Government may allow the advent of foreign law firms in India

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The Central Government is considering a proposal, which if finalise could open up the legal sector in India to foreign law firms. The NarendraModi led government is in talks with the Bar Council of India. The move comes in light of the aggressive lobbying by the United Kingdom and the United States of America, which have been persistent in their demands for liberalisation of the Indian legal sector. However, even though they have been insistent upon their decision for opening the sector for the entry of foreign law firms, no definite deadline or a concrete course of action seemed possible.

Manan Kumar Mishra, Chairman of the Bar Council of India, has been lodged in unofficial discussions with the Law Minister D.V. SadanandaGowda, for formulating a clear plan of action. The Central Government feels that liberalizing the legal sector in order to allow the advent of foreign law firms would have potentially beneficial effects on the Indian legal fraternity. The Government believes that the foreign firms will be great source of fresh employment and business, as it will hire local talent for appearance in Courts. The Ministry for Commerce has been enthusiastic in seeking the implementation of the project as it will provide a fillip to ‘ease of doing business’ program in the country.

Further, foreign legal firms through setting up their offices in India will be of great value to the government department, as experts with international legal experience in arbitration, will be available for hire.

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Manan Kumar Mishra discussed the issue with the law minister and it is expected that the duo would meet next to initiate official deliberations on the relevant issues, among which the question of reciprocation also occupies a significant pedestal. The Advocates Act, which is the governing act for law practice in the country, provides that foreign lawyers or law firms can visit India on the basis of reciprocation for short periods so that they are able to advise their client, on issues pertaining foreign and international law cum legal issues. The advent of foreign law firms if allowed, would force the government to chalk out the contours of reciprocation formally. This could be significant for the economic environment of the country as well the legal sector.

Bar Council of India officials will hold formal deliberations with the Mr.Gowda and Law Secretary, Mr. P.K. Malhotra within the next few weeks, according to the BCI Chairperson.

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by Siddhartha Singh.