Supreme Court refuses to allow entry of foreign law firms

Foreign Lawyers Firms Cannot Practice In India Says Supreme Court

The apex court also held that foreign lawyers can appear in worldwide commercial arbitration subject to relevant institutional framework and rules.

The court verdict came on pleas challenging judgements by the Bombay and Madras High Courts. The Madras High Court had built on this in its 2012 ruling that foreign lawyers and firms could only advice Indian companies or individuals on a "fly-in-fly-out" basis, which effectively barred them from not just practice but also taking part in arbitrations and negotiations.

The Bombay High Court, in its 2009 judgement, had held that while foreign law firms could not practice in India, foreign individuals may do so after getting registered in India. The ball has now been passed to the government's court in order to consider appropriate legislation in connection with allowing foreign lawyers to come into India. And it also ruled that foreign law firms can fly in and fly out of the country to give legal advice, but they can't be allowed to set up permanent offices in the country.

The court, while slating the hearing for April 23, asked for BCI's perception of the rules as the body's main function is to regulate the legal profession and legal education in the country.It is estimated that more than 500 lawmakers practise as lawyers.

Ajay Shaw, partner, DSK Legal, said: "This judgment will not have any bearing on Indian law firms at this stage". Before that, India did not permit multinational law firms to operate in the country.

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