Warring brothers Shardul Shroff and Cyril Shroff on Tuesday informed the Bombay High Court that they will undergo mediation regarding their dispute over division of shares in India’s largest law firm, Amarchand Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co.
At the hearing, former Union minister and senior lawyer P Chidambaram appeared for Shardul and senior counsel Iqbal Chagla for Cyril. Shardul has filed a case against Cyril, his wife Vandana, partners L Viswan-athan, James Abraham, George Goulding, Ashwin Maheshwari, and the law firm, in connection with the inheritance of their deceased mother’s share in the law firm.
At the hearing, Chidambaram argued that a two-member panel of the firm, comprising Abraham and Goulding, overrode the will of the brothers’ mother, Bharti Shroff.
Bharti had reportedly willed her 22.5% share in the firm to her elder son, Shardul. However, an earlier agreement indicated that her share would be divided equally. Chidambaram said the panel, by deciding the division of equity, acted like a probate court, and termed the act as “inter-meddling”.
Chidambaram said the best way to deal with the matter was to put the 52,000 units of equity in suspense account and also put the profits attributed to the same in a separate account. Chidambaram — who read out portions of the will — said the mother had said in her will that her relationship with Cyril had been strained since 2003. He said that according to the will, Bharti had said that she was “reduced to a mere showpiece”.
Chidambram said the original will was made in 2012, and Bharti had said that her 52,000 equity units in the firm could be bought out by each brother with the proceeds to charity.
However, in the codicil to the will made in January 2014, she said she was disinheriting Cyril and his family because of the treatment meted out to her, said Chidambaram.
Chagla and senior counsel Darius Khambata, who appeared for the two managing committee members, took strong objection to Chidambaram’s readings from the will. Chagla said his client was willing to “stay his hand”, but choosing to read from an “un-probated” will was not necessary.
Khambata argued that the two “independent professionals” had passed a resolution that was ratified by the majority. “The entire address has been made to create prejudice. We know we are not a probate court,” said Khambata. Later, the parties agreed to undergo mediation.
Investment banker Nimesh Kampani, Justice B N Srikrishna, and senior counsel Harish Salve will oversee the mediation for which the court has set a December 31 deadline. It has said that any extension to this date will be decided by both sides. The next hearing of the case is on on January 18.