By Uganda Vanguard
COMMERCIAL COURT – Date has been set for ruling on a case of purported conflict of interest between businessman tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia and city law firm Sebalu & Lule Advocates and dfcu Bank..
“The ruling is set for April 24 at 9:30am, matter adjourned till then,” said Commercial Court Justice Paul Gadenya after hearing the submissions from the parties Wednesday April 3rd, 2019.
The petitioner, Mr Ruparelia claims Sebalu & Lule Advocates is “guilty” of conflict of interest and should not represent dfcu Bank which he sued through Crane Management Services, one of his business entities, over rental arrears following the takeover of Crane Bank when it was closed in 2016.
In his submissions, 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 representing the second respondent (dfcu Bank). We so pray my lord,” he submitted.
In response, Mr Peter Walubiri, who represented Sebalu & Lule Advocates, told court that the Mr Ruparelia’s application had no merit and should be dismissed with costs.
He said the fact that a client at one time retained a lawyer or a law firm does not bar them from acting against that client.
Counsel Walubiri further submitted that it was not enough for the lawyer of Crane Management Services to generalise that confidential information was shared between them and Sebalu & Lule Advocates without specifying it.
“The applicant in this case must particularise the confidential information. He can’t just generally state that confidential information was passed. Any client would allege so hence the need to particularise the said confidential information,” submitted.
Counsel Mubiru Kalenge for dfcu Bank asked court to dismiss the case on account of lack of merit.
He argued that Mr Sudhir’s lawyers failed to show court that confidential information was indeed exchanged between the parties before.
The original matter. This involves Crane Management Services suing dfcu Bank over rental arrears of Shs2.9b and $385,728.54 for premises formerly occupied by the defunct Crane Bank. The main suit is pending before the High Court. Mr Ruparelia claims that when dfcu Bank took over the assets and liabilities of Crane Bank, it also took over occupation and use of the said rented properties from which the real estate company, Crane Management Services seeks to recover the rent arrears.