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SILF view clashes with BCI SC appeal over foreign lawyers but says CA firms practise illegally

Bhasin: No comment on BCI stance
Bhasin: No comment on BCI stance
Contrary to the approach taken by the Bar Council of India (BCI), foreign lawyers should be allowed to fly into India temporarily to advise clients and assist in arbitrations, decided the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) in its general board meeting on Saturday, while noting that chartered accountants have been flouting the rules.

SILF president and Bhasin & Co managing partner Lalit Bhasin said: “My view is that the interim order is absolutely correct. What we had been saying is that fly-in and fly-out should be permitted and the SC has allowed that, upheld that part of the judgment.”

“But the court did not allow the people to come for arbitration proceedings and all,” he added. “I think that should be permissible. Supposing Indian lawyers have to appear in London before LCIA [London Court of International Arbitration] or SIAC [Singapore International Arbitration Centre] and all that.”

“I think we should give the same treatment to the foreign lawyers, when they come [to India to do arbitrations].”

The apex court passed an interim order last week that foreign law firms should abide by the Indian Advocates Act if in the country advising in litigious and non-litigious matters, although in line with the Madras high court’s earlier decision in the Balaji case, foreign lawyers should be allowed to fly into India on a temporary basis to advise clients.

“The BCI has a different view,” conceded Bhasin but declined to comment further when asked about why the the BCI had appealed the fly-in-fly-out part of the Madras high court judgment or whether it had consulted with SILF before deciding to appeal.

SILF also resolved that many chartered accountancy firms were providing legal advice to Indian clients in violation of the Advocates Act and the Supreme Court order, reported the Hindustan Times.

“We would first take up the issue with the [Institute of Chartered Accountants] ICAI and the ministry of corporate affairs,” Bhasin told the newspaper. “In case the accounting firms including the foreign ones continue to provide legal advice to their clients, the government too must intervene. But if it does not solve the problem, we are ready to take up the issue in court.”

SILF general secretary and Hammurabi & Solomon managing partner Manoj Kumar told the Hindustan Times: “Advocates Act, 1961 only allows persons licensed by the bar councils to practice the profession of law in India, which management and accounting firms including the 'big four' do not comply with. The order of the Supreme Court therefore has to be implemented in letter and spirit by restraining such firms from practicing the profession of law.”

In February 2012 Legally India highlighted the discrepancy between the legal position and the work of chartered accountancy firms

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