SC relief for Azim Premji in ‘frivolous complaint’ | Bengaluru News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed all criminal proceedings before a trial court against IT mogul and renowned philanthropist Azim Premji and his wife, who had sought quashing of summons issued to them by a Bengaluru court in “frivolous criminal complaints” against merger of investment and trading companies Vidya, Regal and Napean with Hasham Investment and Trading Company, all owned by the Premji group.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy protected Azim Premji, his wife and the Premji group’s chartered accountant G V Rao after hearing senior advocates A M Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi and S Ganesh who claimed that the Karnataka high court had erred in not quashing a “frivolous complaint” lodged by a disgruntled person after a business partnership went awry.
Premjisaid 3 companies were interlinked in 1980
Premji said the three companies, which were formed in 1974 and whose shareholdings were so interlinked in 1980 that any of the two owned the third one, were merged with Hasham Investment in 2015 after the RBI gave in-principle approval followed by the Karnataka High Court’s green signal to the merger scheme.
The petitioners suspected that the reason for the complaint was a partnership gone awry with R Subramanian’s Subhiksha, against which a Premji group owned company had filed criminal complaints for bouncing of cheques worth crores of rupees in 2013, which are still pending. They said the criminal complaints filed by NGO ‘India Awake Transparency’ was a counter masterminded by Subramanian nearly three years after the merger took place, full information of which was given to SEBI, stock exchanges and the corporate affairs ministry in 2015.
What surprised the Premjis was the trial court’s decision to summon them without even conducting preliminary inquiry into the veracity of the NGO’s complaints and the Karnataka HC refusing to entertain their plea against facing trial in a “motivated” case aimed at disrupting the Wipro-led software industry and Premji
Trust’s philanthropic activities.
The petitioners told the SC that on the same lines of the criminal complaints before the Bengaluru trial court, petitions were filed before the Delhi High Court and NCLAT four times between February 2018 and September 2019. Each of them were dismissed by the HC and the appellate tribunal while cumulatively imposing Rs 4 lakh in costs on those who had filed the petitions against merger of the companies. The husband-wife duo said they firmly believed that those four petitions too had Subramanian’s collusion.
On the philanthropy front, the Premjis informed the SC that since 2010, when the trust was formed, they had donated more than Rs 1,50,000 crore for various charitable work. “In times of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an overall commitment of Rs 1,125 crore towards the cause. The Premjis have been carrying out various relief activities across the country, supplementing and aiding the government in Covid-related relief work. The mischievous challenge by the NGO to the amalgamation is disrupting not only the Premjis, but also the ability of their group to contribute to society through charity,” the petition said.
The Premjis have challenged the Karnataka HC’s May 15 decision refusing to quash the criminal complaints filed by the NGO against them before a Bengaluru court. “The scheme of amalgamation sanctioned by the Karnataka HC was deliberately suppressed by the NGO before the trial court and the HC, as the scheme gave complete details of purpose, financial structure, shareholding of the transferor and transferee companies, the accounting treatment and the terms on which the amalgamation of companies occurred, which if brought to the notice of the courts below would have shown that not even a prima facie case was made out under the complaints,” they said.

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Sagar Biswas

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