Will frame rules to allow foreign law firms in India: Bar Council of India | Hindustan Times
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Will frame rules to allow foreign law firms in India: Bar Council of India

The Supreme Court is hearing BCI’s appeal against the 2012 verdict of the Madras high court that allowed foreign lawyers to fly in and advise their clients.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2018 23:15 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Lawyers outside Supreme Court.
Lawyers outside Supreme Court.(Mint)

The Bar Council of India (BCI) told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it was ready to frame rules to allow foreign law firms in the country on the basis of reciprocity.

The apex disciplinary body for advocates, which regulates legal profession and education in India, however, is opposed to allowing the law firms open liaison offices here.

Senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for the BCI, argued before a bench headed by Justice AK Goel, that the advocates’ body was averse to any lawyer functi-oning in India outside the regulatory regime. The council, he submitted, would take care of the concerns over lack of reciprocity by any other country in extending similar relief to Indian lawyers.

“The council was willing to change the rules to allow foreign lawyers from other countries that allow Indians to practice there. They can’t have a carte blanche, do what they wish,” the senior counsel said.

The Supreme Court is hearing BCI’s appeal against the 2012 verdict of the Madras high court that allowed foreign lawyers to fly in and advise their clients. Challenge to a divergent view given by the Bombay high court is also pending before the top court, which is hearing the matter with the BCI appeal. In 2009, the Bombay HC disallowed foreign firms from setting up liaison offices in India with RBI permission. Both the cases have been pending in the top court for over five years.

Government counsel, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh, said the BCI should frame rules to open up the legal sector to foreign lawyers and law firms. Singh said if the council was unable to do so, the government will step in. “It is not that the government lacks the jurisdiction,” he told the court.

BCI counsel Singh, however, complained that the BCI was willing to work but the commerce mi- nistry brought in a foreign body to draft a law bypassing it. “This is not acceptable,” he said. The lawyer objected to foreign arbitrators being allowed to take part in Indian arbitration. “Arbitration is also part of legal practice,” he contended, indicating it must be subject to BCI regulations.

This was contested by senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who appeared in the case for the London Council of Arbitration. “This will finish off arbitration in India and act as a dampener on investment,” he argued. The court adjo- urned the matter to January 15.