HC bars Harsh Lodha from holding office in M P Birla group

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Friday restrained Harsh Vardhan Lodha from holding any office in any of the entities of M P Birla Group during pendency of a suit over succession of the M P Birla Estate.

The high court, in a judgement over administering the estate by a court-appointed committee by a majority decision, also restrained the Lodhas from drawing any benefit personally from the assets of the estate of Priyamvada Devi, the deceased wife of M P Birla, during the pendency of the Testamentary Suit over the assets of the M P Birla group.

It restrained the Lodhas from interfering with the decisions of the court-appointed Administrative Pendente Lite (APL) committee and any decision which might be taken by it in future by majority, if the same directly or indirectly relates to the estate of the deceased.

APL is a panel formed pending any suit touching the validity of the Will of a deceased. Revoking any probate or any grant of letters of administration, the court may appoint an administrator of the estate.

“Harsh Vardhan Lodha is restrained from holding any office in any of the entities of M P Birla Group during pendency of the Suit,” the court directed.

Justice Shahidullah Munshi also restrained the defendants in the matter from the Birlas’ side by an order of temporary injunction from interfering with the APL’s decision by majority during pendency of the suit.

The court is also hearing a probate application by Harsh Vardhan, whose late father R S Lodha had claimed that Priyamvada Devi Birla bequeathed her estate, comprising the M P Birla Group, to him through a Will.

The Birlas, one of the oldest industrial groups in the country, have challenged the probate application by R S Lodha family and have been involved in a legal battle over the control of M P Birla’s estate since the death of Priyamvada Devi Birla in 2004.

Justice Munshi directed that the Lodhas will implement the decisions dated July 19, 2019 and July 30, 2019 of the court-appointed APL Committee taken by majority over directorship of Universal Cable and Birla Cable, as also all consequential decisions of the APL in furtherance of the said decisions.

The court said that the APL Committee is well within its power to ask all entities which were under the control of PDB (Priyamvada Devi Birla) to exercise their voting right with regard to their investment in the share capital of any of the companies which were under the control of PDB, in the manner considered by the APL as beneficial to the interest of the Estate.

“Now such entities would exercise voting right flowing from their investment in the companies controlled by PDB in the manner to be guided by the APL Committee,” Justice Munshi directed.

Welcoming the judgement, Birlas’ advocate N G Khaitan of Khaitan and Company said, “This is a path-breaking judgment which was necessary for protection and preservation of the estate.”

Debanjan Mandal, partner of Fox and Mandal, advocates for the Lodhas, said that their clients will challenge the judgement in the appeal court for “immediate and long term relief.”