Bar Council of India (BCI) Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra and the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) President Lalit Bhasin met with Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today to discuss the entry of foreign law firms.
The BCI Chairman confirmed that the Law Secretary, the Commerce Secretary, and Bar Association of India President-Elect Prashant Kumar were also present at the meeting.
At the meeting, Bhasin once again proposed to the Law Minister that SILF is not opposed to the entry of foreign law firms into India, provided it happens in a phased manner and subject to certain conditions.
SILF had earlier submitted to the Commerce Ministry a phased sequential approach for entry of foreign lawyers into India.
Bar Association of India (BAI) President Elect Prashant Kumar too made similar submissions.
The Law Minister has now asked SILF and BAI to submit a written proposal to the Law Ministry within two weeks.
Prashant Kumar said:“In principle we are not opposed to the liberalisation of the profession in India but framework for liberalisation should be empowering the domestic profession to put it at par with the foreign profession in terms of regulatory regime.
We want to have a phased liberalisation of profession like the approach adopted in Singapore. Foreign lawyers should be only allowed to advise on their own laws and there should also be restriction on employing Indian lawyers on them. In the second phase by the time Indian legal profession has the benefit of change in regulations here, the other steps in terms of allowing foreign law firms to employ Indian lawyers can be allowed.”
BCI Chairman Mishra, on the other hand, has asked for six weeks’ time to submit their proposal, as the BCI would have to consult with all the State Bar Councils and the Bar Associations across the country.
The Chairman has also requested the Law Minister to consider the Draft Rules for the “registration and regulation” of non-Indian lawyers in the country submitted by the BCI last year. Prasad replied that they are examining the Draft Rules.
The government now appears to be seriously looking at opening up of the market. Recently, it moved an application in the Supreme Court in BCI vs. AK Balaji & Ors for an early hearing of the matter.