SC upholds barring of foreign law firms from practicing in India

Upholding the 2012 order of the Madras high Court, the Supreme Court today refused to allow the entry of foreign law firms in India to practice law in courts. 

However, it has permitted foreign la firms to participate in arbitration proceedings.

The SC bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Rohinton F Nariman partially upheld the 2012 judgment of the Madras high court holding that foreign lawyers could visit India for a temporary period for the purpose of giving legal advice

The court also said that foreign lawyers could not be barred from coming to India to conduct arbitration proceedings in disputes involving international commercial arbitration but they would be subject to the code of conduct applicable to the legal profession in India.

The court  ruled that foreign law firms can fly in and fly out of the country to render legal advice, but they can't be allowed to set up permanent offices in the country.

It also ruled that BPO companies working on legal services can operate in India as they don't have to operate under the ambit of the Advocates Act.

The top court's ruling had come on an appeal by the Bar Council of India (BCI) against the judgment of the Madras high court.

BCI has expressed reservations in opening up the field of legal practice to foreign players. It has maintained that although, it is not averse to the idea of practice of law by foreign lawyers and firms, it should be based on reciprocity and regulated by the Advocates Act.