GCAI calls for due recognition of in-house counsel at India event

Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri gives his speech during the GCAI event
Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri gives his speech during the GCAI event

Key stakeholders from law, policy and business called for recognition of general counsels’ (GCs) value and rights at an event on 4 October at the India International Centre in New Delhi.

The General Counsels’ Association of India (GCAI) organised the event titled, The General Counsel – Strategiser, Enabler & Protector, which saw participation from eminent guests including senior GCs from some of the largest corporates in the country, members of the judiciary, renowned senior advocates, academicians and researchers, and partners of leading law firms.

A former judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri, graced the event as a guest of honour. In his speech, Sikri noted that no business house can run without a GC.

“This is one of the reasons GCs are being given a seat on the board of directors of companies. They also play a major role in the legal industry and are packed with the same skills as practising lawyers,” said Sikri. “In fact, they have an edge as they have deep domain knowledge. This is how important the role of a GC is, so why should their rights not be recognised?”.

Lalit Bhasin, president of the Society of Indian Law Firms and past president of the Bar Association of India, emphasised that GCs are the backbone of the legal profession and they should have all the same rights that practising lawyers enjoy.

“You are the ones who know the intricacies of the business and bring out the best in external lawyers, so that clients receive the best quality advice,” said Bhasin. “There is no amendment of the Advocates Act required. This issue falls directly under the jurisdiction of the Bar Council and you must ask for full rights.”

Support for the cause also came from senior advocates Gourab Banerji, Sukumar Patjoshi and Basava Prabhu Patil; dean of the Indian School of Public Policy, Shubhashis Gangopadhyay; founder of Dua Associates, Ranji Dua; partner at Agarwal Law Associates, Mahesh Agarwal; and vice-chancellor of the Energy and Resources Institute School of Advanced Studies, Prateek Sharma.

Thanking everyone for sharing their views and support, GCAI president CV Raghu said, “We are committed to taking forward our key objective of recognising the experience and expertise of the GC, and securing equal recognition for in-house legal counsel. GCAI looks to leverage upon the combined power of the GC pan India, legal luminaries and all the views shared today to achieve this objective.”

The evening ended with the GCAI’s felicitation of Vijaya Sampath, independent director in five publicly listed companies in India and Ajit Yadav, GC of natural resources conglomerate Vedanta Group, for their significant contribution to the in-house legal profession and the industry at large.

The GCAI co-founders, from left: Manjaree Chowdhary (GC of Maruti Suzuki), CV Raghu, Akhil Prasad (GC of Boeing India), Sanjeev Gemawat (GC of Vedanta Group), Lubinisha Saha (GC of Airbus), Neera Sharma (GC of Sistema Smart Technologies), Tejal Patil (GC of Wipro), Amar Kumar Sundram (GC of NEC Corporation India).