The ownership dispute between the managing partners of India’s biggest law firm – Amarchand Mangaldas – reached the Bombay High Court today. After several hours of trading charges, the 2 brothers, Shardul and Cyril Shroff have agreed to a second attempt at mediation and a three member mediation panel of Nimesh Kampani, Justice Srikrishna and Harish Salve has been selected to help both sides arrive at a consensus.
India’s two leading legal luminaries Cyril Shroff and Shardul Shroff are in a pitched ownership battle over the 22.5 percent Amarchand share held by their deceased mother Bharati Shroff. Mrs. Shroff has willed her entire estate, including the partnership units to Shardul Shroff. But Cyril Shroff contends that a family framework agreement requires mrs. Shroff’s units to be equally distributed between the 2 brothers.
And so after her death he, with approval from the Amarchand managing committee transferred the units between both brothers. Shardul Shroff argues that this action amounts to meddling with his mother’s estate, of which he is the sole executor.
Shardul Shroff had sought a status quo on the partnership units in an interim relief petition which came up in the Bombay High Court today. His counsel P Chidambaram revealed in court that Bharati Shroff had recently amended her previous will, to state that her relationship with Cyril and family had been strained since 2003.
Matters took an ugly turn as P Chidambaram described the contents of the will which states that Bharati Shroff had been ill-treated by Cyril and his family due to which she dis-inherited him.
Chidambaram quoted the new will of Bharati Shroff as saying, “i have made a conscious decision with the specific intention to keep Cyril and his family out of the management of my estate”.
Iqbal chagla, appeared for Cyril and Vandana Shroff and questioned the validity of the will saying Shardul was deeply involved in its preparation. He said the reading of the will was only to embarrass Cyril Shroff and that Shardul Shroff had suppressed emails and documents relating to the case.
Darius khambatta represented 2 external members of the Amarchand management committee as their role has also been called into question for approving the transfer of Mrs. Shroff’s share to both brothers.
P Chidambaram argued that this transfer amounted to meddling with the estate of Mrs. Shroff. Darius khambatta argued that the resolution to transfer the units was as per the partnership agreement which in turn relies on the family agreement.
After several hours of trading charges, eventually both sides agreed to mediation and a 3 member mediation panel of Nimesh Kampani, Justice Srikrishna and Harish Salve has been selected to help both sides arrive at a consensus. This will be a non-binding mediation, to be concluded by December 31st, though if both sides agree an extension can be sought.
The next court hearing is scheduled for January. By then it will be clearer if the owners of India’s leading law firm will find peace or go their separate ways.