|(Date of pronouncement)
|February 21, 2012 (Date of publication)
|Click here to download the judgement (balaji_foreign_law_firms_practice_india.pdf)
Foreign Lawyers cannot practice law in India but are entitled to visit India for short periods to advice on foreign law & conduct international commercial arbitration
A Writ Petition was filed claiming that Foreign Law Firms and foreign lawyers were practising the profession of law in India in contravention of the Advocates Act and that they should be restricted from having any legal practice either on the litigation side or in the field of non-litigation and commercial transactions within the territory of India. HELD by the High Court:
(i) Foreign law firms or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law in India either on the litigation or non-litigation side, unless they fulfil the requirement of the Advocates Act, 1961 and the Bar Council of India Rules. As rightly held in Lawyers Collective vs. Bar Council 112 BLR 32 establishing liaison office in India by the foreign law firm and rendering liaisoning activities is not permissible. However, given that the foreign law firms have to give legal advise to their clients in India regarding foreign law or their own system of law and on diverse international legal issues, there can be no bar in their visiting India for a temporary period on a “fly in and fly out” basis, for such purpose. Also, having regard to the aim and object of the International Commercial Arbitration introduced in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, foreign lawyers cannot be debarred to come to India and conduct arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising out of a contract relating to international commercial arbitration (Vodafone International Holdings B.V referred).
(i) The BPO Companies providing a wide range of customised and integrated services and functions to its customers like word-processing, secretarial support, transcription services, proof-reading services, travel desk support services, etc. do not come within the purview of the Advocates Act, 1961 or the Bar Council of India Rules. However, in the event of any complaint made against these B.P.O. Companies violating the provisions of the Act, the Bar Council of India may take appropriate action against such erring companies.