Britain has asked India to open up its legal sector to foreign lawyers and law firms to take liberalisation to its logical conclusion.
In an exclusive interview with HT, British Justice Minister Lord William Bach on Tuesday said: “India has liberalised its economy and is the envy of the world for what it has done in that field over the last 10-15 years...liberalising its legal services to some extent is part ...of that liberalised economy.”
Bach, who met Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily and Bar Council of India Chairman S N P Sinha on Monday, sought to dispel the ‘misgiving’ among Indian lawyers that foreign lawyers/law firms would adversely affect their interests.
“If there is any concern that it affects a large number of Indian lawyers... again that’s not correct. Ninety of Indian lawyers are litigation lawyers. They would not be affected in the slightest bit by any competition. No foreign lawyers should have right to take part in litigation,” he said, adding they should be allowed to advise their clients in commercial field.
About his meeting with Moily and Sinha, Bach said they were trying to build a consensus on the issue. Moily is understood to have told Bach that no immediate decision was possible in view of the reservations of Indian legal fraternity.
Bach said there was a misunderstanding that Indian lawyers were not allowed to practise in the Britain.
“We are absolutely open to Indian lawyers practising in the UK. Many do. If someone wants to practice Indian law in the UK, they can set up an office. They don't even need to refer to anybody to do so... because we have liberalised our legal services. What we are looking for is some reciprocity from the Indian lawyers.”
He, however, said he would not suggest that it should happen overnight.
Giving the example of Britain, Bach said initially there was some opposition to allowing American law firms to enter Britain in the 90s.
“The result is that it has assisted British Legal firms hugely so that now four are in the top 10 in the world list, increased the money that lawyers can charge. Made London a hub of the legal activity…Why shouldn't India benefit? Why shouldn't India become a hub for the rest of the area in which it is?” he asked.