23 April, 2012 17:00

Foreign Law Firm Case: BCI approaches Supreme Court against AK Balaji decision by Madras HC
The Bar Council of India (BCI) has filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against the decision of the Madras High Court in AK Balaji v. Union of India. BCI’s Standing Counsel in the Supreme Court, Ardhendumauli Kumar Prasad confirmed to Bar & Bench that the Special Leave Petition has been filed and is likely to come up for hearing before the Court closes for summer vacations.

The Madras High Court, in its judgment dated February 21, 2012, had held that 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 Rules.

However, 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 from coming to India and conducting arbitration proceedings in disputes involving international commercial arbitration.

It is against this decision that the BCI has chosen to file an appeal.

Speaking to Bar & Bench on the main grounds of the appeal, Prasad said, “BCI has primarily challenged the Madras High Court order on the ground that the issues relating to practice of profession of law by foreign lawyers before the Madras High Court were no longer res integra as the same were comprehensively dealt by the Bombay High Court while passing the final Judgment and order dated December 16, 2009 in WP No. 1526 of 1995”.

Prasad added, “BCI has also appealed on the ground that the foreign lawyers who intend to practice in India shall first enroll themselves with BCI as per the charter of the Advocates Act, 1961”.

Newly elected BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra too confirmed that the BCI had filed an appeal against the decision of the Madras High Court. Mishra said, “ We are not in favour of allowing foreign lawyers to enter for [a] temporary period on ‘fly in and fly out’ basis, for the purpose of giving legal advice on foreign law.”.

He further said, “We want the foreign lawyers to first enroll with the Bar Council before they can practice. Also, we will allow entry to foreign lawyers only on the basis of reciprocity”.

Amongst the long list of the Respondents are AK Balaji (the Petitioner in the Madras High Court), the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, and 31 foreign law firms as well as LPO Integreon. The Law Ministry, Home Ministry, Finance Ministry, External Affairs Ministry, Income Tax Department and the RBI have also been arrayed as Respondents.

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