Bar Council of Delhi passes interim order barring the Big 4 from practising law in India

Four big accounting firms – E&Y, Deloitte India, Price Water House Cooper’s and KPMG – have been asked to refrain from indulging in any legal practice in India.

The Bar Council of Delhi, in an interim order on Friday, directed four big accounting firms – E&Y, Deloitte India, Price Water House Cooper’s and KPMG – to refrain from practising law in India until further orders from the lawyers’ body. The Bar Council has also asked these firms for a list of all advocates enrolled across all their offices in any capacity.

The Bar Council action came on a complaint by senior advocate Lalit Bhasin, who petitioned that though all these firms were accounting firms, they were engaged in law practice, which is not legally permissible.

Bhasin, who is also the President of the Society of India Law Firms, said that the accounting firms have been encroaching into legal practice and their practice of hiring law graduates to provide non-litigation legal solutions was in contrast with the Advocates Act.

““The Council is of the view that in the meantime, all firms directed to give the list of all the advocates, who have been engaged by them, in any capacity, in any of their offices at any place and they are also directed to refrain themselves from indulging in any practice until further orders,” said a statement from the Delhi Bar Council.

In November 2018, an expert panel was constituted by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs which suggested an amendment to the Advocates Act to allow audit firms to offer legal services, a proposal which has faced opposition from law firms, who feel that this would affect the independence of the judicial profession and may turn into a ‘business’.

Across the world, the Big 4 offer fullscale legal services in some locations and other ‘alternate legal services’ in others. According to a report in The Economic Times, PwC launched ILC legal in the USA last year and Flexible Legal Resources for international clients. Meanwhile, Deloitte entered the legal services business in the UK and also acquired a US legal firm.
The Bar Council of Delhi will hear the matter next on July 12, 2019.

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