Last year the Supreme Court of India barred international lawyers in India from practicing law in the country. The court’s decision finally put an end to a long-running dispute between the Bar Council of India (BCI) which was against foreign advocates practicing in the country and others who supported the entry of international law firms in India. The honorable court though provided some relief to overseas legal professionals allowing them to help arbitration matters. It said that foreign lawyers would have to adhere to the same rules and regulations which apply to local registered professionals. It also directed the BCI to frame new guidelines for overseas law professionals in the country. In this article, we are presenting a list of do’s and don’ts for foreign lawyers. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Cannot Provide Litigation Or Non-litigation Services
The court in its judgment clearly defined what constitutes the practicing of law. It said that legal practice in the country is not limited only to appearing in a court of law for litigation purposes. It includes giving of opinion, drafting of instruments, participating in conferences involving legal discussion, as well. The court said that these activities are a part of non-litigation practice which in turn is part of the practice of law. The judgment cited the Advocates Act which clearly states that only the advocates enrolled with the Bar Council of India are granted the privilege of practicing law unless any other law gives a different provision. In simple terms, it prohibited any person whether Indian or foreigner, not registered under the Advocates Act from discharging litigation or non-litigation services.
2. Frequent Visits Can Be Termed Practice Of Law
Foreign lawyers have been allowed to undertake some activities in the country which will be discussed in the next section. They must be careful in visiting India for these purposes as frequent visits for discharging such services can be termed as the practice of law. This will attract penal action from concerned authorities. There is some ambiguity on this topic as the court has allowed overseas professionals to conduct casual visits for performing some advisory duties in the country but has not defined what separates casual from regular visits. The BCI, as well as the government of India, have been advised to make suitable rules in this regard.
3. Visiting On Fly In-Fly Out Basis
Foreign advocates have been allowed to visit the country on a fly in-fly out basis. These professionals can arrive casually for giving legal advice to clients in India in matters related to foreign law or their own system of law or on any international legal issues. This is one of the biggest relief measures for international lawyers in India. The court also said that such professionals will have to adhere to the BCI regulations and the Advocates Act. it further opined that the Act was not limited only to individuals practicing law but covered groups, companies, and firms as well.
4. Allowed To Come For Arbitration
One of the biggest reasons which led to the entry of international lawyer firms India was their requirement for handling commercial arbitration. The globalization of the nation’s economy led to a large number of Multinational Enterprises entering the domestic markets. They solicited the help of foreign advocates for conducting arbitrations in India and also in other related activities like negotiations. The court said that if a matter falls under the purview of an international commercial arbitration agreement, then overseas lawyers are allowed under Section 32 or 33 of the Advocates Act. The court also directed the BCI and the Union government to frame an appropriate code of conduct.
5. BPO Services Are Allowed To Function
BPO companies provide a range of services like secretarial assistance, transcription, word processing, and proof-reading to their clients. The court said that if their services did not fall under the category of law practice, then the Advocates Act does not apply to them. The court, therefore allowed such agencies to function. However, it noted that if in any case, the services of a firm, in substance, were found to amount to legal practice, then the Advocates Act will become applicable.
The Supreme Court judgment has clarified what roles can be played by international lawyers in India. It clearly defines the limits within which such professionals must function but it remains to be seen what kind of rules in this regard will be framed by BCI and the Central Government.
Amy Jones has been serving as an experienced legal expert in Ahlawat & Associates, who is related to International Law Firm India. She is a passionate writer and always on the lookout for opportunities for sharing her knowledge with the legal community. Follow her company on various social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.