NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court (SC) today refused to allow the entry of foreign law firms in India to practice law in court.
In doing so, the top court upheld the Bombay and Madras high court judgments on the matter, but with certain modifications.
For example, it allowed foreign law firms to give legal advice to their clients on foreign laws. It also ruled that BPO companies working on legal services can operate in India as they don’t have to operate under the ambit of the Advocates Act. And it also ruled that foreign law firms can fly in and fly out of the country to give legal advice, but they can’t be allowed to set up permanent offices in the country.
Interestingly, last year in January, the ministry of commerce and industry on January 3 amended a rule allowing foreign law firms to set up offices and advise clients from Indian Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Before that, India did not permit multinational law firms to operate in the country. Indian law firms were also not allowed to operate from any of the SEZs.
Last year’s amendment was made by the commerce ministry, while whether to allow a foreign law firm in India is a purview of ministry of law and justice, said industry experts at the time.