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Manu Singhvi weighs in for foreign firms: BCI meeting will determine fate of Chennai writ petition

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Senior advocate and parliamentarian Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the Dua Associates-led group of US firms in the Chennai writ petition against 31 foreign law firms today, asking the court to adjourn until after the Bar Council of India (BCI) would take a decisive stance this weekend.

The case has been adjourned to 5 October in anticipation of the BCI formulating regulatory guidelines at its Delhi meeting on 22 and 23 August.

One lawyer with knowledge of the litigation said: "I think they are going to see if [the BCI] are able to reach some sort of understanding with the government on the type of regulations required. The government has filed a counter and has taken a position that as of now there is no regulation of practice."

Singhvi was the only advocate making detailed submissions today, having been instructed alongside senior advocate A L Somayaji for nine US firms, which jointly engaged Dua Associates to manage the litigation, led by Chennai partner Senthil Kumar.

AZB & Partners partner Rajendra Barot said that he happened to be in Chennai on other business today and stopped by the court to observe the proceedings informally, although neither he nor AZB had been instructed by any party to the case. Barot said that Singhvi submitted that the writ was premature and that the issue should be decided by the BCI.

BCI chairman and solicitor general Gopal Subramanium told Legally India that this would most likely be discussed this Saturday (22 August) at the BCI's meeting in Delhi.

"We are going to give this priority because we have to take proper position in this matter," said Subramanium. "We must look at it more dispassionately – it has to be a fairly well thought-out position."

On Sunday (23 August) the BCI is also due to discuss Trilegal's query regarding the conversion to a limited liability partnership (LLP), as reported 6 August.

T K Bhaskar, who is a partner at Chennai-based firm HSB Partners, has been appointed by Herbert Smith and Norton Rose. Bhaskar confirmed his involvement to Legally India but declined to comment further.

Chennai sole proprietorship firm Anand Das Gupta & Sagar is understood to have been instructed for Australian respondent firms Freehills and Clayton Utz.

Six respondents including the legal process outsourcing (LPO) company Integreon, Linklaters, Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, Bird and Bird and Eversheds have hired Chennai advocate Rishikumar Suchindran although it is understood they have not formally engaged a law firm.

According to the Madras High Court causelist Eversheds has submitted a counter-affidavit in reply to the original petition through advocate Suchindran.

The matter was listed as item number 11 for condonation of delay before the first bench comprising of Chief Justice M Yusuf Eqbal and justice T S Sivagnanam.

Meanwhile, two miscellaneous petitions for "deletion of the name of petitioner" in the case and "to amend the cause title" were also filed today. The petitioner or advocates were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

As reported on 5 August on the Chennai case's last hearing, nine American firms - Wilmer Hale, Shearman & Sterling, Davis Polk & Wardwell, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Arnold & Porter, Covington & Burling and Mayer Brown - have instructed Dua Associates. Slaughter and May drafted in Kachwaha & Partners.

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