SC to consider plea for mediation to settle disputes between SpiceJet & Kalanithi Maran

The bench was hearing SpiceJet's appeal against the November 2, 2020 order of the high court, asking the airline to deposit around ₹243 crore as interest in connection with the share transfer dispute

August 16, 2022 04:17 pm | Updated 05:36 pm IST - New Delhi

Kalanithi Maran. File.

Kalanithi Maran. File. | Photo Credit: Bijoy Ghosh

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would consider a joint request for mediation of low-cost airline SpiceJet and media baron Kalanithi Maran and his Kal Airways for amicably settling all pending disputes between them including the row over the share-transfer issue.

A bench comprising Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices J.K. Maheshwari and Hima Kohli was apprised by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for SpiceJet, that there were three pending issues between the low-cost airline and Mr. Maran and out of these, one has been settled on July 29.

Initially, Mr. Rohatgi sought four to six week time for settling all the issues between the parties.

However, senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing Mr. Maran and his Kal Airways, suggested mediation between the parties at the Hyderabad mediation centre which was also supported by SpiceJet through Mr. Rohatgi.

“We will see,” the bench said.

At the outset, Mr. Rohatgi said, “there were three issues between us. One is the issue arising in this matter and there are other two issues which are not part of the present matter. The other side is keen to settle all the three in one go. Two issues are foreign to this matter and out of those, one has been settled on July 29.”

“One issue was that the airline had taken a loan from a lender which was backed by the security given by the respondents (Maran and others) and the respondents wanted that we should clear the loan and the security may be released. We have reached a settlement with the lender and the security will be released and so that part is over,” he said.

Another outstanding issue between the parties is the prosecution of the respondents (Maran and others) for the TDS being delayed, he said.

“We are engaging with the respondents jointly to file so that the quashing can be done and the matter is finished...,” Mr. Rohatgi said, adding the matter be kept after four to six weeks to ensure that settlement on all issues is reached before the apex court itself.

“I would suggest that mediation at Hyderabad mediation centre,” Mr. Singh suggested on behalf of Mr. Maran.

Both parties agreed to the suggestion.

The bench was hearing SpiceJet's appeal against the November 2, 2020 order of the high court, asking the airline to deposit around ₹243 crore as interest in connection with the share transfer dispute with its former promoter, Mr. Maran, and Kal Airways.

On November 7, 2020, the apex court had stayed the Delhi High Court order asking SpiceJet to deposit around ₹243 crore as interest in connection with the share transfer dispute.

SpiceJet and its promoter Ajay Singh were asked to deposit around ₹243 crore as interest payable on ₹579 crore, which the high court had, in 2017, asked the airline to deposit under the 2018 arbitration award in the share-transfer dispute.

The high court had granted six weeks to SpiceJet to make the payment and the deadline for the same, according to a September 2 order, expired on October 14, 2020.

After this, Mr. Maran and his firm had moved the high court for attachment of the entire shareholding of Mr. Singh in Spicejet and taking over the management for the non-payment of ₹243 crore.

The top court had taken note of Spicejet's appeal and passed the interim order, staying the high court order.

Mr. Maran and Kal Airways had moved the high court over the share-transfer dispute with SpiceJet, demanding that 18 crore warrants redeemable as equity shares be transferred to them.

On July 29, 2016, the high court asked both parties to settle the dispute under arbitration.

It had directed SpiceJet and Mr. Singh to deposit ₹579 crore in the high court's registry.

SpiceJet was permitted to furnish a bank guarantee for ₹329 crore and make a cash deposit of the remaining sum of ₹250 crore by the high court.

The apex court, in July 2017, dismissed SpiceJet's appeal against the high court order.

On July 20, 2018, the arbitral tribunal rejected Mr. Maran's claim of damages of ₹1,323 crore for not issuing the warrants to him and Kal Airways but had awarded him a refund of ₹579 crore plus interest.

Maran, the owner of Sun TV Network, then moved to the high court against the arbitration award.

The matter pertained to a dispute arising out of the non-issuance of warrants in favour of Mr. Maran after the transfer of ownership to Mr. Singh, the controlling shareholder of SpiceJet.

The dispute started after Mr. Singh took back control of SpiceJet in February 2015 amid the airline facing a financial crisis.

Mr. Maran and Kal Airways had transferred their entire 35.04 crore equity shares in SpiceJet, amounting to a 58.46% stake in the airline, to its co-founder Mr. Singh in February 2015 for just ₹2.

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