Tribunal rejects plea of Centurion Bank co-founder’s son in feud over family wealth
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The National Company Law Tribunal has dismissed a petition by Vikram Ahuja to oust his sister from the family investment firm founded by their late father, top banker Devendra Ahuja.

The decision by the tribunal’s Mumbai bench deals another blow to Vikram in his quest to get a share of the family wealth, which he lost after falling out with his father.

Vikram had sought to dismiss sister Tania Deol, wife of actor Bobby Deol, and Venkatesh Kamath, a director, from Greenstone Investments Pvt Ltd on the ground that the investment firm didn’t file its financial statements or annual returns for three years in a row as required under section 164 (2) (a) of the new Companies Act. 

Greenstone was founded by Dev Ahuja after he sold his stake in Centurion Bank in 2001. Centurion Bank merged with Bank of Punjab in 2005 to create Centurion Bank of Punjab, which in turn merged with HDFC Bank in 2008.

Dev and Vikram engaged in an acrimonious public battle that led to the father disowning the son in 2010. Dev died the same year and willed most of his wealth to Tania. Media reports at the time estimated the family fortune to be around Rs 300 crore. 

Vikram’s counsel argued before the bench of BSV Prakash Kumar and V Nallasenapathy that Tania and Kamath remain on Greenstone’s board even though the company had not filed financial statements from March 2010 to 2014.

The tribunal, however, dismissed the plea saying the rule was enacted in 2014 and there was no provision to retrospectively implement it.

In its 22 November order, the tribunal said that Vikram had sought for holding annual general meetings of Greenstone for 2009-10 through 2013-14 and that the meetings were held where some resolutions were passed by supplying all the statements after audit. “Therefore, if at all financial statements are not filed for (the) years mentioned, it can’t be said as an act prejudicial to the interest of the applicants,” the tribunal said.

When contacted, Vikram declined to comment on the issue.  

Ashish Kumar Singh, founder of law firm Capstone Legal, said Ahuja can choose to file an appeal before the Bombay High Court but it will be only an academic exercise as the tribunal has correctly decided the issue related to retrospective application of law. 

“The provisions of Companies Act, 2013 cannot be applied retrospectively because had the intention of the legislature been to make sections 164 and 167 retroactive, there would have been a specific clause in the act,” Singh added.

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