RBI directs banks not to grant approval to foreign law firms for opening liaison/branch offices under FEMA
The Reserve Bank of India has issued a notification directing the banks not to grant fresh permissions/ renewal of permission to any foreign law firm for the opening of Liaison Office 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 places of business in India for the purpose of practicing legal profession. Accordingly, AD Category – I banks are directed not to grant any approval to any branch office, project office, liaison office or other places of business in India under FEMA for the purpose of practicing legal profession in India. 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.”- the RBI notification
The RBI notification referred to a Supreme Court judgment in BCI vs. AK Balaji
The Supreme Court, in the judgment delivered in 2015 in BCI vs. AK Balaji, had held that foreign law firms cannot set up offices in India or practice in Indian Courts. However, it was clarified that they can advice Indian clients on a “fly in and fly out” basis, not amounting to regular practice. “Visit of any foreign lawyer on fly in and fly out basis may amount to practice of law if it is on regular basis. A casual visit for giving advice may not be covered by the expression ‘practice’. 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. Bar Council of India or Union of India are at liberty to make appropriate rules in this regard
What is ‘Liaison Office’?
Section 2(e) of Foreign Exchange Management (Establishment in India of Branch or Office or other Place of Business) Regulations, 2016 defines ‘Liaison Office’ as a place of business to act as a channel of communication between the principal place of business or Head Office or by whatever name called and entities in India but which does not undertake any commercial /trading/ industrial activity, directly or indirectly, and maintains itself out of inward remittances received from abroad through normal banking channel.
[ RBI directs banks not to grant approval to foreign law firms for opening liaison/branch offices under FEMA ]
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