Foreign Firms Can No Longer Practice Law in India – But Why?

That’s what we’ll explore below.

For the past four years, India’s Bar Council has been fighting legal battles with tons of global law institutions and foreign entities on this decision.

But India seems to be holding strongly onto who has the right to litigate. The final ruling comes directly from India’s Supreme Court, and it’s being put into effect quite soon.

According to the new rule, any foreign lawyer or firm in India cannot practice litigation unless they fall under the requirements established in the Advocates Act, and India’s Bar Council rules.

What Does That Mean to Investors?

For starters, if you were seeking to join any of India’s residency investment programs, then you might have to rethink.

There won’t be global law firms to review and advise you on their program. You’ll be dealing almost exclusively with Indian lawyers.

In essence, foreign lawyers and law firms cannot contribute advisory services to customers seeking to move there.

It doesn’t stop there though. The Supreme Court’s bans are quite expansive, where it doesn’t only include litigation practices.

It includes individuals who contribute to legal discussion, are outspoken with their opinions, while also maintaining a legal appearance in court (when necessary). And the ban doesn’t just apply to individuals. It also applies to companies and entities not recognized by the new regulations.

India’s decision is based on the Advocates Act of India (Chapter 7), which specifies that individuals recognized by India’s Bar Council are the only ones entitled to law practice (unless specified in other laws).

Specifics on the Supreme Court’s Decision

First, any prohibition made by the Supreme Court to an individual in India extends to foreigners (except Bar council members, as specified by the Advocated Act).

Next, if a foreigner constantly flies in and out of India to provide advice, then this may be seen as a practice of law, and they may be prosecuted for that. Casual visits may not be seen as practices.

How Did India’s Central Bank React to The New Regulations?

The RBI (Reserve Bank of India) has sent out notifications to non-Indian law firms with regards to establishing new branch, liaison, or project offices.

It including the following:

  • No renewals or permissions will be provided by the RBI to foreign law firms for opening liaison offices in India.
  • A summary of the Supreme Court’s decision, where only those recognized by the Advocates Act can practice in India.

Do note that this ban doesn’t only apply to already established law firms in India. It also applies to foreigners intending to start a practice there.

As a result of the RBI’s decision, all Indian banks are instructed not to approve any liaison, project, or branch office, and as specified by the FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act).

In Summation

Foreign immigration law firms are no longer allowed in India. This being a recent change, it’s hard to judge how the new regulations will impact India’s investment programs.

Regardless, any foreigner attempting to practice law out of those bounds is considered a violator of the Advocates Act, and may be prosecuted as a result.