Birlas fail to nominate directors on the board of MP Birla group companies

The Birla camp managed to get only 28 per cent of the votes in favour of their resolutions
The Birla camp failed to nominate directors on the board of three MP Birla group compa­nies — Vindhya Telelinks, Uni­versal Cables and Birla Cable — as majority of the shareholders voted against the resolutions in the annual general meetings held on Thursday.


According to the voting results available in the stock exchanges, 72 per cent of the valid votes were cast against the Birla camp resolution to appoint chartered accountant Dhanpat Ram Pal Agarwal as a director of Vindhya Tele­links. The resolution to appoint another Birla camp nominee, Shyamal Kanti Chakrabarti, was also rejected by the shareholders. The Birla camp ma­naged to get only 28 per cent of the votes in favour of their resolutions.


On Birla Cable board, Chairman Harsh Vardhan Lod­ha was reappointed with 83 per cent of the votes cast in favour while majority of the shareholders rejected the Birla camp nominee — Satish Pradhan to their board. The shareholders of Universal Cab­les also rejected the appoi­ntment of both Agarwal and Chakrabarti on their board.


The AGM of MP Birla gro­up’s flagship, Birla Corpor­ation will be held on September 29. The Birlas are seeking to app­oint one of their nominees on the board of Birla Corporation.


Punjab Produce and Trad­ing, an investment company, filed nominations seeking appointment of two dir­ec­tors on the boards of all three cable companies. In two of them, Vindhya Telelinks and Univ­ersal Cables, they tried to re­move justice (retired) Dilip Ga­nesh Karnik, who was seeking reappointment as director In Birla Cable, the Birla camp had sought to remove Harsh Vard­han Lodha, currently the chairman of the MP Birla group.


In a statement, the MP Birla group said all these resolutions, which were aimed at interfering with the management of the professionally run companies, were defeated comprehensively. The boards of the MP Birla companies had deliberated over these nominations and strongly recommended sharehol­ders to vote against them in view of potential conflict of interest if these persons were elected.


“It’s a landmark victory over years of mischievous acts, and one of the most memorable ones in 17 years of the proxy war being waged against the wishes of the late Priyamvada Birla,” said Debanjan Mandal, partner, Fox & Mandal.


“It gives us immense confidence to take on much more.” Two of the three mem­bers of the APL Committee, or the court appointed panel of administrators overseeing the estate of Priyamvada Birla, have in the past couple years made repeated attempts to grab control of investment companies, trusts and societies of the MP Birla Group with the ultimate aim of influencing the operations of the listed companies. In 2020, they unlawfully altered the boards of several investment companies, one of them being Punjab Produce, the statement said.


This was legally challenged almost immediately, but the dispute over the legitimacy of Punjab Produce’s board has yet to come up for hearing at the Calcutta High Court.


Simultaneously, two members of the APL Committee — Justice (retired) Mohit S Shah and AC Chakrabortti — demanded that Lodha step down as chairman of all MP Birla group entities, citing a contentious verdict passed by a single judge of the Calcutta High Court in September last year. A division bench of the Calcutta High Court later comprising chief justice had clarified in an interim order that Lodha was only barred from holding office on the strength of the shares of Priyamvada Birla’s estate, allowing him to continue as chairman of the MP Birla group. Even so, the two members of the APL Committee alleged contempt of court and wrote threatening letters seeking to pressure the operating companies to remove Lodha as chairman.


Lodha has, in the meantime, applied to court for removal of both these administrators, Shah and Chakraborti, from the APL Committee on grounds of bias and illegality of their actions. These petitions seeking their removal are yet to be heard.


Allegations of contempt of court against Lodha and directors of operating companies were quashed by a division bench of the Calcutta HC, and its decision upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this year. The apex court also instructed the Calcutta HC to dispose of all outstanding legal disputes arising out of the said verdict of the single judge within March 31, 2022. “We remain fully confident that all tactics aimed at obstructing the professional management of the operating companies from acting independently will fail. Our client continues to have full confidence in the judiciary,” Mandal said.


Emphatic Victory

Vindhya Telelinks

DR Agarwal:  72% Vote against appointment
SK Chakravarti: 72% Vote against appointment

Universal Cables

DR Agarwal: 58% Vote against appointment 
SK Chakravarti: 58% Vote against appointment

Birla Cable

HV Lodha: 83.1 pc voted in favour of re-appointment
DR Agarwal:  82% Vote against appointment
Satish Pradhan: 82% Vote against appointment

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