Govt for talks on opening legal services to foreigners

The government has proposed to hold discussion with all stakeholders including the Bar Council of India on opening up legal services to foreigners.

The move has come even as a batch of petitions on the issue is pending before the Supreme Court. The talk would centre around the issue if legal services sector could be opened up in a calibrated manner. “We have taken a note on legal services to Committee of Secretaries (CoS).

The CoS will talk about it shortly,” Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher said.

He added that the discussions are also going on with the Society for Indian Law Firms (SILF), a representative body of corporate law firms. They broadly converged on the idea that there is a need to open up the sector in a calibrated manner. “There is a need to bring in certain amount of competition in the sector. But the area of litigation will not be opened up,” the Secretary said.

Notably, the BCI has been opposed to the idea. Responding to a batch of petitions, it had in April maintained before the SC foreign lawyers could not even be allowed to participate in seminar and conferences.

“The practice of law, irrespective of its manner, form or time period involved, is contrary to the provisions as well as the principles of the Advocates Act and the Bar Council of India Rules,” the BCI had said. The Centre, however, is yet to file its reponse in the pending matter.

An industry expert said the issue to open areas such as advisory, consultation and drafting of agreements for foreigners in domestic legal services sector is under discussion but these are sensitive matters and may take a long time to implement.

The UK and the US have been pushing India to open up the sector to foreign firms.

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