Foreign lawyers, firms can not practice law in India: SC

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Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel opined, "Fly in and fly out would cover a casual visit and not amount to practice".

The court said that apex bar body, the Bar Council of India or the Central government would be "at liberty to make appropriate Rules in this regard including extending Code of Ethics being applicable" to foreign lawyers and entities.

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

However, there is no limitation for them to visit India for a temporary period on a "fly-in and fly-out" basis for giving legal advice to their clients in India relating to the law which is applicable to their country.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that foreign lawyers or law firms cannot practise in India and can only "fly in and fly out" on a "casual basis" to give advice on global laws.

The foreign lawyers and firms, which would take part in global arbitration proceedings, "will be governed by code of conduct applicable to the legal profession in India", the court said.

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.

The court said that foreign lawyers could, however, come to the country and participate in global commercial arbitration but they have no "absolute right" to do so.

"The apex court also modified the Madras High Court direction that the BPOs, which provide customised and integrated services, do not come within the purview of the laws regulating the legal profession here". It also ruled that Business Process Outsourcing companies working on legal services can operate in India because they are not required to operate under the ambit of the Advocates Act, The Times of India reported.

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.

The bench pointed out that the Advocates Act made it clear that "advocates enrolled with the Bar Council alone were entitled to practice law, except as otherwise provided in any other law".

Ajay Shaw, partner, DSK Legal, said: "This judgment will not have any bearing on Indian law firms at this stage".