Chief Justice of India JS Khehar on Saturday supported the entry of foreign lawyers into the Indian legal sector, saying it will improve the overall judicial system, IANS reported. Speaking at a seminar in Delhi, the CJI said Indian lawyers should have no apprehensions that foreign lawyers will take away their business.

Currently, the Advocates Act, 1961, does not permit foreign lawyers to practice law in India.

“I feel international exchange of lawyers will improve the system,” Chief Justice Khehar said while inaugurating an All India Seminar of the International Law Association. “If anybody thinks foreign lawyers will come to India and snatch our professional positions and substitute us, it’s not correct. Indian lawyers are no less than those across the world.”

However, he said “reciprocity has to be insisted upon”. “If some country does not allow us, then it may be difficult for us to allow them or for the Bar Council of India to agree to that. But given the opportunity to go and practice abroad, I think this opportunity should never be missed.”

The Bar Council of India had been opposing the entry of foreign lawyers into the Indian legal system. However, Khehar said that the body and the Society of Indian Law Firms have now agreed “in principle” with the government’s proposal to gradually open up the legal sector to foreign players.

‘An exchange of ideas’

The CJI said an international exchange of lawyers should be seen as an opportunity to learn. “It is not that we will also not learn when foreign lawyers and firms come to India,” he said. “We will also learn from them. But most of all, this international exchange of lawyers will possibly enthuse the system because once you are exposed to other systems of thinking and working, it is possible for you to advise in your own country and in conferences like this to make suggestions to the government to adopt better measures.”

He added that the Indian legal profession had “possibly become the world’s largest and most influential in the matter of governance” in a period of less than 70 years.