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Moily reveals thoughts: Future of foreign firms and smaller BCI

Law Minister-Veerappa Moily
Law Minister-Veerappa Moily

Law minister Veerappa Moily admitted that the entry of foreign firms could be good for business if local lawyers were allowed to build capacity before an “onslaught from the rest of the world” and that he had seen 80 national law school graduates prosper at London firms, in a revealing interview with the Mint paper today, adding that the door was still open to transfer the Chennai writ petition against foreign firms to the Supreme Court.

Arguing that legal education should be taken away from the BCI, he denied that the Bar Council of India (BCI) should feel threatened by the Legal Practitioner’s Bill.

On the entry of foreign firms Moily (pictured) told Mint: “The matter is before the Madras high court. I think it is also before the MP (Madhya Pradesh) high court. Bombay high court has already given some judgement...maybe there are some (more) high courts also… I think maybe we need to…wait for the judgement. I think some of them are contemplating some cases to be filed before the Supreme Court. So, all these cases can be transferred to the Supreme Court so that a view can be taken ultimately.”

Moily acknowledged that a consultation was taking place between himself and the BCI and its chairman and solicitor general Gopal Subramanium and that the law ministry would “definitely” file a counter affidavit after the consultation.

However, the BCI had not yet taken a view on liberalisation, which was the difficulty, said Moily:

“These days a lot of business is involved there. To me there is a big history before that, you know. When the US lawyers wanted to come to the UK, there was a similar resistance. They said, ‘No, our business will go and we’ll disappear,’ and all sorts of things. Now you must see how many, more than 20-25 law firms (have come to the UK). This kind of a competition, then ultimately lot of business, corporate business we have. China—they were resisting this for some time. Ultimately today, China, they think they have to go to other countries and make business.

“Tomorrow, our country should not be driven to the back seat in this. Some aggressive approach from our lawyers also should be done. Yes, there should be a capacity building within our lawyers. They should be ready…because ultimately it is not only litigation today. There’s a lot of area of the non-litigation side. We require a lot of corporate lawyers. I think we should not hesitate to…I don’t say now, because unless we have a proper discussion (with BCI), I don’t want to give a value judgement on that.”

Mint then asked Moily whether he would say it was “a good thing to allow foreign law firms in”. Moily responded:

“No, no, no. Don’t come to that conclusion. In that case I will be inviting big agitation tomorrow. Before we go in for that, there should be some proper capacity building. Otherwise our lawyers cannot have the onslaught from the rest of the world. So we need to build because certain things need to be done and that is why Bar Council and the government, we are thinking of that. Tomorrow, I want my lawyers to be global players. For example, I visited London sometime back—80 lawyers from the national law school universities were there, prospering like anything, working in various companies. Good to see a sight like that. You know, our lawyers also should not be impoverished lawyers. Tomorrow they should be dynamic, resourceful to earn money. I pioneered the National Law School University (in Bangalore). Now we have 14 law school universities, but that alone is not enough. I am establishing another 14 law school universities.”

In respect of the Legal Services Board, the proposed super-regulator above the BCI, Moily said that he would soon have discussions with the BCI and and stakeholders and denied that the BCI’s role would be “taken away”.

“You see this Bill, which I have contemplated, is only a regulator, which you have in the UK (or) any other country. Because there should be a regulator, you know. This cannot be...regulator and also the governance cannot go together. Regulator should be over-arching regulator, which will govern the whole thing. That’s what we are contemplating even on the MCI (Medical Council of India). MCI will be there, but at the same time, over and above that, there will be a regulator.”

However, Moily said that the proposed National Commission for Higher Legal Education and Research would take over legal education out of the BCI’s ambit completely, which he accepted would make people at the BCI unhappy. “We want to demarcate the profession. They (BCI) will have to look after the profession. As far as the legal education is concerned, it has to be taken over by this body… Any change is painful. It will cause some pain. Just like giving birth to a new baby. So, naturally, and we’ll sort it out with [the BCI]. We are talking to them.”

Moily said that a lot needed to be done on legal education and “we have a big agenda”.

He also explained that while the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) now had a a special court, new special and fast-track courts would now need to be established in a “big way”.

Click here for the full unedited Mint interview with Moily.

And watch Mint’s full video interview with Moily here.

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