Amid a debate on whether foreign law firms should be allowed entry, government has said minds should not be shut to “big ideas” and asserted that fears of Indian lawyers would be addressed before taking a decision.
Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said in an interview that he was confident that Indian lawyers would be able to match the competence of their counterparts and that the government would work for their capacity-building.
“The government cannot have a view on this” as the issue is sub-judice in Madras High Court, Mr. Moily said.
At the same time, he said, “We should not shut our minds to the big ideas.”
He was responding when asked whether foreign law firms should be allowed to operate in India.
A number of countries, including the United States and Britain, are pressing India to allow their law firms to operate in this country.
However, the Indian legal fraternity led by the Bar Council of India is opposed to this, fearing that they would not be able to compete with their foreign counterparts.
Recognising these concerns, Mr. Moily said the fears would be addressed before a decision is taken.
“Their fears and apprehensions need to be addressed and it is the duty of the government to address that,” he said.
He noted that the United Kingdom and China had faced similar problems in the past when foreign law firms wanted entry but these were overcome later.
Observing that entry of foreign law firms cannot be a “one—way traffic”, the Law Minister said, “It has a lot of facets, lot of components. We need to address all of them together. We can’t open the door and invite them.”
Mr. Moily said there needs to be “proper capacity building” of Indian lawyers to enable them to match their counterparts.
He said he had confidence in the potential of Indian lawyers and in this context referred to the potential demonstrated by Indians in IT sector.
“It is a transitional problem, I don’t say this is a perennial problem,” he said, adding, the lawyers’ fraternity would be taken into confidence before any decision is taken.
When asked whether the fears of the Bar Council were justified, the minister said since the matter was sub-judice, he cannot pass a “value judgement“.
Describing it as a “pending issue”, he noted that the Bombay High Court has given a judgement and now the matter has come before the Madras High Court.
“It is being agitated.. it will come up again immediately after the (court) vacation,” Mr. Moily said.
To a question, he said the government had not, at any point of time, favoured entry of foreign law firms. “But at the same time, government is discussing it.”