The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) on Wednesday made some sharp observations on the quality of language used by the Mumbai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in its over 368-page order. Such was the anguish of the bench that it observed, “We may have to write a judgment as to how a judge should write a judgment.” It went on to add, “We are not angry, rather worried.”
The appellate tribunal made the observations while hearing the appeal by Shapoorji Pallonji investment firms with a stake in Tata Sons, the holding company for the Tata Group. The companies have alleged mismanagement and oppression of minority shareholders.
The NCLAT is yet to rule on whether or not to stay the order of the Mumbai bench delivered last month. It was hearing the case brought about by Cyrus Mistry, who was dismissed from his post of chairman by the Tata Sons board in October 2016. It was not only the bench which expressed its anguish at the manner the judgment was written. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Tatas, observed, “We invite trouble by this kind of writing. I am not supporting the language, not supporting the adjectives and the flowery background. Expunge the words.”
The NCLAT bench headed by its chairman SJ Mukhopadhaya exclaimed, “When we were going through the order, we were a little perplexed whether a proper examination was done or not?” “We do not demean a judge. But he says that we have to protect the future. See how far he has gone. That means he is a protector of a particular company. He says we will have to protect the interest of the company and that too in a judgment,” the bench added.
Sample this excerpt from the judgment which was under discussion when the sharp observations were made: “Petitioners have petitioned to this Tribunal asking to seasoning of Tata Sons functioning, which keeps seasoning our daily food with Tata Salt. Irony is salt also at times needs salt to be seasoned. One revelation out of it is, problem is problem, pain is pain, no matter how big it is, today the company/mother of many other group companies and champion of successfully surviving for a century, is passing through troubled waters. Let us see, what could be the answer to its problem.”
Or this gem: “Companies come and go just as men come and go, but on Indian soil, a few companies have survived these many long years. Out of them, Tata is again unique for having its promoter shareholders (now Tata Trusts) been spending all its might solely for the benevolence of the society, I don’t compare this empire with any other empire, because empires come and go, but this company, despite problems like this, remains survived till date, I wish and hope it will further grow because growth of it is also the growth of this nation.”
Senior counsel Aryama Sundaram, who is representing Mistry, also shared his bit when he said, “In my entire career, I never got such adjectives for my argument like ‘preposterous’, ‘suicidal’ and so on and so forth.” Further hearings on the matter will continue on August 14.