India moves (a little) on legal services

There is good news in the Chennai case brought to stop 31 law firms from undertaking any kind of legal work in India: AK Balaji v The Government of India, Ashurst LLP, White & Case et al (WP5614/2010)).

Whilst most types of legal services remain forbidden, acting in arbitration and ‘fly-in, fly-out’ advisory services has now been permitted explicitly by the Court. More details are available at:

So far as it relates to arbitration, the decision only establishes that foreign lawyers are permitted to act in international arbitrations, as defined under the Indian Arbitration & Conciliation Act 1996 (at least one party must be non-Indian); the decision does not specifically address the question of rights of audience in Indian domestic arbitrations, but the effect of the decision is that it would not be permissible for a non-Indian lawyer to appear in a domestic arbitration.

Anyone planning to appear in an Indian domestic arbitration should therefore seek a specific direction from the Tribunal under section 32 of the Advocates Act at the outset of an appearance in any given case. Section 32 authorises “any court, authority or person [to] permit any person, not enrolled as an advocate under this Act, to appear before it or him in any particular case”.