SC asks Bar Council for its stand on lawmakers practising as lawyers

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The top court upheld the judgements by the Madras High Court in 2012 and the Bombay High Court in 2009 that foreign lawyers may only offer advice on foreign laws on a "fly-in-fly-out" basis.

The Bar Council of India (BCI) too had issued notice to MPs, MLAs and MLCs who continue to practice law, following Upadhyay's submission that since the MPs, MLAs etc. are being paid salary by the government, they can not be allowed to practice, as per the Advocates Act and BCI Rules. Counsels for the BCI, arguing against allowing foreign lawyers from practicing in India, pointed to similar limitation being placed in other countries.

The ruling partially upheld a 2012 Madras High Court ruling that foreign law firms or foreign lawyers can not practise the profession of law in India either on the litigation or non-litigation side unless they fulfil the requirements of The Advocates Act, 1961 and the rules of The Bar Council of India (BCI).

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud issued notice to apex regulatory body BCI on the plea which alleged that parliamentarians and legislators, practising as lawyers, posed a "conflict of interest" and violated the provisions of the Advocates Act and the Bar Council of India Rules.

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Also in line with predictions, and in a welcome fillip to the Modi regime, the bench passed the ball to the government, asking it and the Bar Council of India (BCI) to come up with rules governing foreign lawyers' entry.

The Bombay High Court, in its 2009 judgement, had held that while foreign law firms could not practice in India, foreign individuals may do so after getting registered in India. Indian law firms were also not allowed to operate from any of the SEZs.

However, it has permitted foreign la firms to participate in arbitration proceedings.