It was a day of intense drama and activity for the Tata Group as well as its friend-turned-foe Nusli Wadia, who has already been ousted as an independent director from two Tata firms in the last two days. Voting for his removal from the third — Tata Chemicals — took place on Friday. Before the extraordinary general meeting of Tata Chemicals came to an end, where Ratan Tata spoke thanking the shareholders for their support in an emotionally choked voice, Wadia had moved the court of the chief metropolitan magistrate in a criminal defamation case against Ratan Tata, Tata Sons and its board.
“By making false and baseless innuendos and allegations against the complainant, the accused have caused distress, hurt and humiliation, as well as pecuniary loss, social disadvantages, injury to feelings, mental pain and suffering to the complainant,” Wadia said in his petition.
In their requisition to the boards of Tata Motors, Tata Steel and Tata Chemicals, Tata Sons had alleged that Wadia was acting in concert with Cyrus Mistry and had been acting against the interests of the Tata group. Wadia has listed as his witnesses group executive chairman of L&T A M Naik and Subodh Bhargava, independent director of Tata Motors and Tata Steel, among others.
Interestingly, Bhargava had chaired the EGM of Tata Motors on Thursday in which Wadia was voted out of the company’s board. Wadia is understood to have earlier also filed a defamation suit in the Bombay High Court seeking damages to the tune of R3,000 crore.
Meanwhile, with the fifth EGM ending on Friday and the sixth (of Tata Power) which was scheduled for December 26 being cancelled, Ratan Tata spoke at the end of the Tata Chemicals shareholders’ meeting, thanking them for their support. “Over the last two months there has been a definite move to damage my personal reputation and the reputation of this great group — the Tata group. And these days are very lonely because the newspapers are full of attacks, most of them unsubstantiated but nevertheless very painful. And coming here this week with all the shareholders, I have been so moved emotionally and deeply touched by the warmth and the support and the affection that they have shown, I could not leave here today without at least expressing my deepest gratitude to the shareholders,” he said. “The group has been there for 150 years. It has been based on governance, fair play. I think the truth will prevail, whatever the process may be, however painful it may be. The truth will prevail and the systems in our country will govern,” he added.
As far as the EGM of Tata Chemicals is concerned, for most parts it was just a repetition of what had transpired at the Tata Motors EGM a day back. First, Wadia’s statement, given his absence, was read out to the shareholders in which he spoke about his concerns regarding certain strategic decisions of the company’s board; questioned the cross holdings in Tata Group companies; and alleged that the EGMs are being stage-managed by the Tatas.
As was the case even in Tata Motors, these allegations were countered by Ishaat Hussain, who was representing Tata Sons and independent director of the company Nasser Munjee, who chaired the meeting. Managing director of the company R Mukundan also refuted the allegations of Wadia that he had threatened to not allow the company secretary to issue the then proposed statement of the independent directors.
Till the time of going to the press, the results of the EGM were not declared on the exchanges.