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Foreign firms in SEZs: As expected, Silf resolves ‘unanimously’ to oppose government notification

The Society of Indian Law Firms (Silf) reportedly passed a resolution yesterday opposing the government’s notification that might have been intended to pave the way for foreign law firms to operate in special economic zones (SEZs).

Silf president Lalit Bhasin told Bar & Bench that the government’s move amounted to a “backdoor entry” for foreign law firms to set up in India, and that Silf members had unanimously resolved to oppose it, with a committee due to draft a representation to the government.

We have reached out to Silf members for comment, and have asked Bhasin whether Silf had come to a consensus on his five questions that he had emailed to Silf members last month, as we had reported at the time:

a) Whether such a notification can be issued by the Department of Commerce?

b) Whether this has the approval of the Bar Council of India which is the regulatory body of the legal profession?

c) Whether this could be done without amendment of the Advocates Act which only permits Indian citizens to practice any law in the territory of India?

d) Who will monitor the activities of such foreign law firms?

e) What prevents these foreign law firms from practising throughout India from SEZ?

Senior Silf member and Nishith Desai Associates (NDA) managing partner Nishith Desai had asked in a response whether the Advocates Act and Arbitration Act may have to be amended, which Bhasin had responded to by saying that he did not want “evasive answers” but only yes or no responses on whether a member was against the rule change or not.

Click here to read our analysis of the SEZ rules and possible ways forward.

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