NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s plan to ensure ease of doing business in India and increasing more arbitration facilities has hit a roadblock as the Bar Council of India (BCI), which had earlier agreed to allow the entry of foreign lawyers and law firms in India, has now withdrawn its own draft rules.
In an unexpected move, the BCI, in its meeting held last month with the officials of Ministry of Law and Justice, announced it would no longer support the proposal as it is opposing the involvement of a lot of private organisations in the discussion. The ministries of Law and Justice and Commerce had conducted several rounds of discussions with all stakeholders involved in the process of the entry of foreign lawyers, including several private organisations such as International Council for Commercial Arbitration.
The BCI, in its letter to the Law Secretary, said: “It is apparent that a handful of bureaucrats in the Ministry of Law and Justice are trying to usurp the powers and functions of the BCI granted through the statute and are trying to bring separate legislation for regulating foreign law firms and lawyers without understanding the nuances and intricacies and the legalities involved.”
The letter reads: “The BCI and state bar councils and the legal fraternity cannot and shall not accept such regulatory bodies at any cost and this will have strong and immense far-reaching repercussions and reactions from the lawyers.”
With the BCI’s strong objections, law firms that were clamouring to enter India for decades have again been put on hold. This will also hit consumers who operate in international business and cross-country services.
“International trade and commerce are advancing at a great pace and a country that is not able to keep abreast with these global phenomenon is running a grave risk of being left out of the world market. The legal profession in India has to rise to the occasion to meet international challenges posed by the globalisation of business,” reads the draft rule, which has been withdrawn now.
BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra has also sought an appointment with the Prime Minister, Law Minister and Finance Minister over the issue.