Chief Justice of India J. S. Khehar on Saturday supported entry of foreign lawyers into the Indian legal sector but said there should be on the basis of "reciprocity" between their countries.
Opening up India's legal field to foreign players would improve the system and Indian lawyers should have no apprehensions that they would take away their business, he said.
"I feel international exchange of lawyers will improve the system.
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.
"But reciprocity has to be insisted upon, " added Chief Justice Khehar while inaugurating an All India Seminar of the International Law Association.
He said that though The Advocates Act, 1961, does not permit foreign lawyers to practice law in India, but acknowledges that if some country permits Indian lawyers to practice in its jurisdiction, then lawyers from that country can be granted reciprocal privileges in India.
The CJI noted that while the Bar Council of India had been opposing the entry of foreign lawyers into Indian legal system, now the body and the Society of Indian Law Firms have agreed "in principle" with the government's proposal to gradually open up the legal sector to foreign players, but insist, that this should be on a reciprocal basis.
India has close to 1. 2 million lawyers, whose professional conduct is regulated by the Bar Council of India and the state Bar Councils.
Legal luminaries welcomed the statement.
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra said on a reciprocal basis.
this will be a good move.
"This will also give Indian lawyers opportunity to practice in other countries.
Indian Lawyers are more capable and Indians are doing well all over the world in different fields, " she said.
However, she said that foreign lawyers will face some problems in understanding ground reality of Indian legal system but will understand it better with passage of time.
On similar lines, Senior Advocate N. Hariharan said: "There will be no serious issue if there is a level playing ground. "
"It is not a question of competing with one another.
If foreign lawyers get place in Indian bars, they will also create place for us in their bars. "
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Khehar also said the Indian legal profession had grown over a short period of less than 70 years "to possibly become the world's largest and most influential in the matter of governance".
"With the advent of globalisation, the legal profession in India has undergone a major shift during the last two decades.
Economic liberalisation has given an opportunity of constant interaction with foreign law firms and an international clientele.
"As a result, there has been a transfer of knowledge, systems and practices to Indian law firms, such that they are able to undertake a much larger role in cross - border transactions, " he said.
Chief Justice Khehar also expressed concern over the future of children and their rights in the bad marriages abroad and the challenges before Indian judiciary to handle such cases.
He said "child right is vital" and there has to be a concrete legislation on this issue.
Justice Khehar supported the claim that India should ratify the Hague Convention which deals with the issue of child custody of the parents living abroad following a matrimonial discord.