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In Conversation With Dr. Surat Singh

Ranjani Saigal

Dr. Surat Singh is Harvard and Oxford educated top lawyer of India. He practices at Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court. He is also an international lawyer. He was educated at Delhi (India), Oxford (England) and Harvard (America). With his three masters' degrees in law from Delhi, Oxford and Harvard and his Doctor of Laws (S.J.D) from Harvard, he is arguably the highest educated lawyer of India.  After his seven years stint at Oxford and Harvard, Dr. Surat Singh returned to India and started his law career in 1992 with the then Attorney General of India, G. Ramaswamy. 

The journey of this illustrious lawyer began in an illiterate family in Haryana. “My parents were wonderful but were not educated.  I was a very good student in school but did not have mentorship or direction. One day an uncle, who was a lawyer and was in politics came to town. I saw the respect he received and decided to become a lawyer like him. I came to Delhi to study law. There I learned about Harvard and decided I wanted to study at Harvard. I applied and received admission but had no money.  Nani Palkiwala, the famous lawyer visited our university and gave a talk that was inspiring and told us that nothing should ever stop us from achieving our dreams. I met him after the talk and shook hands with him. Later I sent him a note about my admission to Harvard and mentioned my issue with finance.  To my surprise I got a response to my letter and he referred me to the JRD Tata trust and recommended that they fund my trip. The rest is history”. He later went on to study at Oxford.  Finally he returned to India and decided to pursue a career in law.   

Dr. Surat Singh's list of professional achievements is long. To date, Dr. Surat Singh has successfully handled complex legal cases involving land & real estate properties valuing more than INR 250,000 crores (US$ 50 billion) for State and Federal Government, top corporate houses and Government corporations. 

On another plane, Surat works passionately along with his other compatriot top Indian lawyers to improve the education, training and practice of law in the country. He has lectured extensively in Indian and international law-school campuses. Surat’s opinions, analyses and features regularly publish in the most prestigious of newspapers and magazines and he is a much sought-after panelist on TV channels on debates on high-value national and international issues.  

In his Haryanvi style Singh, a great storyteller, he shared some interesting episodes from his times at Harvard. “I was a contemporary of Barack Obama. I was amazed at how much effort Obama put to reach out to foreign students like myself.” Later he was involved in the Campaign to elect Obama and was invited to the inauguration. 

Dr. Singh clearly feels that while the challenges in India are many, the opportunities are equally high and he has a great sense of optimism for India.  He is also a Vedic scholar. As he takes on cases, he is particular about adhering to Dharma.  “Right after I returned to India I was offered a huge bribe on a early case to drop the case.  Rejecting the bribe was a difficult decision, as it was a large sum of money. However it was the best decision I made since it set the path for my career along the course of Dharma” says Singh. 

Talking to him one feels inspired to see how a man from an illiterate family can plot a path to success.  We hope the youth in India learn from this experience and let nothing stop them as they pursue a path to success. 

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