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Summons to MP Birla trio

The latest development adds another twist to the 16-year long battle between the Lodhas and Birla family over assets of the group
The three firms are expected to appear before Justice Sahidullah Munshi who is in charge of the probate hearing. The Birla family termed the development as a “body blow” to the Lodhas.
The three firms are expected to appear before Justice Sahidullah Munshi who is in charge of the probate hearing. The Birla family termed the development as a “body blow” to the Lodhas.
(Shutterstock)

Our Special Correspondent   |   Calcutta   |   Published 10.06.20, 08:37 PM

Three companies of the MP Birla group — Birla Corporation, Birla Cables and Vindhya Telelinks — have been ordered to appear before the Calcutta high court judge who is hearing the probate for the late Priyamvada Devi Birla’s contentious will.

The latest development adds another twist to the 16-year long battle between the Lodhas and Birla family over the assets of the MP Birla group. The three firms are expected to appear before Justice Sahidullah Munshi who is in charge of the probate hearing.

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The Birla family termed the development as a “body blow” to the Lodhas.

The Lodhas have said the latest development deserves no comment, signalling its insignificance in the overall scheme of things. The Birlas have been keen to bring the manufacturing companies of MP Birla Group, the cash cows of the empire, within the scope of the probate court proceedings in an attempt to put fetters on the Lodha family.

The Lodhas have always maintained the companies are not part of the legal battle over Priyamvada Birla’s will of 2004 by which she bequeathed her estates to late Rajendra Singh Lodha, father of Harsh Vardhan Lodha, who is in charge of the MP Birla Group now.

The development relates to three orders that Justice Munshi had passed in August 2019 restraining companies from publishing and acting upon certain resolution passed during the annual general meeting of these companies, including reappointment of Harsh V. Lodha as the director on two boards, declaration of dividend and the appointment of an auditor in the company.

A division bench of the high court set aside the operation of the orders allowing the Lodha family to become directors of Birla Cables and Vindhya Telelinks and distribute dividends in Birla Corp. The division bench said the jurisdiction and/or authority of the probate court to pass orders against companies which are not parties to the testamentary suit should have been decided first before passing any order.

The Supreme Court upheld the division bench order when the Birlas moved the apex court, adding that “the resolutions which have been passed by the companies shall abide by such final orders as may be passed by the learned single judge. The judge shall decide upon the issue of jurisdiction, together with the applications for interim relief and rendering the final determination thereof”.

The issuance of notice will be the first step to decide whether the probate court has the jurisdiction over company matters on the basis of which it had passed orders in August. The division bench had observed that companies were not represented when the orders were passed.

“The direction by the Calcutta High Court paves the way for passing of further directions to the companies for preservation and protection of the control of the Estate of Late Priyamvada Devi Birla over the M.P. Birla Group,” a statement from Birla family said.

Debanjan Mandal, legal counsel for the Lodhas, countered: “The development deserves no comment. The companies will surely appear and take action as legally appropriate.”



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