BCI’s affidavit in SC: Foreign law firms should not even be allowed to attend conferences and seminars in India

BCI’s affidavit in SC: Foreign law firms should not even be allowed to attend conferences and seminars in India

The Bar Council of India has informed the Supreme Court of India that foreign lawyers cannot even be allowed to be attend seminars and conferences. This is despite the indecisiveness of the Central Government on the issue of entry of foreign law firms and lawyers in India.

In the affidavit filed by its counsel Ardhendumauli K. Prasad, BCI has opposed the entrance of foreign lawyers and their firms to counsel clients or participate in arbitration proceedings or as BPOs and LPOs (legal process outsourcing companies). It also claimed that participations in seminars and conferences would also form a part of legal practice, thereby attributing a wide connotation to the term.

The affidavit states, “Practice of law does not necessarily mean rendering professional services on primary/legal basis in the territory of India. Furthermore, it will not be just and proper to state that discussion/negotiation by way of seminars, conferences and arbitration will not constitute practicing profession of law.”

It further clarified that “Practice of law does not necessarily mean rendering professional services on primary/legal basis in the territory of India. Furthermore, it will not be just and proper to state that discussion/negotiation by way of seminars, conferences and arbitration will not constitute practicing profession of law.”

The case is scheduled to be heard on April 6 now. There has been a delay till now because BCI did not manage to serve all 31 foreign law firm respondents; with the majority of foreign law firms impleaded having now been dropped from the case.

The Court is hearing an appeal filed against the judgment delivered by Madras High Court that had allowed entry of foreign lawyers and firms.

The High Court had found out that ‘there is no bar under the Advocates Act, 1961 (“Act”) or the Bar Council of India Rules (“Rules”) for foreign lawyers or law firms to visit India for temporary periods on a “fly in and fly out” basis to advise their clients on foreign law and diverse international legal issues. They are however not permitted to practice Indian law, either in relation to litigation or advisory matters, unless they qualify and enroll as advocates and fulfill the requirements of the Act and Rules.’ The Bar Council of India then appealed this decision in the Supreme Court.

Reportedly, Bar Council of India is also against LPOs and BPOs saying that they cause revenue loss to the exchequer. In addition, BCI has a stand that foreign lawyers should not be allowed to undertake any litigation, non-litigation or commercial work in India. Read the LiveLaw story here.