A 44-YEAR-OLD lawyer known for his volunteer work was yesterday struck off the rolls for forging court documents and lying about the status of a lawsuit to fob off a client who was chasing him for updates.
For that, Mr Gopinath Pillai, the former chairman of the Law Society's Criminal Aid Legal Scheme, had to face the Court of Three Judges, which has the power to suspend or strike lawyers off the rolls for professional misconduct.
His counsel, Mr Suresh Damodara, urged the court not to disbar him, arguing that Mr Pillai had been under severe stress at the time from a combination of unfortunate circumstances in both his professional and personal lives.
Mr Damodara also noted that though Mr Pillai had been charged in January last year with six counts of forgery, he was eventually given a stern warning.
The criminal charges were withdrawn in August on condition he accepted the warning and did not commit any offence within two years, did not practise as a lawyer for three years, and continued with psychiatric treatment and counselling.
But Mr Chandra Mohan, acting for the Law Society, noted that cases in which lawyers acted dishonestly have invariably led to them being struck off.
The judges said that despite strong mitigating circumstances, they saw no basis for taking a different approach.
However, they added that he "may find a favourable response" if he were to seek reinstatement earlier than what would usually be the case.