Commercial Court’s Justice Paul Gadenya Wolimbwa has set April 24, 2019 as date on which he will deliver his ruling on a case of alleged conflict of interest between Sudhir Ruparelia and firm Sebalu & Lule Advocates and dfcu Bank.
Ruparelia as petitioner, through his real estate company, Crane Management Services, sued dfcu Bank demanding rental arrears amounting to Shs2.9b and $385,728.54 in respect of tenancies of suit properties that were formally owned by Crane Bank.
And as defendants, dfcu Bank hired the services of Sebalu & Lule Advocates something the businessman contests. Ruparelia claims the law firm is unfit to represent dfcu Bank because they guilty of conflict of interest.
Ruparelia says he contracted the same law firm in 2016 to draw and review tenancy agreements in respect of the said rental premises thus there is conflict between the lawyer and his client.
“In view of 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,” the petition reads, in part.
He further says that during their client-advocate interaction with the firm, he revealed privileged and confidential information which dfcu can exploit to his disadvantage in the present dispute before court.
Rupareria also wants the court to issue a permanent injunction, restraining Sebalu & Lule Advocates from appearing as defence counsel for dfcu Bank in the other court case that the two principals are battling out.
In December 2017, the Commercial court disqualified Mr. Masembe and Mr. Mpanga from the UGX397b Sudhir Ruparelia’s case against Bank of Uganda (BoU), citing conflict of interest.
In his ruling delivered on December 21, 2017, the head of the commercial court division, Justice Wangutusi stated that Mr. David Mpanga of A.F. Mpanga Advocates and Mr. Timothy Masembe of MMAKS Advocates acted in violation of the Advocates (Professional Conduct) regulations.
Counsel Joseph Kyazze for Crane Management Services, said: “There has always been a client and advocate relationship that stems from 2012. When the first respondent (Sebalu & Lule) was acting for the Ruparelia Group, acted for each and every entity that forms part of the Ruparelia Group and that these are one and the same.”
Counsel Kyazze argued that in 2016, Sebalu & Lule took up instructions to review tenancies and yet the nature of another lawsuit before the Land Division, relates to tenancy in which the same law firm is representing dfcu Bank.
“Our submission is that in the review, the lawyers of the 1st respondent (Sebalu and Lule Advocates), asked for what the existing tenancies were to enable them review. The copies that existed, are some of the copies that are a subject of the main suit,” he added.
He said the courts have been consistent and have held that where there is conflict of interest, the advocate is to consider disqualification. “We pray that this court be pleased to disqualify or injunct the 1st respondent (law firm) from represe
nting the second respondent (dfcu Bank). We so pray my lord,” he submitted