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Centre planning limited India entry for foreign law firms: Unnamed gov't source

An unnamed “government official” told the Hindu Businessline that the commerce ministry was putting “finishing touches” to a proposal to liberalise transactional legal services and international arbitration.

“The idea was discussed in detail at the 12 November National Services Conclave,” said the official, with the Hindu Businessline reporting that the commerce ministry would discuss the plans with the law ministry, hold inter ministerial discussions and then begin work on a cabinet note.

The proposal, which the official said would be supported by finance minister Arun Jaitley, could lead to the phased entry of foreign law firms into India if implemented, though traditionally some members of bar councils and bar associations, as well as the law firm lobby group Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF), have opposed any reform.

Legally India had reported in October that BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi had said that she wanted to extend the protections for domestic lawyers, while national party spokesperson Nalin Kohli said that the issue had not yet come up for discussion in the new government.

The liberalisation debate in India has been raging for years and includes a writ petition against foreign law firms that is currently in service limbo in the Supreme Court.

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