A number of shareholders of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) have claimed that the company’s chairman, Motilal Vora, and its directors did not inform them or obtain their approval while deciding to transfer its entire equity to Young Indian Pvt Ltd (YIL) in December 2010.
At least 10 shareholders that The Indian Express spoke to said their approval had not been sought by the management. Vora is also the treasurer of the Congress party.
“This is the first time I am hearing about such a company in which my grandfather had shares. I have no idea what kind of deal was struck. Had a letter or a notice for approval been sent to any of my siblings or at our Allahabad address, I would have been informed,” said former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju, whose grandfather Kailash Nath Katju held 131 shares in AJL.
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Kailash Nath Katju, incidentally, was one of the original seven shareholders of AJL — they also included Jawaharlal Nehru, P D Tandon and Sri Krishna Dutta Poliwal — with each holding one ordinary share.
Former Congress MP Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, who owns 10 shares in the company, said, “I don’t remember participating in any meeting. Anyway, I have no comment to make on this issue.”
Gupta was one of the directors of AJL, along with Vora and V Dixit. Gutpa’s family owns the Tej newspaper with its office adjacent to the National Herald building in New Delhi.
The list of over 1,000 shareholders of AJL, as on September 30, 2008, included Congress party office-bearers, and a number of people employed in a different professions, mostly from Uttar Pradesh.
Among the shareholders were an assistant manager, a chief chemist, doctors, medical officers, teachers, lawyers, merchants, commission agents, bankers, brokers, talukdars and minor government functionaries.
According to the list, examined by The Indian Express, Abhim Investment (P) Ltd held 100,000 shares in the company. Abhim’s address has been listed as Pratiksha, Plot No 14, 10th Road, Juhu Scheme Mumbai, the same as the residence of actor Amitabh Bachchan.
Mohan Meakin Breweries had 5,000 shares in AJL. When The Indian Express contacted the company seeking comment, a director did not confirm whether the company was approached for approving the deal between AJL and YIL.
Prominent businesswoman Jyotsna Suri, CMD of Bharat Hotels, owned 50,000 shares in AJL.
Some other shareholders are now looking to mount a legal challenge to the acquisition.
Former union law minister, Shanti Bhushan, whose father Vishwamitra owned shares in AJL, said that the deal was questionable.
“I will be talking to my siblings to check if anyone was contacted for seeking approval for the acquisition. We will also apply to get the shares transferred in our name and then become a party to the ongoing case against the Congress leaders,” said Bhushan.
The list also includes the Rattan Deep Trust through its authorised attorney R D Pradhan, a former union home secretary, with a holding of 47,513 shares.
The other listed shareholders were Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Union minister Syed Sibte Razi and the late Madhav Rao Scindia.
Other Congress leaders listed as shareholders include former Congress stalwart Uma Shankar Dikshit, the father-in-law of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, and MP Vijay Darda.