Resolve your differences: SC to Tatas, Wadia

The Supreme Court on Monday asked Tata Sons’ chairman emeritus Ratan N. Tata and industrialist Nusli Wadia to amicably settle their differences like “mature leaders of industry.”

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde was hearing an appeal filed by Mr. Wadia against a July 2019 Bombay High Court decision, quashing criminal defamation proceedings initiated by a local court, based on his complaint, against Mr. Tata, current Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran and eight directors.

In his petition, Mr. Wadia had alleged Mr. Tata and the others had made defamatory statements against him shortly after the removal of Cyrus Mistry as Tata Sons’ chairman on October 24, 2016. Mr. Wadia was removed as an independent director from the boards of Tata Group companies between December 2016 and February 2017.

Monday’s hearing saw the courtSupreme Court attempting to broker peace between Mr. Wadia and Mr. Tata. The court, initially, even recorded an order that it “approved” the Bombay High Court finding that Mr. Tata never had an intention to defame Mr. Wadia.

However, shortly after the dictation of the order, senior advocate C.A. Sundaram, appearing for Mr. Wadia, informed the court that there was suit pending on the issue. Mr. Sundaram sought an adjournment to get further instructions from Mr. Wadia after the court made it clear that it wanted both sides to amicably settle the issue as soon as possible rather than let the case drag on in court. The court granted an adjournment till January 13.

During the hearing, the Chief Justice asked Mr. Sundaram how his client had concluded that he was defamed. “The statements may be right or wrong… but how do they become defamation?” Justice Bobde asked.

Mr. Sundaram said the statements included attacks on Mr. Wadia’s “bona fide” as an independent director. The senior advocate argued that his client was not against the company but “certain persons who made the statements and released it to the media”. Mr. Sundaram said his side had even sent a letter asking that the statements be withdrawn.

“Do you want to settle this? If you want, we can ask for a mediator and both of you can talk,” the Chief Justice offered both sides.

At this point, senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for Mr. Tata, responded that “it was not our intention to defame him [Mr.Wadia]”. He drew the attention of the bench to the high court’s finding that “there was no intention to defame”.

Latching on to this, the bench said they agreed with the high court and suggested that the parties should indeed put an end to the dispute.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:27:49 PM |

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