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

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

"However, the Bar Council of India or Union of India will be at liberty to make appropriate rules in this regard, including extending the code of ethics even to such cases", the bench said. On the question whether foreign lawyers can conduct worldwide commercial arbitration in India, the order said "there is no absolute right of the foreign lawyer to conduct arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising out of a contract relating to global commercial arbitration".

A Supreme Court bench of Justice A.K. Goel and Justice U.U. Lalit upheld the rulings of the Bombay and Madras High Courts denying foreign law firms the permission to set up office or practice law in India.

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

The only exception that is available is for foreign lawyers coming to India for providing advice on foreign law or when they are coming in to take part in an worldwide commercial arbitration.

Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has filed a petition praying that legislators be debarred from practicing as Advocates (for the period during which they are Members of Parliament or State Assembly), in spirit of Part-VI of the Bar Council of India Rules.

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"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".

The court also held that there was "no absolute right of the foreign lawyer" to come here and conduct arbitration proceedings in disputes arising out of a contract relating to worldwide commercial arbitration.

"We do not find any merit in the contention that the Advocates Act does not deal with companies or firms and only individuals", the court said.

"Visit of any foreign lawyer on fly-in-and-fly-out basis may amount to practice of law if it is on regular basis". On behalf of the BCI, senior advocate C U Singh criticised the Madras High Court's verdict and demanded reciprocity with the countries that want their lawyers to be allowed law practice in India. The prohibition applicable to any person in India, other than advocate enrolled under the Advocates Act, certainly applies to any foreigner also.

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