Union Minister for Law and Justice Veerappa Moily on Saturday ruled out an early decision on Britain’s long-standing demand for access to India’s legal market saying that the Government could not bulldoze the country’s more than one million lawyers into accepting foreign competition overnight.
Mr. Moily’s remarks came ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to India in a few weeks when he is expected to press New Delhi on this and other 'protectionist' measures.
Mr. Cameron’s decision to go to India barely weeks after assuming office is being portrayed here as a reflection of his desire to build a "special" or "enhanced" relationship with it but, apparently, it comes with a price tag that New Delhi may not be able to afford politically.
Mr. Moily made clear that the Government would not impose a decision on the legal community and pointed out that even Britain took a long time before opening up its legal sector to Americans.
"There are more than one million lawyers in India and we have to carry them with us," he said.
He said the Bar Council was preparing a "roadmap" but he was not willing to say when it would be ready and implemented.
"I don’t want to get into that," he said firmly.
Mr. Moily, however, stressed that the issue should not be allowed to distract from the efforts of the two countries to raise the level of their relationship. India "enthusiastically" welcomed the Cameron government’s desire to build a "special" relationship, he said describing his own talks in London as "very warm, cordial and fruitful."
During his three-day visit at the invitation of the Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke, he had wide-ranging discussions on "enhancing collaboration between the judicial and legal systems of the two countries by sharing mutual experiences."
“Mr. Kenneth Clark told me about the high regard he has for our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and how much he admires the transformation that has taken place in India particularly in the Indian economy under Dr. Singh's leadership. Mr. Clark also acknowledged India’s 'powerful regard for the rule of law' and spoke of the challenges the Indian judicial system faces,’’ he said.
Mr. Moily also met the Chief Justice of the newly-created Supreme Court and other senior legal figures.
Replying to questions at a press conference, he denied a “split’’ in the Cabinet over proposals to deal with the so-called “honour killings’’ though he acknowledged that there may be different views on how to deal the problem.