The Commercial Court in Kampala led by Justice Paulo Gadenya has heard the case where businessman Dr.Sudhir Ruparelia seeks to have Sebalu and Lule Advocates barred from representing DFCU Bank against him, citing conflict of interest. Dr.Sudhir Ruparelia’s Crane Management Services last year sued DFCU Bank over rental arrears amounting to Shs2.9b and $385,728.54 that they inherited after taking over Crane Bank. Sebalu and Lule are representing DFCU in the case, but before it is heard, Sudhir filed a conflict of interest case noting that the bank’s lawyers could jeopardise his case as they have previously represented him. Joseph Kyazze, a lawyer representing Sudhir’s Crane Management Services adduced evidence that DFCU’s law firm has been representing Sudhir’s companies since 2012 and pled that they be struck off the case over conflict of interest. “The applicant (Crane Management Services) and Meera Investments are part of the Ruparelia group in which the shareholders are the same. Since the first respondent (Sebalu and Lule Advocates) acted for one company (Meera Investments), they acted on behalf of all the companies in the group,” Kyazze argued. “All the companies were addressed through Ruparelia group and not as individual companies as the respondent (Sebalu and Lule Advocates) alleges.” Kyazze said that Sebalu and Lule were contacted in regards to a review of tenancy agreements for Meera Investments, the same matter both Crane Management and DFCU are battling over in the main case. Kyazze adduced evidence in form of an email dated February 17, 2016 and a letter date February 26, 2016 in which the law firm was asked to review several tenancy agreements. “He (Sebalu) was tasked to draft the tenancy agreements into the simplest forms and was paid for the services rendered,” Kyazze said. “He promised to always be available for consultancy and advice. By representing DFCU in a matter regarding the same tenancy agreements, there exists an advocate-client relationship in which confidential information was discussed between the two and the same information might be used to our disadvantage in the main case,” he said. Kyazze added that Ssebalu and Lule Advocates breached regulations 4,9 and 10 of the Advocates Rights by accepting to represent DFCU yet he knows he is conflicted and is privy to confidential information that might be useful in the case between the two entities. “The law says where there is apparent conflict, the only remedy for the lawyer is to dismiss themselves from the case but if they refuse, court must disqualify the advocate. We ask this court to do the same with costs,” Kyazze pled. However, Ssebalu and Lule’s lawyers led by Peter Walubiri in their defense said that the fact that one time Sebalu represented that client does not bar him from advocating against the same client. Justice, Paul Gadenya set April 24,2019 as the date to give his ruling on the matter.
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