SC Shuts Door on Foreign Law Firms & Lawyers
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.