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Court orders mediation over Amarchand Mangaldas ownership

The brothers and partners in India’s largest law firm, Amarchand Mangaldas, have agreed to mediation of their dispute over their mother’s will that bequeathed a 22.5 per cent stake in the firm to elder brother Shardul Shroff and disinherited the younger one, Cyril Shroff.

Justice R D Dhanuka of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday ordered mediation till December 31 and set the next court hearing on January 19. Both brothers named investment banker founder of JM Financial, Nimesh Kampani, as their common mediator. Cyril and Shardul Shroff separately proposed senior counsel Harish Salve and Justice BN Srikrishna as their respective mediators.

Delhi-based Shardul Shroff had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court to implement his mother’s will. Shardul and Cyril Shroff each have about 17 per cent stakes in the firm. Bharati Shroff, who died three months ago, willed her entire holding to Shardul. This led to the dispute over ownership of the firm, which employs 700 lawyers and has 86 partners.

Bharati Shroff’s will goes against a family framework agreement  signed in 2001 that distributed her stake in the firm equally between the brothers. Shardul Shroff  moved court after Amarchand Mangaldas’ managing committee decided to distribute Bharati Shroff’s 52,000 shares equally between the brothers.

Shardul Shroff’s counsel P Chidambaram argued the legal issue was whether a pre-will document could in any way impact Bharati Shroff’s testamentary and dispositive power. Her original will, made in 2012, stated that 52,000 equity units in the firm could be bought out by each brother with the proceeds to be held by a specified charity. However, in a codicil in January 2014, Bharati Shroff stated she was disinheriting Cyril and his family. 

Chidambaram argued the best way to deal with the matter would be to put the 52,000 units of equity bequeathed by Bharati Shroff in suspension till the matter was resolved.

Cyril Shroff’s counsel Iqbal Chagla argued the partnership agreement should have been at the forefront, and it was sad that Shardul’s counsel had gone into the details of an unprobated will.

At the end of the argument Chagla said that he would be filing Cyril Shroff’s affidavit in regard with the involvement of Shardul Shroff in the preparation of mother’s will. When contacted, Shardul Shroff’s spokesperson declined to comment.

Cyril Shroff was present in court along with his wife Vandana and Shardul was represented by his wife Pallavi.

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