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JSA first law firm to open in Gujarat GIFT SEZ after possible foreign firm rule change

JSA launches in GIFT
JSA launches in GIFT

J Sagar Associates (JSA) has opened an office in the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) special economic zone (SEZ), after SEZ rules had recently seen a liberalisation that allows legal services providers to operate from there.

JSA’s 350-square foot office there will be headed up by Mumbai corporate partner Nitin Potdar, who has been closely working on GIFT-related work, such as “drafting crucial amendments to the Companies Act 2013 for ease of doing business in GIFT IFSC”, according to a statement of the firm.

JSA’s GIFT office currently has one associate, with Potdar spending a few days “almost every week” there - foreseeably on Fridays and Saturdays - and looking to hire two other associates soon, he said.

The firm also has an existing Ahmedabad office of one partner and around five to six associates.

Potdar said that GIFT work would also include several other JSA partners as well as his existing team in Mumbai - “that's the beauty of JSA, it's team work”, he quipped.

It takes around 25 minutes to get to the GIFT from Ahmedabad, said Potdar. When asked whether it looked basically like Mumbai's Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), he said “absolutely, but far better than BKC”.

Potdar commented in a press release: “JSA is proud to be part of the visionary project of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi that would truly place India on the global map.”

Joint managing partners Dina Wadia and Shivpriya Nanda commented in the release: “The firm is truly excited at the prospect of our growing Western India presence augmenting JSA's existing Western India presence which includes offices in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.”

Senior partner Amit Kapur, meanwhile, said: “GIFT city office underpins the firm's strategy of establishing presence in emerging growth markets.”

In the press release, GIFT MD and Group CEO Ajay Pandey said: “We welcome J Sagar Associates to GIFT IFSC family. With the increase in number of businesses in GIFT IFSC, the opening of law firm office will facilitate the entry of domestic and international institutions in GIFT.”

Gift to foreign law firms?

In January of this year, the government notified a rule change that removed the restriction on legal services firms from operating from SEZs, which was suspected a precursor to the government allowing foreign law firms to enter via that route.

The government has repeatedly insisted that SEZs would be the way to go in liberalising the market, although it is uncertain whether appetite exists amongst foreign firms.

While SEZs potentially enjoy exemption from certain national laws and regulation, Potdar when asked whether foreign law firms could set up shop in GIFT tomorrow, said that the rules were not clear right now.

He said that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Bar Council of India (BCI) have still not allowed foreign firms to operate in India, and the GIFT would need to explicitly exempt certain laws from applying within itself.

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has recently expanded its presence in the GIFT.

JSA cuts GIFT office ribbon (Potdar second from left)
JSA cuts GIFT office ribbon (Potdar second from left)
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