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Foreign firm entry proposal to be sent for NaMo sign-off in weeks, as proper talks begin with BCI, SILF

Are the foreigners invading soon?
Are the foreigners invading soon?

Commerce ministry Rajeev Kher held a press conference yesterday, saying that the government had begun talks about opening up the transactional legal services sector and India-based international arbitration, having drawn in law firm lobby group Society of Indian Law Firms (Silf) and the regulator Bar Council of India (BCI).

The PTI reported

“We have taken a note on legal services to Committee of Secretaries (CoS). The CoS will talk about it shortly,” Kher told reporters here.

The Hindu wrote that Kher said that the proposal could be approved by the COS by early July, after which it would get sent to the Union Cabinet headed by prime minister Narendra Modi.

“The Bar Council of India, which regulates the legal fraternity, and the Society of Indian Law Firms, which represents the interests of large law firms, have, in principle, agreed to the proposal.”

However, the Times of India added:

Kher's comments, however, indicate that the discussions are preliminary in nature.

“There is a need to bring in certain amount of competition in the sector. But the area of litigation will not be opened up," Kher said. He added that entities such as SILF were broadly converging on the idea that there was a need to open up the sector but in a calibrated fashion.

The Business Standard reported on reciprocity:

This also entails India clinching mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) with partner countries that will result in the latter recognising the qualification and licensing requirements.

“Unless MRAs are there, professional services do not take off. And, these MRAs get stuck on qualification issues,” Kher said.

According to the Hindu, the issue would also be discussed when for the first time in two years trade talks would resume, which would also include a number of other topics:

India and the European Union will resume negotiations in August on the proposed Free Trade Agreement. “Both sides have agreed that negotiators must meet … The EU chief negotiator will be available for negotiations sometime in August,” he said.

Society of Indian Law Firms (Silf) president Lalit Bhasin told PTI that Indian law firms should be allowed to have websites, brochure and advertise first: “We have suggested that the foreign law firms should be allowed in phased manners, which would take 5 to 7 years.”

Legally India reported with Mint in March that SILF dropped its long-standing unequivocal resistance to liberalisation after faced with the government’s strong stance to open up quickly, floating an extended five to seven year timeline in its draft roadmap for the process it submitted to the ministry.

Confirming Legally India’s March report, the Hinduwrote that “the government was keen on announcing the liberalised policy in January during the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama. However, the move was postponed after resistance from the domestic legal services industry”.

Read more here

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