NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today sought a response from Bar Council of India (BCI) on a plea filed against the 2009 Bombay High Court verdict holding that foreign law firms cannot carry on liaison activities here without being enrolled as advocates under the Indian statute.
A bench of justices Anil R Dave and Kurian Joseph issued notice to the apex bar body BCI on the plea of Global Indian Lawyers (GIL), a society which seeks to promote global growth of the legal fraternity.
The Bombay High Court had held that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was not justified in allowing foreign law firms to open the liaison offices here in India.
The High court had also held that these offshore law firms can carry on liaison activities in India only if they enroll as advocates under the Advocates Act, 1961.
It was further held that the expression "to practice the profession of law" is wide enough to cover persons practicing in litigious matters as well as persons practicing in non-litigious matters in India.
The bench, which is also hearing a plea of BCI against a Madras High Court judgement on the issue, has now clubbed both the pleas together and fixed them for hearing on July 20.
The GIL, in its fresh plea, has said the condition that the foreign firms will have to register as advocates under the Advocates Act, is "completely erroneous".
Under the Advocates Act, it said only individual lawyers are required to be registered and not the law firms, and added that the Bombay High Court erred in assuming that the work conducted by foreign law firms in India would go unregulated.
The BCI, in separate plea, has challenged the findings of the Madras High Court on the entry of foreign law firms.
There is no bar either in the Act or the Rules for the foreign law firms or foreign lawyers to visit India for a temporary period on a fly-in, fly-out basis, for the purpose of giving legal advise to their clients in India regarding foreign law or their own system of law and on diverse international legal issues, the high court had said.