Foreign Law Firms Not Allowed To Practice In India

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The ruling partially upheld a 2012 Madras High Court ruling that foreign law firms or foreign lawyers can not practise the profession of law in India either on the litigation or non-litigation side unless they fulfil the requirements of The Advocates Act, 1961 and the rules of The Bar Council of India (BCI). The Madras High Court had built on this in its 2012 ruling that foreign lawyers and firms could only advice Indian companies or individuals on a "fly-in-fly-out" basis, which effectively barred them from not just practice but also taking part in arbitrations and negotiations.

The Court has also permitted foreign lawyers to participate in global commercial arbitrations, subject to institutional rules.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that foreign law firms can not practise in India, but allowed global lawyers to "fly in and fly out" to provide legal advice to their clients in the country.

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

The Supreme Court also directed the Bar Council of India (BCI) to frame the rules to govern the role that lawyers from other countries can be involved in legal matters in India, reported news agency ANI. 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. Indian law firms were also not allowed to operate from any of the SEZs. However, the Court has allowed foreign lawyers to advise clients in India on a casual, temporary "fly in fly out" basis. Before that, India did not permit multinational law firms to operate in the country.