1. The petitioner is at the same time the plaintiff in O. S. No. 8 of 1917 on the file of the Subordinate Judge's court of Mayavaram and the defendant in O. S. No. 56 of 1920 on the file of the same Court, and the respondents are two vakils practising in that court. The question we have to decide is whether the respondents can, consistently with Rule 277 of the Civil Rules of Practice, appear against the petitioner in the latter suit having already acted for him in the earlier suit. We are informed that both suits are still undisposed of.
2. The rule declares that a pleader who has advised a party in connection with the institution of a suit, or has drawn pleadings in connection with any such matter, or has acted for him shall not appear in such suit or in any appeal or application for revision arising therefrom, or in any matter connected therewith for any person whose interest is opposed to that of his former client. It is only where a pleader obtains the consent of the former client or the special leave of the court that an exception to this rule is provided. But it is always open to the pleader to give his former client an opportunity of engaging his services, and if the latter declines to engage him, he may then accept an engagement from his adversary.
3. The lower court dismissed the petitioner's application that audience should be refused to the two vakil respondents who have filed O.S. No. 56 of 1920 for the plaintiff in that suit against the petitioner. The subordinate Judge's main reasons for his order appear to be that he was not then satisfied that there would be any conflict between their duty in representing the plaintiff in O.S. No. 8 of 1917 and in representing his opponent in O.S. No. 56 of 1920. It was argued before him that the contentions that the respondents would as. vakils have to put forward in the one suit would not necessarily be inconsistent with their contentions in the other.
4. We are now in possession of the written statements and the issues in both suits and it seems to me impossible for the respondents to maintain that in supporting the plaintiff on issues 1 and 4 in O.S. No. 56 of 1920 they would not have to take up a position inconsistent with that which forms the basis of the case of the petitioner, plaintiff in O. S. No. 8 of 1917, upon issues 2,3 and 4 in that suit.
5. In O.S. No. 8 of 1917 the plaintiff sued one Tirunarayana Pillai for the possession of certain properties belonging to the estate of one Venkatakrishna Pillai asserting that a deed of indenture to which he was a party in 1905 contained false recitals as to Tirunarayana Pillai'w relationship to the plaintiff's maternal uncle Venkatakrishna Pillai and his adoption to Venkatachalam Pillai.
6. In. O.S. No. 56 of 1920 the plaintiff who is the son of the plaintiff in O.S. No. 8 of 1917 sues the defendant for an account of the management of his estate alleging that he got title to it under the suit indenture.
7. In both suits questions arise as to the validity and binding character upon the petitioner of the indenture and whether he is estopped by reason of it from questioning the title of the defendant in the former suit and the title of the plaintiff in the second suit.
8. The attitude of the pleaders appearing for the plaintiff in O.S. No. 56 of 1920 will, it seems to me, naturally conflict with the attitude they have taken up for the plaintiff in O.S. No. 8 of 1917.
9. The matter does not rest there. The petitioner has sworn in his affidavit dated 24-7-1920 that he has given confidential information and disclosed to them the contents of records in his possession for the conduct of O.S. No. 8 of 1917 (See paragraphs 16 to 19 of that affidavit). The 1st respondent denies in paragraphs 12 and 13 of his counter-affidavit dated 23-8-1920 that he received any confidential communications in O.S. No. 8 of 1917 or that he made use of such information when he drafted the plaint in O.S. No. 56 of 1920. If his deniaHs true, I can only conclude that he did not do his duty towards his client, a part of that duty being to thoroughly familiarise himself with all the ins and, outs of his client's case and to study it from every aspect. It is not reasonable to suppose that in preparing the plaint in O. S. No. 8 of 1917 this pleader picked up no internal information about the facts concerned with his client's case and it will not be in accordance with human nature to expect him to divest his mind of the knowledge he has so acquired. It is an. elementary principle of professional ethics that it is not proper for a legal adviser to use knowledge obtained in one case to the detriment of his client in another case - Vide Lord Eldon's judgment in Cholmondely v. Clinton 19 Ves. Jun. 261 and Pallonji Mencanji v. Kallobhai Lallubhai I.L.R. (1887) 12 Bom. 85., In my opinion there is a danger of that occuring in (his instance and it can only be avoided by not allowing the respondent to appear and conduct O.S. No. 56 of 1920, for the plaintiff in that suit.
