The Supreme Court of India [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Tuesday that foreign lawyers cannot practice law within the country.
Parties included both law firms and individual lawyers from the UK, US, France and Australia.
The court noted that Under the Advocates Act of 1961 [text], foreign lawyers cannot practice law in India without reciprocity. To be eligible to practice law in India, a person has to be an Indian citizen and have graduated with a law degree from an Indian university. Foreign nationals are only allowed to practice law in India if the national’s home country allows Indian lawyers to practice there.
“We have already held that practicing of law includes not only appearance in courts but also giving of opinion, drafting of instruments, participation in conferences involving legal discussion,” the court stated in its opinion.
The court held that foreign lawyers may not engage in the practice of law in the form of litigative work. However, they may engage in arbitration proceedings if the case pertains to international commercial arbitration. In addition, foreign lawyers may also provide legal advice for Indian nationals concerning international commercial arbitration. Said foreign lawyers will still be subject to Indian Bar rules of ethics. Rules governing how such arbitrations should be conducted should be created by the Bar Council of India [official website], the court said.