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After 3-year snooze, UK law minister puts Indian legal liberalisation on agenda again

UK law minister Shailesh Vara, who is of Gujarati origins, has lobbied for the entry of foreign law firms to practise non-Indian transactional law here during his ongoing visit to India.

Vara said at a press conference in Ahmedabad, according to the PTI: “I had met Indian Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and chief of Bar Council of India during my visit to Delhi. Today I met Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court and state head of the Bar Council and talked to them about the need to open up the Indian legal system.”

“We have just initiated a debate with our Indian counterparts and we would like to discuss the issue, as it would be benefical to India,” he said on the topic of allowing foreign law firms to practise here, in light of Narendra Modi’s pro-foreign investment agenda. Because foreign companies here would like to use their international legal counsel, “the companies coming here will also be benefited” if foreign law firms were allowed to have offices in India.

“We are not asking the Indian government to allow our lawyers to argue in Indian courts or advice Indian clients about Indian Law, but our lawyers should be allowed to guide on international laws.”

The last time the UK government made a conscious push for Indian legal market liberalisation, was in 2011, when then-law minister Kenneth Clarke made a similar argument as Vara is making now.

While Clarke promised to make a “forceful” case for UK lawyers, the talks with the Congress-led government and the Bar Council of India (BCI) ended in Indian promises of “fast-tracking” a policy, with the BCI wanting to trial educational exchanges for six months.

Then-Law Society of England & Wales president John Wotton told Legally India after the talks that he was optimistic about the future of liberalisation, despite no agreement having been signed.

There have not been any reported high-level talks on the issue between the UK and India since then.

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