In yet another day of heated arguments at the Mumbai bench of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), Tata Sons' senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Thursday countered Cyrus Mistry’s allegation that he was removed because he was a “crusader or a whistleblower” of the alleged mismanagement in AirAsia and Tata Power.
In yet another day of heated arguments at the Mumbai bench of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), Tata Sons’ senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Thursday countered Cyrus Mistry’s allegation that he was removed because he was a “crusader or a whistleblower” of the alleged mismanagement in AirAsia and Tata Power. Calling Mistry’s allegations “baseless” and “made only to create sensation”, Singhvi argued that at the time of all alleged instances of mismanagement, he (Mistry) was at the helm either as a “director, deputy chairman or the chairman” of Tata Sons and did not object to any items being discussed at board meetings. “Mistry was sitting with golden silence and full approbation,” Singhvi said. Referring to specific allegations made by Mistry’s lawyers, Singhvi said there was no record to show that Tata Trusts managing trustee R Venkatramanan and Ratan Tata were beneficiaries of the Rs 22-crore fraud in AirAsia or that Tata was involved in funding terrorism.
Arguing on behalf of Mistry’s family firms, senior counsel C Aryama Sundaram had alleged last week that Bharat Vasani, the nominee-director of Tata Sons to the board of directors of AirAsia India and who was also the Tata group legal counsel, had complained to Mistry through an email that the directors of AirAsia India, including Venkataramanan, were approving related party transactions without reviewing any details or verifying the commercial terms. However, Singhvi presented documents in NCLT on Thursday to support his arguments that showed that the board of Tata Sons and AirAsia India was aware of the fraud by the former CEO of the airline and was taking necessary steps, including filing criminal complaints and civil suits for attachment of assets. He added that a Deloitte report had already indicated legal action was required even before Mistry brought it up. “The board would have worked in normal course with or without Mistry’s allegation,” he said.
“Deloitte was appointed to carry out the audit by AirAsia in 2016 by the board chaired by Ramadorai. The forensic report was initiated in April 2016 which was presented before the board in September 2016,” Singhvi said. He further alleged that Mistry expressly mentioned to the board that on aviation matters, it would rely on the wisdom of Ratan Tata. Singhvi also challenged another allegation from Mistry that Mehli Mistry, who is allegedly a close associate of Ratan Tata, secured lucrative long-term commercial contracts at the expense of Tata Power. Singhvi told NCLT that Mehli Mistry’s contracts were approved by the board of Tata Power when Mistry was the chairman. “Several of the contracts were awarded wherein Cyrus Mistry was part of the board as a director from 1996 to 2006 as well as when he was appointed chairman from 2012,” he said.