MUMBAI — Lawyers for Cyrus Mistry, the ousted ex-chairman of Indian conglomerate Tata, on Thursday fired the opening salvo of a legal case pitting their client against company patriarch Ratan Tata. Advocate Gopal Mukherjee told the first hearing of a companies disputes tribunal that Mistry had been unfairly sacked as Tata boss in October because he had informed the board about alleged corporate malfeasance at the steel-to-salt giant. “Shareholders believed various acts of mismanagement within the Tata Group. Mistry was removed because he wanted to investigate these malpractices,” Mukherjee said at the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) hearing in Mumbai. Mistry claims that he was illegally removed as chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the US$103 billion Tata Group, at a board meeting on Oct. 24. He says he was dismissed without adequate prior notice and at the behest of Tata, 78, who is back in the hot seat at India’s biggest conglomerate after making way for Mistry in 2012. Mistry’s dismissal shocked India’s business community and saw Tata take interim charge of the sprawling conglomerate that he led for more than two decades. Tata, who was said to be unhappy with the direction that Mistry was taking India’s most famous family conglomerate, claims the latter was fairly removed after losing the support of Tata Sons board members. The pair have been engaged in an unsavory public battle since the ouster, releasing accusations and counter-accusations against each other almost daily, plunging the world-renowned group into turmoil. Mistry was last week stripped of his directorships of IT giant Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Industries and Tata Teleservices as Ratan Tata called for all operating companies to purge the 50-year-old from their boards. He was due to be booted off the boards of Indian Hotels Ltd, Tata Motors, Tata Steel and Tata Chemicals this week but resigned instead, promising to take his battle against his former employer to court. The tribunal instructed Mistry’s counsel to provide detailed evidence of his claims to the court within a week. Tata Sons will then have seven days to file their response.
The judge hopes to hold the final hearings on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2017. “Tata Sons believes that the petition is not maintainable in law and the court will hear Tata Sons on this issue at the outset at the next hearing,” the conglomerate said in a short statement after Thursday’s proceedings.