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Survival / Issue 105

Legally India newsletter
Legally India newsletter

Mumbai, exhibiting that clichéd resilience much loved by commentators, continued with its business despite taking shocks and wild media rumours that would dent the spirits of many other cities. While the financial capital continues to live, the legal profession faced its own share of shocks: one new Anglo-Indian best friendship, a new law minister and the loss of its solicitor general and probably also the Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman.

Legally India can reveal that Ashurst, apparently not smarting from its previous India experiences but disenchanted with the idea of reopening an office in India anytime soon, has finally sealed that long-rumoured best friendship with Indian start-up India Law Partners: by all accounts a firm with good pedigree that re-emerged out of DSK Legal four months ago.

Judging by all recent developments in the friendship stakes, a relationship of the shape and size of Ashurst and ILP is perhaps the only kind that can happily flourish in the current climate.

Meanwhile the climate has changed radically within the administration.

What is clear is that the surprise new law minister Khursheed was a formidable practising lawyer and senior counsel who studied and lectured at Oxford University and is very well respected.

He has inherited a folder of ambitious blueprints from his predecessor Veerappa Moily, many of which looked great on paper but somehow never leapt off the page to implementation. Moily blames vested interested having made his life miserable while his critics blame Moily, who found himself seemingly demoted to the corporate affairs ministry.

Say what you will, Khursheed faces a very hard job and will have to find a better or different way of dealing with the purported vested interests than Moily did, if he can find the time and courage outside of working towards his party’s re-election.

The second change came with the dramatic resignation of Gopal Subramanium as solicitor general on Saturday, which was accepted yesterday.

Most important to the legal profession as a whole will be an indirect effect of that. A Gopal Subramanium who is not a solicitor general would also cease being one of two ex officio members of the Bar Council of India (BCI) and with that most probably lose eligibility for chairmanship.

Subramanium has easily been the most (some would say the only) reformist chairman of the BCI in living memory. What will happen to the future of his projects, including the All India Bar Exam (AIBE), reducing the number of law schools, creating a code of ethics and more is therefore not obvious.

That said, perhaps this clean slate is exactly what the Government has been looking for to push through its new legal super regulator and legal education body overseen by the Human Resources Ministry.

BCI members will be thinking carefully about Subramanium’s successor to defend the body’s relevance, the choice being between another ex officio member or someone from their own ranks.

Neither choice offers any guarantees of survival.

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