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Context: The Bar Council of India (BCI) has allowed foreign attorneys and law firms to practise law in India.

More about the Decision

  • The Bar Council of India (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'.
  • Objectives: The objective is to make it feasible for foreign attorneys and law firms to "perform foreign law, diverse international law, and international arbitration proceedings in India on the concept of reciprocity in a well-defined, regulated, and controlled manner".
  • According to the Regulations, foreign legal firms and attorneys are not permitted to practise in India unless they are registered with the BCI.
  • Exception: If a foreign lawyer or foreign law firm were to practise law in India to provide legal counsel to a client regarding foreign law or international legal matters, this rule would not apply.
    • However in this situation, the attorney or company is not permitted to have a branch in India, and the total number of days they can practice in a calendar year is limited to 60.
  • Conditions to practice in India: They must possess a certificate stating that they are qualified to practice law in their nation, issued by the appropriate authorities, as one of their primary qualifications.
    • Foreign attorneys and firms are required to provide an undertaking that they "shall not practice Indian law in any manner or before any court of law, tribunal, board or other authority legally entitled to record evidence on oath" as one of the requirements for being allowed to practice.

Significance of the decision

  • According to the BCI, the decision would assist Indian lawyers, whose standards of legal expertise are on par with those around the world.
  • According to the notification, "The legal profession in India is not likely to experience any disadvantage in case law practise is opened up to foreign lawyers in a limited, well-controlled, and regulated manner on the principle of reciprocity as it would be beneficial for lawyers from India and abroad, and these Rules are an attempt by Bar Council of India in this direction.
  • The Rules will make India a centre for international commercial arbitration and assist in addressing concerns raised regarding the flow of foreign direct investment into the nation.