BCI Issues Clarification on Entry of Foreign Lawyers and Law Firms in India

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has issued a clarification pertaining to the rules allowing the entry of foreign lawyers and foreign law firms in India. This is to put an end to the “misapprehension” and “misinformation” which ensued after the issue of these rules which were notified by the Council on March 10, 2023 (click here to read more).

Through the press release dated March 19, 2023, the BCI has expressly stated that foreign lawyers and foreign law firms would be permitted to advise their clients about foreign laws and international laws only. Moreover, they would handle advisory work pertaining to foreign laws and international laws for their foreign clients only. It has been reiterated that they can practice only in non-litigation areas of law and hence, will not be permitted to appear before any Court, Tribunal, Board, Statutory or Regulatory Authority legally entitled to take evidence on oath.

The Council reasoned that this step was pursuant to the Supreme Court decision dated March 12, 2018, wherein it was expressed by the court that BCI or the government ought to frame rules facilitating the entry of foreign lawyers and foreign law firms in India. Further, as per statistics, India is not the preferred venue in international commercial arbitration cases. With these rules, Foreign Lawyers would be permitted to appear on behalf of their clients in matters of international commercial arbitration. Accordingly, MNCs and other entities will be able to bring lawyers and law firms from their respective countries encouraging them to choose India as the venue for international arbitration proceedings.

It is highlighted that reciprocity is the “very essence” of the rules, so lawyers of only those countries would be allowed to practice law in India, where Indian lawyers are also allowed to practice. Assuring the Indian advocates that the rules would not have any impact on them, the BCI has urged the legal community to “welcome these rules in National Interest”.