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Supreme Court bars foreign lawyers and firms from practising law in India

14 March 2018

"A casual visit for giving advice may not be covered by the expression "practice", the bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit said.

The Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, had called upon the Bar Council to exercise its power under Section 49 (1)(e) of the Act of 1961 and frame the rules governing the practice of law in India by foreign lawyers and law firms. The top court upheld the judgements by the Madras High Court in 2012 and the Bombay High Court in 2009 that foreign lawyers may only offer advice on foreign laws on a "fly-in-fly-out" basis.

Referring to the Advocates Act and the Bar Council Rules, the top court said, "We uphold the view of the Bombay High Court and Madras High Court in para 63 (i) of the judgment to the effect that foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers can not practice profession of law in India either in the litigation or in non-litigation side".

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Due to a phenomenal increase in worldwide arbitrations involving foreign litigants, foreign law firms and lawyers have started appearing in many legal proceedings in India.

The Court has also permitted foreign lawyers to participate in global commercial arbitrations, subject to institutional rules. "We want foreign lawyers to come so as to not deny the Indian advocates of the same privilege in other countries".

The court's verdict came on batch of petitions filed by Bar Council of India and others.

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"These are parts of non-litigation practice which is part of practice of law" and the Advocates Act makes it clear that those enrolled with the Bar Council alone are entitled to practice law as regulatory mechanism for conduct of advocates also applies to non-litigation work", the court held in a 52-page judgment.

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.

The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Bar Council of India (BCI) on a plea for ban on lawmakers from practising as advocates.

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The court rejected the contention that the Advocates Act applies only if a person is practicing Indian law.

Supreme Court bars foreign lawyers and firms from practising law in India