Think big, act bold

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Lawyers weigh in with their demands from the new government

Forecasting the monsoon is not a task for the fainthearted. Despite changing climate patterns, few foresee changes in the reach and reliability of the torrential rain that makes its way up the length of India every year. The fortunes of many depend on the monsoons. Yet some now speak of a scenario where the monsoon – destabilized by human activity – becomes increasingly erratic and diminishes and fades from parts of the sub-continent.

ThinkThe well-being of the population, especially in rural India, is deeply entwined with the availability of water, and speaking up now is vital if remedial measures are to be taken. After prolonged droughts and water shortages, getting it wrong is no longer an option.

Apprehension about monsoons looms large as the new government takes charge. Yet it is only one among the myriad challenges that lie in store.

In this vein, our Cover Story outlines the most pressing demands, as identified by the Indian and international legal community, for the new government to tackle. One issue that found resonance across our readership was the country’s complex and archaic labour laws. According to Manoj Kumar of Hammurabi & Solomon, there are currently 37 central laws and six amendments that govern labour matters – six laws relate to wages alone.

“For a growing country like ours we need to conduct a deeper study of these laws and compress them for less complication and more labour benefits such as financial and social security,” he says.

In Taking stock (page 23) we turn the spotlight on the European General Data Protection Regulation a year after it came into force. As we detail, data protection authorities have resorted to indefinite or temporary suspension as a means of enforcing the regulations, after initially allowing companies several months to improve their compliance. The impact of the regulations on data protection laws and practices in various jurisdictions, including India, is significant. Our coverage provides an overview of this and of new guidelines adopted by the data protection board.

Writing in this issue’s Vantage point Nitin Mittal, head of legal and company secretary at Signify India, argues that the role of independent directors is increasingly unattractive as the law does not differentiate between executive and independent directors when penal provisions are applied in case of default by the company. Three independent directors of a company caught up in the Punjab National Bank scam involving Nirav Modi have had their assets frozen following an order of the National Company Law Tribunal. Scepticism about taking on the role of an independent director is on the rise and this is an unhealthy trend.

This month’s What’s the deal provides an in-depth view on a recent judgment of the Supreme Court that has given businesses an opportunity to review salary structures and to ensure provident fund laws are followed in both letter and spirit. The Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Act, 1952, has triggered disputes about the level of contributions made by employers and employees, while the case of Regional Provident Fund Commissioner (II) West Bengal v Vivekananda Vidyamandir and Ors has brought the issue into focus.

In this month’s Intelligence report, India Business Law Journal presents its 13th annual survey of the top international law firms for India work. The report is based on an analysis of more than 600 law firms, drawn from every continent, that have documented deals and matters with an Indian element in the past 12 months.

Options for consumers of legal advice are routinely being created by new hires and movements within the legal community. Our report reveals the top 12 foreign law firms for India-related work. As a result of their enviable track records, practice area specialties, size and geographical reach, these firms enjoy the lion’s share of large, complex, cross-border transactions involving Indian businesses. We also list 10 firms that are considered key players for India-related deals, and an additional 22 firms that are classed as significant players.

Paying close attention to regional and specialist firms in key economies such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Singapore, and emerging regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, we highlight 18 firms that are poised and well-versed to take on India-related assignments in these jurisdictions. We further identify 20 firms to watch and 18 firms to watch in the regional category. We believe, on the evidence available, that these firms are dedicated to India and motivated to enhance their India-related portfolios.

As in previous years, we received hundreds of submissions from law firms and carefully studied public records, along with reports in Indian and international media, to ensure the accuracy of our information.

This issue marks the start of our 13th year of reporting on legal and regulatory developments in India, bringing you insights and intelligence from its brightest legal minds. We thank you for your support and look forward to delivering more complex, cutting-edge and challenging coverage of the Indian legal market.