Singh vs Singh: Of personal battles and collective liabilities

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on December 12, 2018 Published on December 12, 2018

Malvinder Mohan Singh (right) along with Shivinder Mohan Singh (left). FILE PHOTO

Last week’s face-off between the Singh brothers, Malvinder and Shivinder, had industry watchers wondering what led to the fisticuffs between the two.

Both brothers accused the other of throwing the first punch, both approached the police, and by their own respective admissions, both withdrew their complaints on intervention by the family.

But, since the brothers are presently fighting legal cases and across different geographies, the question that now emerges is whether their personal spat could have a bearing on their ongoing cases. The Singh brothers are scions of the erstwhile promoter family of drugmaker Ranbaxy and hospital chain Fortis and they are locked in a legal battle with Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo, after a deal between them went sour.

Industry hands who have dealt with the Singh brothers in the past find it difficult to digest that all is not well between them. But Shivinder notched it up one level about 3 months ago by approaching the NCLT against elder brother Malvinder and Sunil Godhwani, only to take back the case later.

Last week’s “assault” marks a new low between the brothers. Legal experts say that there is little or no benefit the brothers can derive from projecting a divided house or by actually going their separate ways, as the case may be.

Their personal dispute is a separate issue and “does not mitigate or aggravate” their case with a third party, which has to do with contractual matters, explains Aishwarya Bhati, a lawyer practising in the Supreme Court. A personal fight does not change anything, she says, as they would continue to have a joint liability or a divided responsibility, if there is a partition, she observed. The personal spat only distracts from the focus, she added.

Echoing similar thoughts, a Mumbai-based corporate lawyer said, whether or not the personal dispute was genuine, the brothers stood a better chance in tackling their cases with the third party, collectively.

Blow hot, blow cold

The brothers presently have a Rs 3,500 crore arbitral award that they have to pay Daiichi, a development they have contested in Singapore and await a decision on. This is a fall-out from the sale of Ranbaxy to Daiichi in 2008 for $ 4.6 billion.

As Ranbaxy’s manufacturing plants came in for severe regulatory scrutiny from the United States , then owner of Daiichi was forced to take the rap and subsequently blamed former promoters, the Singh brothers of not being entirely upfront with them on the regulatory troubles at the time of sale. The brothers deny the allegation and are locked in legal battles in Delhi and Singapore.

Ranbaxy has since changed hands, again, with Sun Pharmaceuticals buying the company in 2014 for $ 4 billion. So has the Fortis network of hospitals, following a deal sealed this year with Malaysia's IHH Healthcare.

The Singh family has witnessed high profile family feuds, between their visionary father Parvinder Singh and his father Bhai Mohan Singh or his brother Analjit Singh. This time around, with Shivinder claiming that the recent fracas was precipitated by Malvinder who wanted Rs 1,000 crore for a separation. And Malvinder saying that Shivinder was not “equipped “ to handle professional situations and recover dues owed to the company - a truce seems elusive for the brothers just yet.

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Published on December 12, 2018
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