandon (Senior Associate) 

With expertise in tax litigation and advisory, Priya has been involved in advancing legal solutions for major industry players across sectors including E-commerce (cloud and technology giants), Liquor, Food and Beverage, Gaming, Electronic and Telecommunication among others.  Her work highlight includes her involvement in the Google tax dispute, which culminated in a path-breaking judgment as far as tax jurisprudence in India is concerned. Priya also undertakes matters steming out of FEMA and the Benami Act. She has over two dozen articles to her credit, all of which deal with contemporary and niche tax issues. Prior to being associated PwC.

Deepak says that his team’s practice is the most sought after in the industry given its robustness covering a wide range of services, including advisory, litigation, and representation in direct tax, corporate tax, international taxation, transfer pricing, PMLA, Customs Act, FEMA, Black Money Act, Benami Acts , treaty analysis , criminal, IPR, income tax prosecutions and other related laws, providing comprehensive solutions to clients across various industries.

Deepak’s leadership style is often recognized as an inspirational force behind his team and firm’s achievements. Shedding light on his leadership, team building, and client satisfaction approach, Deepak says, “Well, my team has told me that my leadership approach is rooted in empowerment, mentorship, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. I, however, believe in fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment where every team member feels valued and inspired to excel while being their person.”

By nurturing talent, fostering open communication, and prioritizing client satisfaction, they cultivate a culture of success that drives their firm forward. Deepak believes this is the case since most of his team members have stuck around for over a decade and a half.

The Guiding Philosophy

Deepak furthers that at AZB and Partners, he and his team’s guiding philosophy revolves around core principles: EnergyExpertise and Execution… Unmatched. “We believe in delivering unparalleled legal services by upholding the highest standards of professionalism and ethics. Our commitment to understanding our clients’ needs and providing tailored solutions has propelled our success and the guidance we get from our founders and managing partners.”

According to Deepak, one of their core strengths also stems from the fact that they don’t work in silos. They always offer a one-stop shop by providing comprehensive solutions rather than isolated pieces of advice.

Deepak sees his teams approach resembling guerrilla warfare in the business world being focus and direct while providing unconventional, streamlined and assertive yet practical solutions with the support of subject matter experts.

Fostering the Most Effective Legal Solutions

In a continually evolving legal landscape, Deepak says that to ensure their firm remains adaptable and ahead of industry trends, they prioritize continuous learning and innovation. “We invest in ongoing training programs for our team members, monitor regulatory changes closely, and actively participate in legal forums and discussions at all stages possible.” By embracing emerging technologies and fostering a culture of creativity and collaboration, they strive to anticipate their client’s future needs and deliver innovative solutions which are both sound and practical.

Also, the essence of the legal industry lies in bringing innovation and advancements to the niche. Thus, according to Deepak, striking a balance between legal limitations and client expectations requires a deep understanding of the law and their client’s business objectives and figuring out a working harmony. At AZB and Partners, they collaborate closely with their clients to develop comprehensive strategies that align with legal requirements while meeting their specific needs. “By leveraging our expertise and staying abreast of industry best practices, we ensure that our clients receive innovative and effective legal solutions,” he adds.

Committed to Sustainability

Sustainability and environmental responsibility are crucial aspects of the modern era. Deepak, too, believes that this is an area that is both personally and professionally not only a requirement but also the need of the hour, not just for a law firm but the world over. “At AZB, we are committed to promoting sustainability and environmental responsibility in all operations. It ranges from adopting eco-friendly practices in our office management to providing legal counsel on environmental compliance and sustainability initiatives. We integrate these principles into our legal and administrative processes,” he says. “Some of my team members have gone completely paperless. They do try constantly to make this dinosaur go paperless as well.” Meanwhile, the courts in their primary area of practice are completely paperless. He believes that in times to come, youngsters will be arguing from computers and tabs, which he has seen significantly done post the pandemic, which will also reduce the paper count.

