Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bar council opposes foreign law firms [India]

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has locked horns with the Centre over the entry of foreign law firms. While the Centre has told the Bombay High Court that it has no objection to foreign law firms setting up shop in India, the BCI has opposed the move saying only lawyers enrolled with an Indian bar council can practise.

“If a foreign lawyer is allowed to practise in India, it will be opening flood gates for committing professional or other misconduct with impunity,” said the BCI affidavit.
Also, the BCI will have no disciplinary jurisdiction over a foreign lawyer, who could challenge the sovereignty and integrity of the nation. “The days are not far off when terrorists attacking India will be defended by foreign lawyers, who would themselves support such terrorists’ cause. These are not imaginary fears,” read the affidavit.
Lawyer’s Collective first filed a case in 1995. The high court will decide if foreign law firms can set up offices in India and if the term ‘practise the profession of law’ extends beyond appearing before a court to advising clients and drafting legal documents.
The Centre has given its nod because it thinks the Advocates Act only prohibits foreign lawyers from appearing before a court. At present, a foreign lawyer can practise in India only after enrolling with a state bar council. Enrolment ensures that a foreign lawyer meets the qualification and professional standards set by the BCI.

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