Deny foreign law firms' plea for branch in India: RBI

RBI asks banks not to approve proposals of foreign law firms to open branch office in India

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The RBI on Monday asked banks not to approve any proposal of foreign law firms to open a branch office, project office or liaison office in the country under FEMA for the purpose of practicing legal profession.

The RBI has issued a circular in this regard in view of a Supreme Court order wherein the apex court held that advocates enrolled under the Advocates Act, 1961 alone are entitled to practice law in India and foreign law firms or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law.

"... banks are directed not to grant any approval to any branch office, project office, liaison office or other place of business in India under FEMA for the purpose of practicing legal profession in India," the RBI said.

Further, "they shall bring to the notice of the Reserve Bank in case any such violation of the provisions of the Advocates Act comes to their notice", it added.

The RBI in October 2015 had advised banks not to grant fresh permissions or renew permissions already granted to any foreign law firm for opening of liaison office in India till the policy in this regard is reviewed based on, among others, final disposal of the matter by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, it said, while disposing of the case, held that advocates enrolled under the Advocates Act, 1961 alone are entitled to practice law in India and that foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law in India.

As such, foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers or any other person resident outside India, "are not permitted" to establish any branch office, project office, liaison office or other place of business in India for the purpose of practicing legal profession, the circular said.