SC refuses to interfere with HC order dismissing contempt pleas against Lodha

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on July 12, 2021

Calcutta High Court told to dispose of the pending appeals by March 31, 2022

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to interfere with the Calcutta High Court order dismissing contempt petitions filed against Harsh Vardhan Lodha for continuing as a Director and Chairman in companies of the M P Birla Group.

In the SLP (special leave petition) filed by Birlas against the order dated April 22, 2021 of the Calcutta High Court, the Supreme Court observed that “it is not inclined to entertain this SLP at this stage as the related issues are pending in the appeals before the High Court”.

Direction to HC

A Bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Hrishikesh Roy of the Supreme Court further directed the High Court to dispose of the pending appeals by March 31, 2022.

“It is a win-win situation for both parties as Birlas would derive the benefit by early conclusive disposal of the pending appeals and Lodha would derive the benefit of continuing to be in the control of the manufacturing companies till disposal of the said appeals,” a spokesperson for Birlas said.

According to Debanjan Mandal, Partner, Fox & Mandal, the Supreme Court verdict demolishes the charges of contempt of court brought against Lodha for not stepping down as the Chairman.

“The verdict vindicates our faith in the judiciary as we continue to neutralise repeated attempts to disrupt the functioning of MP Birla Group companies,” he said in a statement.

Contentious verdict

These appeals and cross-appeals arose from a contentious verdict passed by Justice Sahidullah Munshi of Calcutta High Court on September 18, 2020. Though he held that his court, which was hearing the dispute over the will of Priyamvada Devi Birla, didn’t have the jurisdiction to interfere with the operations of MP Birla Group companies, he ordered Lodha to step down as director.

Lodha immediately appealed against the verdict and the Division Bench of Calcutta High Court, comprising the then Chief Justice T B Nair Radhakrishnan and Justice Shampa Sarkar, said in an interim order on October 1, 2020 that he could continue as the Chairman of MP Birla Group companies except on the strength of the shares of the estate of Priyamvada Devi Birla.

Eventually, in April this year, the Bench of Justice Radhakrishnan and Justice Sarkar dismissed a bunch of contempt petitions filed against Lodha and MP Birla Group companies for not complying with Justice Munshi’s verdict which had been modified by the appeals court within days. The Birlas moved the Supreme Court.

Published on July 12, 2021

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