Law Commission of India has submitted it’s 266th report titled ‘The Advocates Act, 1961 (Regulation of Legal Profession)’ suggesting drastic changes in the Act 1961 to the Law, to the Government.
Foreign lawyer entry
The Law Commission has proposed several changes, including creating provisions that would enable the BCI to allow the entry of foreign law firms, notably amending the definition of ‘advocate’ to include “a foreign lawyer registered under any law in a country outside India and recognised by the Bar Council of India”
The Commission wrote:
14.9 In view of the developments that have taken place, if the foreign law firms are not allowed to take part in negotiations, settling up documents and arbitrations in India, it may have a counter-productive effect on the policy of the government to make India a hub of International Arbitration. In this regard, it may be stated that many arbitrations with Indian Judges and Lawyers as Arbitrators are held outside India, where both foreign and Indian Law Firms advise their clients.
If foreign law firms are denied entry to deal with arbitrations in India, then India may lose many of the arbitrations to Singapore, Paris and London.
It may be contrary to the declared policy of the government and against the national interest.
With this in view and judgement of the High Courts, the Law Commission considers it necessary to have enabling provisions in the Advocates Act which will enable the Bar Council of India to frame rules to recognise and register foreign law firms and lawyers in India, as and when a decision is taken in this regard, particularly in view of the reciprocity provisions.
BCI would regulate bar associations (except SCBA and law firms’ association)
The Bill draft suggests that the BCI should:
to provide for the recognition, registration and regulation of Bar Associations (except the Supreme Court Bar Association, Association of law firms, foreign lawyers) including election of its office bearers from amongst the list of regular practitioners of such Bar Association situated within its territorial limits and to make rules, schemes with concurrence of the Bar Council of India to secure their orderly growth.
The BCI suggestions
BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra sent the BCI’s suggestions to the Law Commission on 10 March, but asked to delay the process further because “the committee was of the view that in view of the importance and seriousness of the matter” a “deeper deliberation and a further serious consideration is required”.
The BCI had in October 2016 invited the Society of Indian Law Firms (Silf) – a long-time staunch opponent of liberalisation – onto its internal committee to re-draft its proposals, after an earlier leaked draft was widely slammed and later withdrawn.
BCI had indeed proposed
The full copy of the BCI committee’s suggestions is annexed to the report from page 58, and indeed, as reported by the Times of India on 16 March, includes suggestions to ban strikes and fine advocates guilty of misconduct for up to Rs 5 lakh.