Foreign lawyers, firms can not practice or open offices in India

SC rules No practising no setting up office foreign lawyers can come to India only in an advisory capacity

Foreign lawyers, firms can not practice or open offices in India

"The prohibition applicable to any person in India, other than advocate enrolled under the Advocates Act, certainly applies to any foreigner also", it said.

Disposing of a batch of appeals filed by Bar Council of India, a Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and Uday Lalit, however, held that there was no bar for the foreign law firms or foreign lawyers to visit India for a temporary period on a "fly in and fly out" 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 global legal issues. On the question whether foreign lawyers can conduct worldwide commercial arbitration in India, the order said "there is no absolute right of the foreign lawyer to conduct arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising out of a contract relating to global commercial arbitration".

NEW DELHI:Earlier, the Madras High Court had in its 2012 verdict allowed the concept of "fly in and fly out" with regard to foreign lawyers and law firms.

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. Visit of any foreign lawyer on fly in and fly out basis may amount to practice of law if it is on regular basis.

The court said that foreign lawyers could, however, come to the country and participate in worldwide commercial arbitration but they have no "absolute right" to do so. The bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and UU Lalit directed the Centre and the Bar Council of India to frame rules on this.

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Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Goel said: "We hold that there is no absolute right of the foreign lawyer to conduct arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising out of a contract relating to global commercial arbitration".

Ajay Shaw, partner, DSK Legal, said: "This judgment will not have any bearing on Indian law firms at this stage".

"We hold that mere label of such services can not be treated as conclusive".

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.

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