Yes Bank-Dish TV Dispute: SC stays police notice to freeze voting rights

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Yes Bank-Dish TV Dispute: SC stays police notice to freeze voting rights
© Rakesh Patil Yes Bank-Dish TV Dispute: SC stays police notice to freeze voting rights

In a big relief to Yes Bank, the Supreme Court on November 30 stayed the Uttar Pradesh Police order, freezing the lender’s voting rights in the Dish TV annual general meeting.

A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud took serious exception to police action in a corporate matter and also stayed the investigation.

“We cannot permit police officers sitting in Gautam Buddha Nagar to freeze voting rights of a shareholder,” the bench said. “The police here did what even the National Company Law Tribunal did not do (freeze shares and voting rights).”

Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Yes Bank, essentially questioned the validity of the police notice issued earlier this month, asking the bank to not act on the shares, that is to say not to sell the shares or even carry out voting rights that come attached with the ownership of the shares.

Terming the notice as an “extraordinary ingenious misuse of the criminal law”, Singhvi alleged that the notice of freeze on voting rights came at an opportune time only to prevent the bank, as the largest shareholder, from voting in the annual general meeting. “The FIR filed in the case had been languishing since August 2020,” he argued.

Yes Bank had disbursed loans of Rs 5,270 crore to Essel group and its sister concerns between 2016 and 2018. After the Yes Bank scam surfaced and the bank’s board was reconstituted, it acted on the Dish TV shares that were pledged with it and became owner of nearly 25 percent of the shares of the company. Yes Bank grabbed 25 percent ownership after the company’s promoter failed to pay the debt and the pledged shares were invoked as a response.

If Yes Bank votes during the Dish TV AGM, it may vote to change or refuse to reappoint directors. This, the bank contends, is a primary reason behind police action against the bank coming just ahead of the AGM.

Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, representing Subhash Chandra, contested Yes Bank’s case and argued that there was never a genuine loan transaction between the bank and Dish TV and that the company was pressured into taking loan in order to “clean the books of Yes Bank”.

The court has agreed to hear the case at length on a future date and has issued notice on Yes Bank’s appeal and allowed the parties on the other side to file their response.

On Monday, Singhvi had sought an urgent hearing of the appeal. Chief Justice of India NV Ramana allowed to list the case for hearing on November 30 since the annual general meeting for which the voting rights were sought to be exercised by the bank ends on Tuesday.

Essel Group head Subhash Chandra had last year filed a police complaint against Yes Bank and its former-managing director Rana Kapoor with allegations of fraud in the merger deal between Dish TV and Videocon D2H. The complaint kicked off a police probe and as part of the investigation by the UP Police, the voting rights of the bank were frozen through a police notice sent on November 5.

Yes Bank had urged the Allahabad High Court to quash the criminal complaint against it and effectively let it exercise its voting rights during the annual general meeting of Dish TV, but the high court dismissed the plea, stating that the bank has other alternative remedies available under the law. On this dismissal, Yes bank had approached the Supreme Court in appeal.

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