New Delhi, Jul 4 - The Supreme Court today restrained the Reserve Bank of India from granting licenses or permission to foreign law firms to practise in India.
A bench of justices R M Lodha and A R Dave also issued notices to 31 law firms in the country on the appeal filed by Bar Council of India against a Madras High Court judgement, which took the view that foreign lawyers cannot be debarred from certain arbitration proceedings in India.
The apex court's passed the direction after senior counsel M N Krishnamani appearing for BCI sought a clarification on the issue as the Madras High Court's February 21, 2012, judgement was contrary to the earlier ruling of the Bombay High Court that no foreign lawyers or firms can operate in India.
Noting that the issue raised important question of law, the apex court sought response of the law firms on the issue and said that "in the meanwhile, the RBI shall not give license or permission to foreign law firms to practise in India."
It clarified that the the term "practise" would include not only litigious practise but also non-litigious practise, like consultation, legal drafting, etc.
A division bench of the Bombay High Court had in December 16, 2009, held that the RBI was not justified in granting permission to the foreign law firms to open the liaison offices in India under Sec 29 of the Advocates Act 1973.
According to the BCI, Sec 29 prohibits the entry of foreign lawyers or foreign firms in the country and only those enrolled with the various bar councils of the country can practise in India.
The BCI has argued that since the Bombay HC judgement was not challenged in the Supreme Court, it has attained finality but the Madras High Court subsequent ruling caused confusion. PTI