Government is likely to take a decision soon on opening legal services for foreigners in a calibrated manner. The move is aimed at boosting the country’s services sector, which contributes about 60 per cent to the country’s total economy.
“The commerce ministry has already framed the idea and now the Law Ministry is taking it forward. They are working hard at it. We hope it will come to the Cabinet soon,” a top government official said.
The official added that the Bar Council of India (BCI) is on board on the proposal and they are reviewing their rules. Advisory and arbitration are low-hanging fruits with which the government is considering to begin with. An expert said the government should open the sector in a gradual manner only.
“Government should do the opening in a calibrated manner considering the concerns of BCI and Indian law practitioners,” Krishan Malhotra, Partner at Dhruva Advisors, said.
The UK and the US have been pushing India to open up the legal services sector to foreign firms. The Advocates Act, which is administered by the BCI, provides for foreign lawyers or law firms to visit India on a reciprocal basis for temporary periods to advise their clients on foreign laws and diverse international legal issues.
Work is also under progress for opening education services for foreign players.
On this sector too, the commerce ministry has forwarded the framework to the HRD Ministry. “It is up to the HRD ministry to look at it. We are
giving a framework, we have given some recommendations. Now they will have move. The commerce ministry has suggested a framework and important potential areas,” the official added.
In the beginning, opening online courses could be an option with the government.
The move would also help India in increasing its share in the global services trade.
The global services trade is worth about USD 5 trillion and India’s share is only about USD 235 billion, which is about 3.25 per cent.
India’s services exports have increased from 16.8 billion in 2001 to USD 155.6 billion in 2014 and this has made the country world’s eighth largest exporter of services.