Foreign Law Firms Case Post Match Conference


Foreign law firms or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law in India either on the litigation or non-litigation side, unless they fulfill the requirement of the Advocates Act, 1961 (Advocates Act) and the Bar Council of India (BCI) Rules, the Madras High Court ruled on Tuesday.
However, the bench of Chief Justice M Y Eqbal and Justice T S Sivagnanam did give a breather to foreign lawyers. The Court clearly stated that there is no bar either in the Advocates Act or the BCI Rules for foreign law firms or foreign lawyers to visit India for a temporary period on a ‘fly in and fly out’ basis, for the purpose of giving legal advise on foreign law to their clients in India.
The Court also held that foreign lawyers cannot be debarred to come to India and conduct arbitration proceedings in respect of disputes arising out of a contract relating to international commercial arbitration.
The decision comes in the light of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by A. K. Balaji, an advocate and a member of Association of Indian Lawyers against 31 foreign law firms from Australia, USA and UK and also including one LPO.
The PIL challenged the entry of foreign law firms into the country and sought a writ of mandamus directing the Government to take action against foreign law firms practicing 'illegally' in India either in litigation side or in the field of non-litigation.
The PIL had also claimed that these foreign law firms were violating provisions of the Advocates Act by providing legal services in India.
Relief to foreign lawyers?
There was certain degree of uncertainty amongst foreign lawyers on the question as to whether they could fly into India to advise Indian clients on foreign law. It appears that this decision has given some clarity by allowing foreign lawyers to travel to India for a short span on a ‘fly in fly out’ basis to advise clients on foreign law. The general feeling amongst foreign lawyers seems to be that of relief, a sentiment confirmed by White & Case India Practice Head Nandan Nelivigi. White & Case was one of the 31 foreign law firms which was dragged to the Court by AK Balaji.
Speaking to Bar & Bench Nandan said, “The Madras High Court reached a very sensible and pragmatic conclusion in upholding the right of foreign lawyers to continue to advise their clients in India-related matters on the laws of the jurisdictions in which such lawyers are qualified,