The firm AZB & Partners has achieved remarkable success. One transformative project that exemplifies its commitment to legal excellence and innovation is Deepak and his team’s collaboration with a multinational corporation to navigate complex regulatory challenges in a high-stakes merger against which they were successful in also getting a favourable outcome from the Court. “Through meticulous planning and tireless advocacy with a practical business approach, we successfully facilitated the merger, both making it a commercial success and taxably neutral and sound, paving the way for our client’s continued success in the Indian market.”

Techno-Legal Advancements

According to Deepak, there is no doubt that technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing efficiency and delivering superior legal services. “Even within our team, we leverage cutting-edge technologies such as AI-powered analytics, cloud-based collaboration tools, and digital case management systems to optimize our services and stay ahead in a digital age. This came in handy during the pandemic.” He adds that most of his team members worked flawlessly during these times and successfully appeared for their clients. They were one of the very first matters taken up by the High Court and adjudicated upon. Deepak firmly believes that by embracing technology-driven solutions, they streamline their workflows, improve client communication, and deliver results with unmatched speed and accuracy. “It is very important given the dynamic nature of our practice and the fact that the teams are across different cities and sometimes continents while working with.

AZB & Partners faced its share of challenges as a leader in India’s legal sector. However, Deepak says, “In the face of challenges, our team’s ingenuity and resilience has always been our greatest assets. One instance that comes to mind is when we faced a sudden regulatory change that threatened to derail a major client project. Through collaborative problem-solving, creative thinking, and unwavering dedication, we successfully navigated the regulatory hurdles and achieved a favourable outcome for our client.”

Embracing Digital Innovations

Today, jurisprudence goes beyond the physical realm, transforming due to digital and virtual advancements that are necessities. In their firm, they recognize that modern jurisprudence isn’t confined to traditional boundaries. “With the rise of digital and virtual advancements, we’ve integrated these critical factors into our service offerings to better serve our clients.”

Deepak furthers that they’ve invested in cutting-edge technologies to streamline their processes, enhance efficiency, and improve client accessibility. From virtual consultations and digital document management to online dispute resolution mechanisms, they leverage digital tools to make legal services more convenient and efficient.

By embracing these advancements, they can provide their clients with innovative solutions that meet their needs in today’s rapidly evolving legal landscape. “Whether navigating complex regulatory frameworks or facilitating seamless transactions, we’re committed to staying ahead of the curve and delivering the highest quality legal services in both the physical and digital realms.”

Legally Gender Equal

Speaking about the current trends, Deepak says that more than a buzzword, ‘Gender Equality’ is a critical issue in the legal sector, and they are committed to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion at their firm. “We actively support initiatives to promote gender equality, including mentorship programs, leadership development opportunities, and policies that promote work-life balance. Our managing partner, for instance, fosters and imbibes this across all our offices. With the Women’s Reservation Bill on the horizon, we don’t anticipate a seismic shift in our organization since it is already very diverse, and we are committed to playing our part in advancing gender equality and empowering women in the legal profession,” says Deepak.

Future Impact

For aspiring individuals stepping into the legal realm, his counsel revolves around nurturing and strict disciplined dedication supported by a robust understanding of legal principles. He emphasizes a genuine commitment to clients and their endeavors, advocating for a relentless work ethic coupled with a thirst for ongoing growth. Encouraging the embrace of mentorship, pursuit of diverse experiences and adaptability to shifting landscapes, he underscores the importance of integrity, ethics and client-centricity as pillars of triumph in this vibrant and fulfilling domain.

Looking to the future, Deepak’s vision for his team is to continue their legacy of excellence and innovation while adapting to the evolving needs of their clients and the legal landscape. “We aspire to expand our presence not only nationally but internationally, deepen our expertise in key practice areas, and leverage technology to deliver even greater value to our clients.”

By staying true to our core values and embracing new opportunities, we will continue to significantly impact India’s legal landscape for years to come,” he concludes.

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