Warring brothers and managing partners of India’s largest law firm Amarchand Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co, Shardul Shroff and Cyril Shroff have decided to go in for a mediation to try and settle a dispute over ownership and assets of the firm.
The two parties told the Bombay High Court at a hearing on Tuesday that they were agreeable to a mediation by Justice BN Srikrishna, senior counsel Harish Salve and well-known investment banker Nimesh Kampani.
The hearing on Tuesday relates to the suit filed by Shardul against Cyril, his wife Vandana Cyril Shroff, partners L Viswanathan, James Abraham, George Goulding, Ashwin Maheshwari and the firm.
The proceedings were lit up with the appearance of former finance minister and senior advocate P Chidambaram who took many by surprise by arguing on behalf of Shardul while his brother, Cyril who is battling his elder brother had engaged another high profile senior counsel, Iqbal Chagla.
Chidambaram argued that a two-member managing committee of the firm over rode the will of Bharati Shroff, mother of the Shroff brothers. He said that the two members — Abraham and Goulding — by deciding to divide Bharati Shroff’s equity evenly between the brothers, took the role of a probate court. He said that the members took a decision and passed a resolution in respect of 52,000 units of equity bequeathed by Bharti, equivalent to a 22.5 per cent stake in Amarchand Mangaldas.
Calling it “inter meddling”, Chidambaram read out an email send out by the two members which they allegedly circulated in the capacity of managing committee members. “Two partners of the management committee cannot decide on their own,” said Chidambaram.
According to Chidambaram, the best way to deal with the issue was to put the 52,000 units of equity in a suspense account and also set aside the profits attributed to these in a separate account.
Chidambaram also read out portions of Bharati Shroff’s will according to which he said, the mother had said that her relationship with Cyril had been strained since 2003 and that she was allegedly “reduced to a mere showpiece”.
He said that the original will dates back to 2012, and in that she had said that the 52,000 equity units in Amarchand Mangaldas, in her name could be bought out by each brother with the proceeds going towards charity. However, in the codicil to the will made in January 2014, she said that that she was disinheriting Cyril and his family because of the treatment meted out to her, said Chidambaram.
Chagla and senior counsel Darius Khambata, appearing for the two managing committee members, took strong objection to Chidambaram reading out from the will. Chagla said his client was willing to “stay his hand”, but choosing to read from an “un-probated” will was not called for.
“The entire address has been made to create prejudice. We know we are not a probate court,” said Khambata. After the arguments concluded, the parties arrived at an agreement to go in for mediation. Justice Dhanuka told them to to complete the mediation process by December 31.