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SC sets 20 November to hear 5+ year-old foreign law firms appeal after government pressure

Government keen to accelerate this age-old dispute that’s gone exactly nowhere.

SC website lists tentative next date in Balaji petition for 20 November
SC website lists tentative next date in Balaji petition for 20 November

The Bar Council of India (BCI) appeal against the AK Balaji judgment of the Madras high court against 31 foreign law firms has been tentatively scheduled to finally happen on 20 November 2017, with the Supreme Court registry giving the green light in a 3 October order (see below), noting that all defects in service had now been cured.

The government has told the Supreme Court that finalising the liberalisation issue at the “earliest possible” time was of the “utmost importance”, requesting an early hearing in the Supreme Court case which has seen very little action (other than senior counsel Harish Salve intervening for a new body of Indian lawyers on behalf of foreign law firms) since the BCI had appealed in 2012 against the Madras high court’s decision.

The Madras high court had in February 2012 basically preserved the status quo, allowing foreign firms to fly-in-fly-out to advise their clients, while also raising many loopholes in the Advocates Act, requesting the government to fix the situation.

And indeed, the Narendra Modi-led government has been pushing hard for liberalisation, having whittled down the resistance of the BCI and liberalisation opponents Society of Indian Law Firms (Silf) to a large extent in a long string of meetings with stakeholders (Silf most recently having requested a ban on the hiring of Indian lawyers).

Nevertheless, the BCI has long insisted that the government (and the BCI itself) must not act because the Balaji case remained pending in the apex court.

It’s likely that the government will therefore insist on the Supreme Court dismissing the appeal quickly so it can get on with the business of law making uninterrupted.

Supreme Court's registry gives green light for Balaji hearings
Supreme Court's registry gives green light for Balaji hearings

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