India's chief justice, Konakuppakatil Gopinathan Balakrishnan, has opened the door to the possibility of foreign law firms establishing themselves in India.
Speaking to the Press Trust of India (PTI), Justice Balakrishnan said that foreign law firms may be given permission to enter India on a reciprocal basis, that is, on the condition that Indian firms are also allowed to establish themselves in the foreign country.
"Unless and until other countries open the field for our lawyers, they cannot be given entry," Justice Balakrishnan said.
Currently, regulatory restrictions prevent foreign firms opening in India, but the country has been under pressure from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to change this.
According to an article in the country's national newspaper, The Hindu, the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry -- India's primary link to the WTO -- has sought the opinion of the legal fraternity and the Law Ministry on the issue. The legal fraternity is reportedly divided on the issue and the Commerce Ministry is still waiting on a response from the Law Ministry.
Justice Balakrishnan's comments follow a recent announcement by international firm Clifford Chance that it has formed a "best friends" relationship with Indian firm AZB. The firm said it would seek to form a closer association with AZB if Indian law permitted.