By Kagenyi Lukka
Once again, another learned judge, Justice Paul Gadenya of the commercial division of the high court did not mince his words while kicking out a conflicted city law firm of Sebalu & Lule Advocates from representing dfcu bank in a case in which city property kingpin, Dr.Sudhir Ruparelia is suing the bank over breach of contract.
In miscellaneous application No.1047 of 2018, Crane Management Services vs. Sebalu & Lule Advocates and Dfcu Bank Limited, Dr Ruparelia accused the law firm of conflict of interest and breach of the Advocates (Professional Conduct) Regulations, since the law firm that was previously CMS’ lawyers and as such in possession of confidential information would use this privileged information against Crane management services.
Crane Management Services is one of the companies that make up the Ruparelia group of companies alongside a host of other companies.
It should be emphasized that ever since the illegal takeover and later sale of Sudhir’s former Crane bank Limited(Cbl) to dfcu at Uganda shillings 200 billion, the astute business man could not sit and fold his hands as his economic rights were being abused by fortune hunters in the legal profession and others in the Bank of Uganda(BoU).
Sudhir’s disenchantment over such well calculated attempts to deprive him of his property gave rise to the main suit HCCS No.109 of 2018.In this suit,Dr Sudhir Ruparelia through his Crane Management Services sued dfcu for severally breaching various tenancy agreements in respect to 13 properties in Kampala and Mbale. CMS thus made prayers for USD385, 728 and UGX2, 998, 5589,624 as rental arrears. Other prayers include interest accrued, general damages, interest on general damages and costs of the suit.
It is against the background of this main suit that Sudhir sought to kick out Sebalu and Lule advocates from continuing as counsel for the embattled dfcu bank.
Sudhir’s Crane Management Services thus argued that, “The advocate-client relationship between the applicant (Crane Management Services Ltd) and the 1st respondent (Sebalu & Lule advocates), the latter’s continued participation as defence counsel for the 2nd respondent (Dfcu bank) herein, which is the defendant in High Court Civil Suit (HCCS) No. 109/2018 against the applicant/plaintiff, is prejudicial to the applicant’s head suit”
Has Dr Sudhir Ruparelia mastered how to expose Conflicted lawyers?
Dr Sudhir Ruparelia should be credited for adding a block to the development of Uganda’s case law commonly referred to by lawyers as precedents.
A Precedent is a legal principle, created by a court decision, which provides an example or authority for judges deciding similar issues later. Generally, decisions of higher courts (within a particular system of courts) are mandatory precedents on lower courts within that system. That means the principle announced by a higher court must be followed in later cases. Sudhir’s recent victories against law firms because of conflict of interest will forever be based on by lower courts and courts of a similar nature to decide on cases with similar points of determination.
In December 2017, Dr Sudhir Ruparelia successfully challenged other hideous and conflicted lawyers. Commercial court handed the business man an early Christmas present from the justice system after the high court disqualified Kampala law firms, MMAKS Advocates and AF Mpanga Advocates from representing Bank of Uganda in a case of fraud against the businessman over conflict of interest.
Court ruled that lawyers David Mpanga and Kanyerezi Masembe who previously represented Crane Bank were privy to confidential information regarding Sudhir and that this information could be used to the businessman’s disadvantage.
Sudhir’s victory against Sebalu and Lule advocates yesterday went along to confirm that Dr Ruparelia is master of exposing conflicted firms.
In a ruling read by court registrar, Festo Nsenga on 29th April 2019, Justice Paul Gadenya said that Crane Management Services (CMS) had successfully proved that the law firm are “in possession of confidential information which is relevant, current and related to the head suit in HCCS No 109 of 2018 what would make them conflicted to act as counsel for the 2nd respondent against the applicant.”
“For the record, the engagement of the 1st respondent (Sebalu & Lule) as counsel for the 2nd respondent (dfcu) violated Regulation 4, 9 and 10 of the Advocates (Professional Conduct) Regulations,” Nsenga read.
“The application is allowed with the following orders: an injunction shall issue against the 1st respondent from representing the 2nd respondent in all matters in HCCS 109 of 2018. The respondents will pay the costs of this application,” Justice Gadenya ordered to the embarrassment of Sebalu and Lule advocates that were ably represented in court.
The conflicted firm was further dejected when Justice Gadenya furher ruled that the law firm can also not represent Bank of Uganda and or Crane Bank in Civil Suit No. HCCS 493 of 2017 (Sudhir Ruparelia vs. MMAKS Advocates, AF Mpanga Advocates (Bowmans Uganda), Crane Bank Limited (In Receivership) and Bank Of Uganda) since CMS, the Ruparelia Group and Crane Bank are one and the same.
Tough times ahead for BoU and dfcu.
Following Sudhir’s victories, Bank of Uganda and dfcu could be headed for more trouble as they are more likely be swept by another ‘legal tsunami’
The ruling of court implies that whichever lawyer has previously dealt with Sudhir and any of his companies can’t be counsel for either BoU or Dfcu which will puzzle the two embattled financial institutions to the marrow.
Another point of concern is whether these institutions have qualified legal personal who can advise them against going in for such a costly, embarrassing and image tainting venture.
The recent victories of Crane Management services in court mirror into the future that Dr Ruparelia who is not even a paralegal is far ahead of the manipulative attempts of the two institutions. Who will save them?