Supreme court interprets scope of work for foreign lawyers


In Bar Council of India v A K Balaji & Ors, the Supreme Court interpreted the expression “practise the profession of law” in the Advocates Act, 1961, which applies to foreign lawyers practising foreign law in arbitration proceedings and business process outsourcing (BPO)/legal process outsourcing (LPO) companies conducting business in India.

The court framed five legal issues and answered accordingly.

Does the expression “practise the profession of law” include litigation or non-litigation practice? The court held that the expression includes both types of litigation practice. Legal professional ethics apply not only when an advocate appears before the court, but also outside of the court.

Is the practise by foreign law firms or foreign lawyers permissible without fulfilling the requirements of the Advocates Act and the Bar Council of India (BCI) rules? The court held that the practise of law includes not only appearance in courts but also when giving opinions, drafting instruments and participating in conferences involving legal discussion (in non-litigation practice).

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The dispute digest is compiled by Bhasin & Co, Advocates, a corporate law firm based in New Delhi. The authors can be contacted at or Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.