The Supreme Court on Tuesday, October 5 extended the stay on criminal proceedings against former Wipro chairman Azim Premji, his wife and others on their plea seeking quashing of summons issued by a Bengaluru court on a "frivolous" and "mischievous" complaint filed by an NGO alleging breach of trust and corruption in merger of three companies with a Premji group firm.
A bench of justices S K Kaul and M M Sundresh was hearing an appeal filed by Premji challenging the Karnataka High Court order of May 15 which had rejected their pleas for quashing of the January 27 summons issued by the trial court.
"We would not like to spend considerable judicial time on these proceedings in the context of some of the orders read against the respondent in the present proceedings, more so, in view of the criminal contempt proceedings initiated against the complainant, the volunteer and Mr. R. Subramanium vide order dated July 6, 2021 by a Bench of the Karnataka High Court," the bench said.
The apex court was told that the next date in those proceedings is October 19. "Both the parties assure us that they will fully cooperate to see that a final view is taken by the division bench in those proceedings and we are placing the present matters for directions, by which date possibly, the view of the Karnataka High Court would be placed before us," the bench said.
The top court was informed that the contemnors have not filed any reply to the contempt notice but have filed an application seeking recall of the order issuing notice. "In that application, the petitioner(s) before us have to file a reply and that application will come up for consideration.
"We see no reason why the contemnors should not file a reply to the contempt notice, without prejudice to their claims made in the application seeking recall of the order and such a reply be filed by October 18, 2021 before the High Court and be brought on record and it will be thereafter for the High Court to proceed in the manner deemed appropriate qua the contempt notice as well as the application for recall," the bench said.
The matter is listed for next hearing on December 2. The apex court had earlier issued notice to an NGO, Indian Awake for Transparency and others and sought their response.
Premji and others have challenged the high court order of May 15 which had rejected their pleas for quashing of the January 27, summons issued by the trial court. Others who had challenged the high court order include Pagalthivarthi Srinivasan, then regional director in the ministry of corporate affairs M R Bhat and chartered accountant G Venkateshwara Rao.
The summons were issued by the trial court on the basis of a complaint filed by India Awake for Transparency alleging illegality in the transfer of assets worth Rs 45,000 crore from three companies into a private trust and a newly formed company.
In their appeals, Premji and others have said that the complainant NGO had suppressed material facts and documents including that the scheme of amalgamation had already been sanctioned by Karnataka High Court by order dated March 26, 2015.
They said that the trial court order of January 27, taking cognizance and summoning the accused has been passed without judicial application of mind and without considering the fact that the scheme of amalgamation had already been approved by the High Court.
Rao in his appeal has said that the record clearly shows that complainant is linked to one R Subramanian-former promoter and director of a company known as Subhiksha Trading Services Ltd, which is a defaulter of Premji's companies and complaint under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act is pending against it.
"Therefore there is clear animosity and bad blood between R Subramanian and Mr Azim Premji and the subject complaint appears to be one in line of many frivolous complaints and litigations instituted by R Subramanian against Azim Premji and his companies, many of which stand dismissed with cost by different courts/tribunals", the appeal of Rao said.
The complainant India Awake for Transparency (IAT) had alleged that Azim Premji, Yaseem Azim Premji and Pagalthivarthi Srinivasan were entrusted with the dominion over the properties and assets of three companies Vidya Investment and Trading Company Private Limited, Regal Investment and Trading Company Private Limited and Napean Investment and Trading Company Private Limited as directors.