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05 July 2012 at 12:22 BST

India's Supreme Court slams door on foreign lawyers

India's highest court has directed the Reserve Bank of India not to permit law firms from abroad to open liaison offices in the country, in what is a major set-back for the Asian aspirations of global legal practices.

New Delhi: Supreme Court throws spanner in global law firm plans

New Delhi: Supreme Court throws spanner in global law firm plans

The Times of India reports that a petition filed by the Bar Council of India to the country’s Supreme Court in New Delhi challenged a Madras High Court order allowing foreign lawyers to operate in the country on a ‘fly-in fly-out’ basis to give legal advice to clients.
The council’s appeal, filed by Ardhendumauli Prasad, claimed that the Madras High Court decision ignored a previous Bombay High Court ruling preventing the ‘fly-in fly-out’ scheme.

Liaison offices

After hearing the BCI case, senior advocate M Krishnamani said: ‘It is clarified that Reserve Bank of India shall not grant any permission to foreign law firms to open liaison offices in India under section 29 of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973.’ The Indian lawyer went on to claim that the ruling clarifies that the expression ‘to practise the profession of law’ as invoked in the country’s Advocates Act 1961 covers those involved in litigious as well as non-litigious matters.
Therefore, said Mr Krishnamani, ‘to practise in non-litigious matters in India, the foreign law firms, by whatever name called or described, shall be bound to follow the provisions contained in the Advocates Act, 1961.’
Bar council chairman Manan Kumar Mishra told the newspaper that the council opposed the Higher Education and Research Bill, which was tabled last year and aims to permit entry of foreign lawyers in India. The council has organised a protest by lawyers across India next week to demonstrate against the bill, which was Mr Mishra described as ‘clandestinely trying to side-line and harm the advocates of the country and their elected statutory bodies in the matter of legal education and legal profession’.


A statement from the council added: ‘In the absence of any rule of reciprocity or the unwillingness of foreign lawyers to enrol themselves under the Advocates Act, it is not only violation of the Act but also their practice is illegal since they would not come under the purview of the disciplinary power of the regulatory body in India.
‘If they are not enrolled under the Advocates Act, the professional conduct of these foreign lawyers and foreign law firms will go unchecked as there will be no disciplinary authority to exercise control over them.’




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