The Bar Council of India (BCI), which walked out on the law ministry-led deliberations on foreign law firms entering the country, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and complained about “some bureaucrats” overlooking existing laws to fast track the process.
Requesting the PM to intervene in the matter, BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra wrote to Modi and Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad last month and listed concerns of lawyers from across India.
Though the letter did not name any bureaucrat, it did make accusations of some “making (an) attempt to usurp the functions of the BCI”.
“We are yet to hear from the PM’s office. The BCI will meet on the issue and chart the next course of action,” Mishra said.
“The bureaucrats (in the law and commerce ministries) are trying to make an attempt to bring in foreign law firms through the back door,” he added.
The legal profession is one of the few areas which has not yet been liberalised due to a strong opposition from the fraternity. Opening up the sector to foreign players is one of the key reforms that the Modi government wants to usher in, sources in the law ministry said.
The Advocates’ Act of 1961 is up for a revamp, with the Law Commission of India currently examining it on directions from the Supreme Court (SC). The act empowers the bar to regulate advocates.
The BCI,however, contends that the matter is sub judice in the SC and can only be settled after the court’s verdict. The body had initially agreed to frame rules for entry of foreign law firms and forwarded a draft to the law minister on May 31. The draft was circulated among stakeholders for their suggestions.
After a meeting of the state bar councils in August, the BCI said it was withdrawing the draft due to opposition from lawyers across the country. It then pulled out of a meeting convened by the law ministry on September 29, derailing the entire process and delaying the reform.