New Delhi, July 12 : The Supreme Court on Monday allowed Harsh Vardhan Lodha to continue on boards of the listed companies of the M.P. Birla Group, which also includes the Birla Corporation.
The top court declined to interfere with the Calcutta High Court order, which dismissed contempt petitions against Lodha continuing as a director and chairman in companies of the group.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hrishikesh Roy refused to hear an appeal by Arvind Kumar Newar against the high court order and sent the case back to the high court with instructions to dispose of the pending pleas expeditiously by March 31 next year.
Newar’s plea argued that the high court ignored over 2.37 lakh votes cast against the reappointment of Lodha and decided the case in his favour.
A battery of senior advocates — Kapil Sibal, P. Chidambaram, K.V. Vishwanathan, and Janak Dwarkadas – appeared for the Birlas and Newar, and submitted that the high court is completely wrong in dismissing the contempt petitions.
Senior advocate Sibal, representing Newar, argued that Lodha shouldn’t have continued as director and chaired board meetings of Birla Corporation and its listed companies. Sibal added he is a minority shareholder and was bleeding the group companies.
The group companies headed by Lodha are the Birla Corporation, Universal Cables, Vindhya Telelinks and Birla Cable. Sibal argued that high court said he has to comply with its order, but he hasn’t.
“I am not interested in contempt or sending him to jail but I want him to be removed,” he submitted.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan and advocate Sumeer Sodhi, representing Vindhya Telelinks Ltd, contended a direction be issued that all the pending appeals before the high court are heard in four weeks.
Senior advocate Darius Khambata, representing Lodha, said high court’s single-judge verdict on September 18 last year declined to interfere with the resolutions passed at the annual general meetings of the four companies, where his client was reappointed as director by an overwhelming majority.
The division bench of the high court on April 22, dismissed contempt petitions filed against the continuance of Lodha as director and chairman in various group companies.
The high court is hearing a probate application by Harsh Vardhan Lodha, whose late father R.S. Lodha had claimed Priyamvada Devi Birla bequeathed her estate, which comprised the M.P. Birla Group, to him through a will. This probate by Lodhas application has been challenged by the Birlas. After the death of Priyamvada Devi Birla in 2004, Lodhas and Birlas have locked horns in a legal battle over the control of the M.P. Birla Group.