Foreign law firms and lawyers cannot set up shop in India, the Supreme Court decreed on Tuesday. However, foreign law firms and lawyers may “fly in and fly out” to advise clients on international law on temporary and casual basis.A bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit upheld a 2012 Madras High Court order that allowed the concept of “fly in and fly out” with regard to foreign lawyers and law firms which was challenged in the top court.The apex court has also permitted foreign law firms to appear in cases pertaining international commercial arbitration, though they would have to submit to the rules and directions framed by the Centre and the Bar Council of India (BCI). The top court has directed the Centre and the BCI to frame relevant rules if required.The BCI — which regulates the legal profession in India — had objected to the high court’s ‘fly in and fly out’ concept, submitting that foreign lawyers and law firms can’t be allowed to practise unless they subjected themselves to Indian regulations and fulfilled conditions of the Advocates Act, 1961 and BCI Rules.In its judgement, the Madras High Court had said there was nothing in the Advocates Act or the BCI Rules that prevented foreign law firms and lawyers to visit India temporarily on a “fly in, fly out” basis to give legal advice on foreign law to their clients in India.The HC further held that foreign lawyers could not be stopped from coming to India to conduct arbitration proceedings in disputes involving international commercial arbitration. The BCI has been demanding reciprocity with the countries that want their lawyers to be allowed law practice in India. Simply put, BCI sought for parity, countries who wish to practise here, must allow our firms and lawyers to practise in their country as well.The Law Commission in its 266th report had supported entry of foreign lawyers and law firms. However, the Centre has not clarified its stand.‘FLY IN, FLY OUT’However, foreign law firms and lawyers may “fly in and fly out” to advise clients on international law on temporary and casual basis, the apex court ruled on Tuesday

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Foreign firms, lawyers can’t practise in India, Supreme Court rules