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Posted at: Mar 14, 2018, 1:51 AM; last updated: Mar 14, 2018, 10:01 AM (IST)

SC: Foreign lawyers, firms can’t practise

Allows ‘fly in, out’ on casual basis
SC: Foreign lawyers, firms can’t practise

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 13

In a setback to foreign lawyers and law firms lobbying for entry into the Indian legal market, the Supreme Court today ruled that they cannot practise law in India either on the litigation or the non-litigation side.

A Bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit, however, allowed foreign lawyers to “fly in and fly out” to advise their clients on foreign law on a temporary and casual basis.

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In 2012, the Madras High Court had ruled that there was no bar for foreign law firms or foreign lawyers to visit India for a temporary period on a “fly in and fly out” basis for giving legal advice to clients regarding foreign law or their own system of law and on diverse international legal issues.

Modifying the HC verdict, the top court said, “We hold that the expression ‘fly in and fly out’ will only cover a casual visit not amounting to ‘practice’. In case of a dispute whether a foreign lawyer was limiting himself to ‘fly in and fly out’ on a casual basis... or whether in substance he was doing practice which is prohibited can be determined by the Bar Council of India.”

It said the BCI and the Centre “will be at liberty to make Rules, including extending the Code of Ethics being applicable even to such cases.”

The Bench also modified the Madras HC’s direction allowing foreign lawyers to come to India to conduct arbitration proceedings.

“We hold that there is no absolute right of the foreign lawyer to conduct arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising out of a contract relating to international commercial arbitration. If the Rules of Institutional Arbitration apply or the matter is covered by the provisions of the Arbitration Act, foreign lawyers may not be debarred from conducting arbitration proceedings arising out of international commercial arbitration in view of Sections 32 and 33 of the Advocates Act.  

“However, they will be governed by code of conduct applicable to the legal profession in India.”

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