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Lawyer held guilty for deficiency in service

In a rare case, the additional Pune District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum directed a lawyer to pay Rs 38,500 to an architect, for representing him in a property dispute between 2003 and 2004 and taking legal fees. The lawyer did not attend court dates and kept the client in the dark, because ofwhich, the architect lost the case and had to vacate the property.

The architect later demanded his fees back for being deceived and for inconvenience caused, however, the lawyer refused to pay up and the architect approached the consumer forum in 2006.

The complainant Sanjeev Oak had rented a office in Sati Nivas at Kothrud, actually owned by one Tuljaram Keswani. In 2003, Keswani asked Oak to vacate the property. However, Oak refused to evict the place and Keswani had approached the court and registered a private complaint against Oak under a section of the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999.

Oak appointed lawyer Sandip Paigude as his counsel to represent him and even paid him Rs 11,500 as legal fee. “After appointing him as my lawyer, I did not get time to look into court proceedings. Paigude used to tell me the case is going on and dates were being deferred by the judge,” said Oak in his complaint to the consumer forum.

He said that on March 5, 2004, when he was at his Kothrud office, Keswani and some cops stormed into the office and showed him the court order and told him that the court had ruled in their favour. However, he was later forced to vacate the property.

When he went through the court proceedings, he realised Paigude had never attended the trial, which is why the ruling was not in his favour. “I then slapped Paigude with a legal notice and pay me for fees and furniture damage, which was Rs 1.65 lakh. Paigude said that he had not received any payment from me,” said Oak in his statement.

Oak then complained to the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa for disciplinary action against Paigude, but failed. However, the consumer forum decided to take up his case and demanded Rs 1.65 lakh as compensation. Oak decided to argue his own case and represented himself and submitted a receipt of Rs 11,500 signed by Paigude and other documents before the consumer forum.

Paigude hired another lawyer named Thakur Desai to represent him before the consumer forum and denied Oak’s claims. He denied he had received any payment, and said, “As I was new in the profession, I was not aware of the fee negotiations.” Anjali Deshmukh, president and member S K Pacharne of the consumer forum examined the evidence and ruled that Paigude had been guilty of deficiency in service.

The bench comprising Deshmukh and Pacharne directed Paigude to pay Rs 38,5000 to Oak, which includes the original fees of Rs 11,500, Rs 25,000 for inconvenience and mental torture and other costs of Rs 2,000.  

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