“I saved you, else foreign firms might have taken over your work”, Justice Arun Mishra
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“I saved you, else foreign firms might have taken over your work”, Justice Arun Mishra

Murali Krishnan

Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra today made some interesting remarks regarding restrictions on the entry of foreign law firms into India.

Sitting along with Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice MR Shah, Justice Arun Mishra was hearing submissions made by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi in a case concerning additional gross revenue when he made the remarks.

“I saved you. I am saying this with utmost responsibility. Else foreign firms might have taken over your work”, said Mishra J.

He was referring to his role regarding the framing of Rules pertaining to the Foreign Lawyers Conditions of Practice in India.

“But for that, you won’t be here today. Some foreign lawyer might be arguing this matter”, Mishra J. told Singhvi.

“Don’t always curse me. You must thank me also sometimes”, he also added in a lighter vein.

Interestingly, Mishra J. also said that with globalisation, things have to change,  perhaps hinting that he might not be inclined to stick to his previous stance on the issue.

The issue of foreign law firms and lawyers being allowed to practice in India has always been a contentious one.

In March 2018, the Supreme Court had held that foreign law firms with foreign lawyers cannot set up offices in India. However, upholding a Madras High Court judgment on the subject, the Supreme Court had allowed foreign lawyers to advise on foreign law provided it is done on a ‘fly in fly out’ basis.

Whether a particular visit is casual or frequent so as to amount to practice is a question of fact to be determined from situation to situation, the Court had ruled. The Bar Council of India and the Union of India are at liberty to make appropriate rules in this regard, the Court had held.

The Court had also allowed foreign lawyers to appear in International Commercial Arbitration, subject to relevant institutional rules.

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