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Is new Law Minister pro-liberalisation?

The new Minister of Law and Justice Veerappa Moily made his first statements about legal sector liberalisation last Friday (5 June), suggesting that he could continue the pro-liberalisation course followed by his predecessor HR Bhardwaj.

In a comment, which was re-reported in today's Economic Times, Moily said: "We will bring about reforms in the legal sector only by arriving at a national consensus and taking the entire legal fraternity into confidence.

"We’ll set up meetings with the Bar Council of India and state bar associations to come to a conclusion on whether or not foreign law firms should be allowed to form partnerships with the Indian legal union. Let us discuss about it."

The apparent tone of his comments, which the Economic Times wrote were made "on the sidelines of an event held in New Delhi recently", were unexpectedly pro-liberalisation after his original appointment as law minister proved a wild card for most lawyers.

Moily said: "I hope they will (agree to) because these days the mind-set of the people is for reforms. I am sure the legal fraternity will be flexible on the issue. It’s just an outward projection of opposition that they have held."

On Friday, a report from the Press Trust of India and apparently of the same occasion, also quoted Moily as saying more cautiously: "Whatever reforms take place, including entry of foreign legal firms into the country, I would not like to say anything now and attract confrontation and conflict."

The Economic Times report also added that Moily had opined on the legislative changes required to allow foreign firms to practice in India. "There will be consequential amendment in the Indian Advocates Act, 1961 once we reach an agreement," the Indian daily wrote Moily had said.

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