In a major relief for business tycoon and philanthropist Azim Premji, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed proceedings before a trial court and issued a notice on his plea against summonses issued by the lower court on a private complaint about the illegal transfer of assets worth crores from three companies to private trust and a new company.
The trial court had issued a summons on a private complaint led by Chennai-based NGO India Awake for Transparency.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Premji, submitted before a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that it was a bizarre case since the three companies of the Azim Premji group, which are entirely owned by Premji and his mother, were merged into a fourth company of the group.
Justice Kaul asked: “Other than the amalgamation which is approved by the High Court, is there any other material? Allegations against you are beyond the scheme of amalgamation or within?” Singhvi replied in the affirmative.
Singhvi also pointed out that his client was scheduled to appear before the trial court this week, following which the apex court stayed the proceedings.
The NGO’s counsel contested Singhvi’s arguments. Justice Kaul asked if the NGO was a shareholder, to which Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, also representing Premji, submitted that the NGO was not a shareholder and that the organization had initiated litigation against the group.
The bench observed that there was absolutely nothing to be heard and issued notice to the organization.
Premji had filed an appeal before the top court to challenge the Karnataka High Court order dated May 15 to dismiss a plea filed by Premji, his wife, and two others under Section 482 of the CrPC to challenge summonses issued by the trial court.
The plea contended that the trial court proceeded to issue summonses without being aware that the Scheme of Amalgamation had already been sanctioned by the Karnataka High Court on March 26, 2015.
The plea added that the trial court order dated January 27 to take cognisance and issue summonses was passed without judicial application of mind.