The Bar Council of India (BCI) has opened up law practice in India to foreign lawyers and law firms.
The BCI, a statutory body governing legal practice in India, has framed the 'Bar Council of India Rules for Registration of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2021' to enable foreign lawyers and law firms "to practice foreign law, diverse international law and international arbitration matters in India on the principle of reciprocity in a well-defined, regulated and controlled manner".
The BCI said that the move would benefit Indian lawyers, whose standards of proficiency in law are comparable with the international standards.
"The legal fraternity in India is not likely to suffer any disadvantage in case law practice in India is opened up to foreign lawyers in a restricted and well-controlled and regulated manner on the principle of reciprocity as it would be mutually beneficial for lawyers from India and abroad, and these Rules are an attempt by Bar Council of India in this direction," the BCI notification said.
It said that the Rules would also help to address the concerns expressed about the flow of Foreign Direct Investment into the country and would help make India a hub for international commercial arbitration.
The Rules prescribe that foreign lawyers and firms would not be entitled to practice law in India without registration with the BCI.
‘No practice in court’
This restriction, however, would not apply to law practice by a foreign lawyer or foreign law firm on a ‘fly in and fly out basis’ for the purpose of giving legal advice to a client in India on foreign law or international legal issues. However, in such a case, the lawyer or firm cannot have an office in India, and their practice cannot exceed 60 days in any 12-month period.
Significantly, one of the preconditions for practice is that foreign lawyers and firms have to submit an undertaking that they "shall not practice Indian law in any form or before any court of law, tribunal, board or any other authority legally entitled to record evidence on oath".
A primary qualification required from them is a certificate from the competent authority of their country that they are entitled to practice law in that country.