10. In the lower court a further doubt seems to have arisen whether O. S. No. 56 could be denned as a proceeding arising from the other suit and in this Court also it has been argued that it must be something 'flowing out of the former proceeding.' These words are taken from the expression of Hall V.C. in Little v. Kingswood Collieries Company (1882) 20 Ch. Division 733 and are quoted by Miller, J. in Srinivasa Rao v. Pichai Pillai I.L.R. (1913) Mad. 650.
10. In interpreting a rule of this Court we need not look beyond (he language of that rule. The rule prohibits a pleader who has drawn pleadings or acted for a party in any suit from appearing for that party's opponent in such suit 'or in any matter connected therewith'. These words are wide enough to include a subsequent suit if it is connected with the earlier one and two suits will ordinarily be considered connected if they have any issue in common or involve substantially a determination of the same question of fact or the same mixed question of law and fact.
11. In the lower court and again in this Court an attempt has been made to make something out of a High Court Circular, 679 of 1869, which is printed as a foot-note to R. 277 in the Civil Rules of Practice.
12. The meaning of this circular as abstracted is not quite clear, but it evidently does not apply to cases in which the same parties oppose each other in successive suits. If it purported to lay down anything contrary to the rule itself we should decline to be guided by it.
13. In the result, the petitioner is entitled to succeed and the Subordinate Judge will be directed to refuse to allow the respondents to conduct O. S. No. 56 of 1920 for the plaintiff.
14. The parties will bear their own costs in this Court.
15. The decision of the Revision Petition before us depends on the construction of Rule 277 of the Civil Rules of Practice. It has been held in Srinivasa Rau v. Pichai Pillai I.L.R(1913) . Mad. 650 that the rule is not to be given too narrow a scope, and should be interpreted as liberally, as its language will allow' and the ' matter ' in the latter part of the rule includes a suit. With this conclusion, I agree. A number of English decisions and the case in Pallonji Menvanji v. Kallubhai Lallubhai I.L.R. (1887) 12 Bom. 85 and Government Pleader v. Bhagitbliai Dayabhai I.L.R. (1912) 36 Bom. 606 have been cited before us as beating on the construction of the words 'connected therewith'. I see no reason to interpret the word in the light of those decisions or to limit its scope. The word is not a term of art and I am disposed to construe it according to its ordinary meaning. Any possible hardship on practitioners by such an interpretation is avoided by the limitation in the rule, viz., that it prohibits the pleader from appearing only ' for any person whose interest is opposed to that of his former client ' and by the consideration that the proviso to the rule can be so worked as to furnish a loophole and that the court can always authorize the practitioner to appear in a proper case. One would expect that the pleaders themselves would interpret the rule liberally in favour of the clients and against themselves in the interests of the profession.
16. On the facts of this case which are set forth in the judgment of my learned brother and which I need not repeat. I am of opinion that the second suit (O.S. No. 56 of 1920) is a matter connected with the first suit (O.S. No. 8 of 1917). Mr. Venkatrama Sastri who appeared for one of the vakils strenuously contended that the facts relating to the deed of indenture need not be gone into in the second suit and it is the case of the plaintiff that he should succeed solely on the ground of estoppel. I do not express any opinion on the question of estoppel. But I may observe that the first issue in O.S. No. 56 of 1920 raises the Validity of the deed apart from estoppel and though Mr. Sastri informs us that it is likely to be given up we cannot assume it as the plaintiff in O.S. No. 56 of 1920 is not represented before us. In my opinion, the better course for the vakils woyld have been not to have anything to do with the framing of the plaint and the institution of the suit, O.S. No. 56 of 1920, but to take up the cause of the plaintiff only if they are not engaged by the defendant. It is also contended ' that, as the vakils were not engaged in the Criminal Proceedings, the proviso applies. In my opinion, the application of the proviso must be confined to the criminal cases apart from the fact that the question in the criminal cases related to possession only and therefore its connection with the civil litigation was much less than the connection between the suits themselves.
16. I agree with the order proposed by my learned brother.