Foreign lawyers and law firms cannot open offices in India, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.
Foreign lawyers are allowed to “fly in and fly out” to advise their clients on foreign law on a temporary basis, said a bench of Justice AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit.
BCI, which regulates legal profession in the country, had on January 10 raised the issue with Supreme Court that foreign lawyers and law firms can’t be allowed to practise in the country unless they subjected themselves to Indian regulations.
Senior Advocate CU Singh had attacked the Madras High Court’s on behalf of BCI, on the verdict that held foreign lawyers could not be debarred from coming to India and conducting arbitration proceedings.
However, BCI had contended the exceptions carved out by the Madras High Court went against Section 29 of the Advocates Act, which defined “practice the profession of law”. “Fly in and fly out goes against 29 of the Act,” the BCI said.
The BCI has been demanding reciprocity with the countries that want their lawyers to be allowed law practice in India.
The central government had said that either the BCI should frame rules or the government could exercise its powers under the Act.
Contending that “Fly in, fly out” by foreign lawyers didn’t amount to “practice”, senior advocate Arvind Datar on in January told the Supreme Court they could not be barred from coming to India and conducting international commercial arbitration.
“My argument is ‘fly in and fly out’” will not amount to practice. International Commercial arbitration involves a party who is not Indian and law that may be foreign law. Indian lawyers and retired judge regularly go abroad to Dubai, UK, etc. to appear for arbitrations without getting enrolled as lawyers in those countries,” UK-based law firms, Datar said.