Thursday, September 21, 2023

Foreign lawyers to work in India in a restricted sphere: Bar Council of India

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The Bar Council of India, in the wake of certain misapprehensions and misinformation surrounding its decision to allow foreign lawyers and law firms to practice foreign law in India on a reciprocity basis, has issued a statement, making clarification over the same.

The Council has said that as per the Bar Council of India Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022, foreign lawyers practicing in India would function in a very restricted sphere and the decision was not going to impact the Advocates practicing in India.

As per the statement issued on Sunday, the rules had been framed against the backdrop of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of BCI vs AK Balaji, wherein the top court of the country had given liberty to the Union Government and the BCI to frame rules in this regard.

Stating that it stood committed to protecting and safeguarding the interest and welfare of Advocates in the country, the Council requested the entire lawyer fraternity to welcome these rules in the national interest.

The Council had notified the Bar Council of India Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022 on March 15, giving a green signal to foreign lawyers and law firms for practicing in India.

The BCI statement said the foreign lawyers and law firms would be allowed to advise their clients about Foreign laws and International laws only. They would render advisory work about such laws for their foreign clients only.

Foreign lawyers and law firms shall be allowed to function in non-litigation areas only. They would not be allowed to appear in any Court, Tribunal, Board, before any Statutory or Regulatory Authority or any forum legally entitled to take evidence on oath and/or having trappings of a court.

The entry of foreign lawyers would be on a reciprocal basis only, which means lawyers of only those countries would be permitted in India, where Indian lawyers were also permitted to practice.

As per the BCI statement, foreign lawyers would be allowed to appear for their clients in International Commercial Arbitration. 

It said the Rules should not be misconstrued to allow any non-lawyer, BPO or agent to come to India and start practising in any sphere under any trading style, if in pith and substance, it amounted to practice of law as held in A.K.Balaji & Ors. 

Terming reciprocity as the very essence of the Rule, which may be kept in mind, the Council asserted that the Rules would enable India to become a preferred venue for International Arbitration Proceedings and in turn, would help in making the country a hub of International Commercial Arbitration.

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