In what may be an indication of global forums warming up to Indian law firms, Japan has communicated to the Central Government its intention of permitting Indian lawyers and law firms to practice Indian laws in its territory.
The letter received by the Union Law Ministry, has been relayed to the Bar Council of India, which is poised to consider the proposal and render its recommendations on the extent to which the offer can be accepted or reciprocated on India’s behalf.
Law Minister, Mr. D.V. SadanandaGowda confirming the receipt of letter noted that the opening of India’s legal sector to challenges and possibilities overseas is a sign of good things to come. However, he was circumspect in stating that the proposal can only be accepted if it adds to the “face value” of Indian lawyers on the global forum and also if the proposal facilitates a mutual exchange of lawyers and law firms. Manan Kumar Mishra, the current BCI chairperson observed that it has received the proposal and is currently studying it.
Further, Mr. Mishra and Mr.Gowda are also lodged in talks about the liberalizing the Indian sector paving the entry of foreign law firms in India.Mr. Mishra pointed out that the Law minister has given directions to the BCI to frame rules on the ‘factum of reciprocity’ as per the Advocates Act. Such rules would entail examining the extent of reciprocation and mutual exchange in opening up the legal sector to foreign firms and similar action by other countries for Indian lawyers and law firms.
The Bar Council of India has been involved in deliberations with the American Bar and Law Society of England. Also, a memorandum has been signed with Australia on the liberalisation of the legal sector.
The BCI Chairperson observed that the condition of lawyers as well a holistic perspective of the legal sector of each country is to be examined carefully before a rule of reciprocity can be framed properly. As such, if there are any regulatory or non-regulatory obstacles against Indian lawyers or law firms, the same can be laid against foreign lawyers or law firms on a reciprocal basis. For now, the BCI has recommended that Indian legal sector should be opened up to foreign law firms in a “phased manner”.
While the Ministry of Commerce is eager to promote ‘Make in India’ policy propagated by the Modi Government, the Bar Council of India has appealed before the Supreme Court against a judgment of Madras High Court which had granted several privileges and concessions to foreign lawyers like rendering advice to Indian clients on a “fly-in and fly-out” basis. Manan Kumar Mishra has pointed out that BCI will not alter its stand in the Supreme Court unless there is a change in the status quo.
by Siddhartha Singh.