SC Shuts Door on For­eign Law Firms & Lawyers

Alive - - Editorial -

Re­cently, the Supreme Court in a land­mark judg­ment ti­tled Bar Coun­cil of In­dia vs. AK Balaji and Oth­ers has fi­nally drawn the cur­tains by re­fus­ing per­mis­sion to for­eign law and firms to prac­tice in In­dia which clearly im­plies that the door on for­eign law firms and lawyers to prac­tice law in In­dia have been shut at least for now. But at the same time, it must also be re­mem­bered that the Supreme Court has also by this land­mark judg­ment opened a small win­dow for them by al­low­ing them to give le­gal ad­vice to their clients on for­eign laws on

“fly in and fly out” ba­sis.

This clearly means that they can­not set up per­ma­nent of­fices here but can come to In­dia and render ad­vice on ca­sual ba­sis. In other words, the Supreme Court by its land­mark judg­ment has en­sured that for­eign law firms and lawyers are free to give ad­vice to their In­dian clients on “fly-in and fly-out” mode as long as this was a ca­sual ba­sis and didn’t amount to a fullfledged prac­tice.

A Bench of Supreme Court com­pris­ing of Jus­tices Adarsh K Goel and UU Lalit has cat­e­gor­i­cally turned down the plea of 32 law firms of UK, USA, France and Aus­tralia seek­ing its ap­proval to prac­tice in In­dia and deal with is­sues re­lat­ing to for­eign laws. It is cer­tainly a great set­back for all these coun­tries as they had ap­proached the Supreme Court with lots of high ex­pec­ta­tions that they would be al­lowed to prac­tice law in In­dia. The Apex Court also asked the Cen­tre and Bar Coun­cil of In­dia (BCI) to make spe­cific pro­vi­sions to reg­u­late par­tic­i­pa­tion of for­eign lawyers in in­ter­na­tional ar­bi­tra­tion pro­ceed­ings in the coun­try. Now the ball is ex­clu­sively in the court of the Cen­tre and Bar Coun­cil of In­dia to act ac­cord­ingly as asked by the Supreme Court.

The Bench of Apex Court in its land­mark judg­ment was cat­e­gor­i­cal in lay­ing down that, “We hold that the ex­pres­sion ‘fly in and fly out’ will only cover a ca­sual visit not amount­ing to prac­tice. In case of a dis­pute whether a for­eign lawyer was lim­it­ing him­self to ‘fly in and fly out’ on ca­sual ba­sis for the pur­pose of giv­ing le­gal ad­vice to clients in In­dia re­gard­ing for­eign laws or their own sys­tem of law and on di­verse in­ter­na­tional le­gal is­sues or whether in sub­stance he was do­ing prac­tice which is pro­hib­ited can be de­ter­mined by the

Bar Coun­cil of In­dia.

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