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Minds open to 'big ideas'; Law min Moily softens stance on foreign law firms?

Veerappa Moily
Veerappa Moily

The Union law minister Veerapa Moily has publicly said for the first time that the entry of foreign law firms was more of a "transitional problem" rather than "perennial" and that minds should not be shut to "big ideas", while reasserting the need for "proper capacity building".

The law minister (pictured left) said that he echoed the government's opinion while responding to questions on whether foreign law firms should be allowed to operate in India during a press conference in New Delhi on 13 June, according to several news reports.

"We should not shut our minds to the big ideas," Moily reportedly said on the entry of foreign firms, adding: "It is a transitional problem, I don't say this is a perennial problem."

While stating that the government did not favour the entry of foreign law firms, he said that "at the same time, government is discussing it".

However, Moily added that the fears of Indian lawyers would first be taken into consideration before arriving at any decision and refused to "value judge" when asked if the bar councils were justified in opposing foreign firms. "Their fears and apprehensions need to be addressed and it is the duty of the government to address that."

Describing it as a "pending issue", he noted that the Bombay High Court has given a judgement and now the matter has come before the Madras High Court.

Elaborating on a question related to the Chennai writ petition against 30 foreign law firms and a legal process outsourcing (LPO) company, he said that "the government cannot have a view on this" as the issue was sub-judice in Madras High Court.

"It is being agitated… it will come up again immediately after the (court) vacation," Moily said.

He noted that the apprehensions of the Indian lawyers were not unique and that the United Kingdom and China had faced similar problems in the past when foreign law firms wanted entry but that the concerns were overcome later.

Restating his previous position on the issue, he also added that the Government would work for the capacity building of lawyers in order to put them on par with lawyers abroad. He said that the entry of foreign law firm cannot be a "one-way traffic". "It has a lot of facets, lot of components. We need to address all of them together. We can't open the door and invite them."

While Moily has in the past often talked about foreign law firms at press conferences claiming that the government would take a decision soon after consulting all stakeholders, this appears to be the first time that Moily has publicly adopted a marginally softer stance on the issue by suggesting minds should not be shut to "big ideas".

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