A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Thursday dismissed the contempt petitions filed by the Birlas against MP Birla Group chairman Harsh Vardhan Lodha for continuing as a director and chairman in the group companies.
The bench, comprising chief justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and justice Shampa Sarkar, passed a “landmark judgement” dismissing several contempt petitions filed against Lodha for continuing as a director and chairman in Birla Corporation, Universal Cables, Vindhya Telelinks and Birla Cable, four listed group companies, according to a statement issued by the Lodhas.
Earlier, the Birlas had filed contempt petitions against Lodha on his continuation on the boards of the MP Birla Group companies, alleging violation of an order passed by a division bench of the Calcutta High Court on October 1, 2020. The division bench of the high court, in its October 1 order, did not grant any stay on the single bench’s order, which had restrained Lodha from holding any office in any of the entities of the group during pendency of the suit involving the contested will of late Priyamvada Devi Birla, the widow of MP Birla.
The verdict of the division bench of the high court on Thursday “cleared the decks” for Harsh Vardhan Lodha to continue as the chairman of all companies of the MP Birla Group, said Lodha’s advocate Debanjan Mandal, partner, Fox & Mandal.
“Our client is deeply grateful to the highest honorable court of the state for this resounding victory…In the past two years, relentless attacks have been mounted, not only on Mr Lodha, but also on the independent directors and executives of the MP Birla Group companies. Thursday’s verdict vindicates the highest level of governance standards maintained in these companies from the times of the late Madhav Prasad Birla,” Mandal added.
“The court today dismissed the contempt applications filed against HV Lodha and others. We are awaiting the copy of the order passed today and would decide the future course of action after studying the same,” a Birla spokesperson said.
The genesis of over 17-year-old legal row between the Birlas and the Lodhas over controlling the over Rs 5,000-crore Birla Estate lies in the contested will of late Priyamvada Devi Birla, which was executed in July 1982 after the purported will allegedly transferred the shares of the MP Birla Group, collectively called as the Birla Estate, in favour of Rajendra Singh Lodha.
The legal tussle began after the July, 1982 wills that gave away all the assets to charities but another will of April 18, 1999 gave them to Rajendra Singh Lodha, now being pursued by his son Harsh Vardhan Lodha, and other heirs.