The governments efforts to open up the legal sector under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Singapore has received a setback, with the Bar Council of India rejecting the move.
Senior government officials said the commerce ministry had proposed to allow lawyers from the city-state to practise Singaporean law in India while allowing Indian lawyers to practise Indian law there.
The bar council in its response rejected the move without giving any justification for its stance. The thinking behind restricting the permission to practise the law of the lawyers home country was to ensure that local lawyers do not get adversely impacted by the move. However, with the bar council rejecting the proposal, the move has been put in cold storage for the time being, an official said.
The commerce ministry has been seeking to build public opinion for opening up the legal sector in a phased manner.
The ministry has pointed out that Indian lawyers can take advantage of the billion dollar industry for legal consultancy. It had circulated a concept paper on the sector earlier this year.
India has also set up two groups of lawyers and legal experts to hold discussions with their British and American counterparts for opening up the legal services sector to foreign players. Officials pointed out that despite a group of lawyers being set up there had been hardly any forward movement on the issue.
It might be recalled that the government did not include legal services, retail and accountancy while finalising its revised services offer to be made to the WTO. The revised offer was to be submitted by July 31 but was subsequently put on hold after the trade talks collapsed.