In a significant legal ruling, the Madras High Court, presided over by Justice G Ilangovan of the Madurai Bench, has intervened to protect a client facing criminal proceedings under the Negotiable Instruments Act. The case revolved around a complaint filed by V Pavel, an advocate in Madurai, who alleged dishonor of a cheque by the client, Davidraj. However, the court ruled that the fee demanded by Pavel was illegal as per the Legal Practitioners Rules, and thus, no legal liability could be imposed on the client.
**Legal Battle Unveiled**
The legal saga unfolded when Davidraj sought to quash the criminal proceedings initiated against him, stemming from a private complaint filed by Pavel. Pavel claimed that in 2008, Davidraj had sought his legal assistance due to outstanding debts of over 1.3 crore and numerous pending criminal cases. Pavel asserted that despite rendering legal services, he had not received any fee but was assured by Davidraj that he would execute a sale deed for 10 cents of land. Furthermore, Pavel alleged that in November 2012, he had allowed Davidraj to stay in his office when Davidraj’s life was in danger.
Tensions escalated when Davidraj issued a notice requesting a change in vakalath (authorization for representation), and Pavel demanded Rs. 10 lakh as a fee. A cheque was subsequently issued by Davidraj, which, when presented, bounced due to insufficient funds. As a result, Pavel lodged a private complaint against Davidraj, setting the stage for a legal showdown.
**The Court’s Verdict**
In a pivotal decision, the Madras High Court accepted Davidraj’s argument that the Rs. 10 lakh fee claimed by Pavel was illegal, according to the Legal Practitioner’s Fees Rules of 1973. The court also pointed out the absence of documents to demonstrate that the payment was intended to cover all the litigation defended by Pavel. This lack of contractual evidence led the court to invoke the Apex Court decision in B Sunitha v State of Telangana and another, which stipulates that for a petition under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act to be maintainable, the payment must be contractual in nature.
Justice Ilangovan stressed, “In the absence of such a primary document or even a statement and the complaint, the mere issuing of the cheque, in the facts and circumstances of the case, will not create any legal liability.”
Moreover, the court determined that Pavel’s fee claim was prima facie illegal, as it contradicted the Legal Practitioner’s Fees Rules of 1973. Consequently, the court ruled that Davidraj could not be held legally liable to honor the disputed cheque.
The court’s final verdict was decisive and in favor of the client, Davidraj. The proceedings were quashed, putting an end to the legal battle that revolved around the legality of the fee claimed by Pavel.
This ruling serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to legal rules and regulations, even within the legal profession itself. The case highlights the need for transparency and proper documentation in fee arrangements between clients and legal practitioners to prevent disputes and uphold the integrity of the legal system.