'Foreign law firms can't practise in India'

BCI logo

BCI logo

Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel opined, "Fly in and fly out would cover a casual visit and not amount to practice".

The Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, had called upon the Bar Council to exercise its power under Section 49 (1)(e) of the Act of 1961 and frame the rules governing the practice of law in India by foreign lawyers and law firms.

"In case of a dispute whether a foreign lawyer was limiting himself to "fly in and fly out" on casual basis for the objective of giving legal advice to their clients in India regarding foreign law or their own system of law and on diverse worldwide legal issues; or whether in substance he was doing practice which is prohibited, can be determined by the Bar Council of India".

Foreign firms, companies and law firms can not practice legal profession in India, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

BCI, the body that regulates legal profession in the country, had argued that foreign lawyers and law firms can't be allowed to work in the country unless they subjected themselves to Indian regulations.

Also in line with predictions, and in a welcome fillip to the Modi regime, the bench passed the ball to the government, asking it and the Bar Council of India (BCI) to come up with rules governing foreign lawyers' entry.

The only exception that is available is for foreign lawyers coming to India for providing advice on foreign law or when they are coming in to take part in an global commercial arbitration. However, they will be governed by code of conduct applicable to the legal profession in India.

In the alternative, he has sought for a direction quashing Rule 49 of the Bar Council of India Rules as ultra vires the Constitution and its basic structure, and to permit all Public Servants to practice as Advocates. It had demanded, much like the Madras High Court, that these lawyers be enrolled as advocates (under the Advocates Act) to be able to prosecute court cases or practice law in litigious and non-litigious matters. The foreign firms denied the allegations.

"We do not find any merit in the contention that the Advocates Act does not deal with companies or firms and only individuals", the court said.

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