Foreign lawyers, firms can not practice or open offices in India

SC rules No practising no setting up office foreign lawyers can come to India only in an advisory capacity

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

In doing so, the top court upheld the Bombay and Madras high court judgments on the matter, but with certain modifications.

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The court also said that BPO companies engaged in rendering legal services did not come within the ambit of the Advocate Act and thus they can operate in India. However, the Bombay High Court in Lawyers' Collective had held that foreign law firms could not open liaison offices in India. Counsels for the BCI, arguing against allowing foreign lawyers from practicing in India, pointed to similar limitation being placed in other countries.

As first reported by Live Law, the Supreme Court has upheld the right of foreign lawyers to fly in on a temporary basis to India to advise clients, as well as finding that foreign lawyers should be allowed to conduct worldwide arbitrations in India.

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The apex court also said BCI has the powers to frame rules and regulate the conduct of foreign lawyers and that rules may be framed keeping these directions in mind. Indian law firms were also not allowed to operate from any of the SEZs.

Earlier, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh had told the court that the Centre supports the entry of foreign firms in the Indian legal sector.

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