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Bombay HC ban on foreign law firms practice in India 
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Bombay HC upholds ban on foreign law firms from all forms of law practice

International firms Ashurst, Chadbourne & Parke and White & Case have lost the long-running case against the Lawyers' Collective, with the Bombay High Court having decided today that the practice of all law by foreign firms in India is illegal.

The judgement and reasoning of the court has not yet been published but lawyers for both sides have confirmed the decision.

FoxMandal Little Mumbai litigation partner Guruprasad Pal, who represented White & Case in the matter, said: We do not have the copy of the judgement but the court pronounced that the petition has been allowed.

It's a victory for the Lawyers' Collective, he added.

Senior advocate CU Singh, who appeared on behalf of the Lawyers' Collective also confirmed the judgement.

He was arguing in the Supreme Court of India in Delhi today and was not present at the judgment but he was lead counsel on the case throughout and suggested several reasons for the court's decision.

Apparently they've allowed the petition, said Singh, so they've held that the permissions which have been granted by Reserve Bank of India to run liaison offices [by foreign firms] were illegal and those permissions have been quashed.

They also held that the practice of law under the Advocates Act in India encompasses all forms of practice, not just litigation practice in court but also corporate practice, advisory practice, M&A and the whole works, he added.

One of the main arguments of foreign law firms was that the Advocates Act covers only litigation practice in court but not advisory work pertaining to foreign law in India, explained Singh.

The case against the foreign firms has been running since 1995, after Ashurst, Chadbourne & Parke and White & Case opened up liaison office in India but were accused by contravening the Advocates Act by practising law in India.

The Bombay High Court's ruling quashes the optimism some legal observers felt in May, when India's voters reelected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a proponent of liberalizing the country's economy. Foreign law firms have been banned in India since a 1995 high court ruling that closed the brief window during which the three firms named above opened their liaison offices.

Tue Dec 29, 2009 2:14 pm
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