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Chennai petition v foreign firms stalled further, next hearing in 2 months

The Chennai writ petition against 31 foreign law firms has yet again been adjourned for two months following the Government’s and Bar Council of India’s (BCI) pleas for enabling them time to formulate regulatory guidelines in the BCI’s bid to invite consultation from all stakeholders.

The matter had earlier been adjourned to today when it was heard last on 19 August after the BCI sought time to take a decisive stance on the issue. Today’s hearing has paved the way to include other concerned in the process of discussions and deliberations about the future of foreign law firms in India.

A lawyer closely connected with the case told Legally India: “In today’s proceedings both the government of India and the BCI informed the court that consultations were ongoing regarding the entry of foreign law firms and lawyers.”

“They have requested for two months' time,” he said.

He further added that the counsel for the petitioner senior advocate Sunderasaran, on the other hand, opposed their contention and pressed for the grant of an interim order for injunction even during such consultations in reiterating that practice of law by foreign firms under the prevailing law was in violation of rules.

“The only significant development today was that the BCI mentioned that they’re going to have consultation with all stake holders, earlier there were talks of consultation between the BCI and the Government, now they are talking of consultation involving all the concerned parties.”

The court also decided to adjudicate the issue on merits while posting 24 November as the next date of hearing in the case.

Meanwhile, it is understood that most of the respondents have filed their written submissions and the lone respondent in the legal process outsourcing (LPO) sector Integreon has moved an application to amend the cause title urging for deletion of its name from the petition.

Unlike last time, senior advocate and parliamentarian Abhishek Manu Singhvi did not appear today for the Dua Associates-led group of US law firms. Today their other senior counsel A L Somaiyaji was present during the proceedings.

The petitioners' advocate Ezhilarasan noted that with the pendency of the matter for the last six months, they will be aiming for the final disposal of the petition in their favour in the months to come.

Last week the law ministry issued a press release stating that the BCI still opposed the entry of foreign law firms but would put the issue under “rational scrutiny”.

Photo by Robbert van der Steeg

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