Centre seeks views from BCI on allowing Foreign Law Firms

Centre seeks views from BCI on allowing Foreign Law Firms

The Union Ministry of Commerce informed about the  government’s stance on allowing foreign lawyers on “fly in and fly out” basis to the BCI member S. Prabakaran, who explained BCI’s views opposing in principle the entry of foreign law firms. In the month of April, the apex court had sought the views of the government and Bar Council of India (BCI) in a pending petition which sought entry of foreign law firms at least for participating in seminars and workshops. The government had invited Bar Council of India for discussions to devise ways and means for foreign lawyers to visit India for a temporary period on a “fly in and fly out” basis, for giving legal advice to their clients in India regarding foreign law or their own system of law and on diverse international legal issues.

Several high courts of India have taken different positions, for instance the Bombay high court in December passed an order strongly opposing international commercial arbitration whereas the Madras HC has ruled in favour of it. The government also drew the BCI’s attention that Japan had recently permitted Indian lawyers to practice in Japan and similar reciprocal arrangements could be made with other countries. The government now requires the Bar Council of India to frame rules, norms and guidelines on allowing foreign law firms to enter India on reciprocal basis.

Meanwhile, Bar Council of India has castigated any move to allow any firms in India.Mr. Prabakaran told the ministry officials that foreign lawyers cannot be allowed even to contribute a small amount for seminars and conferences or on “fly in and fly out” basis. He based his argument on the fact that the legal practice would also include, participation in seminars and conferences. He made it clear that to practice the profession of law in India, a foreign law firm has to fulfill the qualification of being enrolled as advocates under the Advocates Act, 1961.

He further said that this scenario is different in different countries and as such, there is no comparison possible. Allowing foreign law firms even on reciprocal basis would be detrimental to Indian lawyers. He also said that while BCI could initiate action for `misconduct’ against lawyers in India, it would be difficult to take action against foreign lawyers as they were not bound by the Advocates Act. Nevertheless, following the impulsion by the government, the Governing Council of the BCI would meet soon to take a call on this issue as has been stated by Mr Prabakaran.