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- Legal System
The Indian legal system is based on the English Common Law, a system which stems from the long-standing influence of the British Empire which India was part of. The primary sources of law are the Parliament and the State Legislatures; the secondary sources of law are the cases decided by the courts, which are legally binding. However, local customs are also sometimes taken into account by the courts when reaching a decision. Some sources of Muslim personal law are also applied through the regular court system.
India possesses a Federal system, with both Central and State laws with predefined spheres of application. However, the constitution still enacts a single integrated system of courts which administer both central and state laws. The nature and arrangements of lower courts differ from state to state, whilst each state possesses its own high court. Generally the lower criminal courts are called courts of session and magistrates’ courts. In total there are 21 High Courts in India, of which three have jurisdiction over more than one State, and their decisions are binding to the extent of their respective state jurisdiction. Appeals from the lower courts are taken to the High Courts and subsequently the Supreme Court in New Delhi, the final court of appeal. This consists of the Chief Justice and 25 other Judges who are appointed by the President of India. It also has jurisdiction over disputes between federal and state governments. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary.
The legal profession in India is integrated into a single class of legal practitioners, with lawyers formally referred to as “advocates”. There are two educational routes for would-be lawyers: they can undertake either a five year law degree upon finishing the 12th grade of secondary school or a three year course after graduating from a degree in any subject.
Foreign lawyers are not allowed to practise in India. However, as a founding member of the World Trade Organisation, India will have to enter into some negotiations in respect to opening up its legal sector to foreign lawyers (2010). There are many law firms, most of them in New Delhi and Mumbai. Among the leading law firms are AZB & Partners, Kochhar & Co and Nishith Desai Associates. In 2012 the Chambers Asia Pacific Award for an Indian national firm was won by Luthra & Luthra Law Offices. International firms are unable to practise locally in India, so that they often form alliances with local firms, an example of this being the relationship between Clifford Chance and AZB & Partners.
The Indian legal body is regulated through the statutory body, the Bar Council of India. There are additionally bar councils in existence in each state. The Society of Indian Law Firms is a collective of India’s top corporate law firms that acts as the only representative body for law firms in India.
Information from the World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013
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