India and the United Kingdom on Monday agreed to allow the regulators for legal profession of both the sides to work out a mutually acceptable mechanism for the entry of each other’s law firms into the two countries.
In a meeting between law minister Salman Khurshid and his UK counterpart, Kenneth Clarke, in the capital, it was agreed to let the Bar Council of India and the Law Society of England and Wales and also its Bar Council to do the spadework on the complex issue.
UK has been pressing for the opening up of the legal sector in India, but the BCI so far has been opposed to allowing the entry of foreign law firms, mainly under pressure from the domestic firms."There are some perceptions that are to be addressed more than the issues," Khurshid said after the meeting.
The Bombay High Court had in December 2009 debarred the foreign law firms from opening offices in India. Another case challenging the entry of these firms is pending before the Madras High Court.
Khurshid’s predecessors—HR Bhardwaj and M Veerappa Moily—had both favoured the entry of UK law firms, but had failed to get the BCI on board on the issue.
In his first public comments on the controversial issue, since he took over as the law minister in July, Khurshid also favoured the idea of his predecessors, but put the ball in the court of the BCI, the legal profession’s regulator.
BCI chairman Ashok Parija, who was present in the meeting, demanded that the UK government allow the entry of Indian law firms there, in case it wanted its firms to do business in India.
“We understand the UK firms want to open offices in India for non-litigation purposes-- mainly drafting of business contracts, deeds, agreements and other similar works... We will negotiate with our UK counterparts to work out a principle of reciprocity, which will benefit both sides,” Parija said.