Eastern Eye (UK)
UK law society hails India’s rule clarity around foreign lawyers
OVERSEAS lawyers and law firms can only offer advice on foreign and international laws and will not be permitted to represent clients in Indian courts or any judicial forums, the Bar Council of India (BCI) has said.
The clarification came in response to mixed reactions and concerns that were raised following the BCI’s recent decision to allow foreign lawyers and law firms to practise in foreign law, international legal issues and arbitration matters.
In a statement, the council said, “There are some misgivings in circulation about the recently published Gazette notification by the BCI regarding entry of foreign lawyers and law firms in India. BCI, therefore, deems it appropriate to clarify the issue and place the following facts for the information of all advocates and the general public, so that there is no scope of any misapprehension or misinformation.”
The BCI secretary, Srimanto Sen, said foreign lawyers and law firms will be allowed to only advise their clients about foreign and international laws.
They will be restricted to nonlitigation areas and cannot appear in any court, tribunal, or regulatory authority. Additionally, they cannot appear before any forum that is entitled to take evidence on oath or within the trappings of a court.
Foreign lawyers will only be permitted on a reciprocal basis, and they can appear for their clients in international commercial arbitration, the BCI added.
Under the revised rules, India is likely to become a hub of international commercial arbitration, as previously multinational companies and foreign commercial entities preferred London, Singapore and Paris for arbitration proceedings due to the lack of permission to bring their own lawyers to advise them in India.
“The BCI stands committed to protect and safeguard the interest and welfare of advocates in the country, and requests the entire advocate fraternity to welcome these rules in the national interest,” the council said earlier this month.
The Law Society of England and Wales described the reform as a “significant step forward” in creating “opportunities for solicitors and Indian advocates in both countries.”
Its president, Lubna Shuja, said the measure would also give a boost to India’s wider economic ambitions.
“We have long campaigned for this historic opening up of India’s legal services sector to foreign law firms,” she said in a statement released by the Law Society on March 15.
“We look forward to engaging further on the implementation of the regulations, based on reciprocity of access,” she added.
“England and Wales is open to practice by Indian lawyers and law firms, both for temporary practice and permanent establishment, and we are committed to ensuring it remains open.”