NCLT committed an 'error' by not granting reasonable time to Zee: NCLAT

NCLT committed an 'error' by not granting reasonable time to Zee: NCLAT

NCLAT directs NCLT to allow Zee "reasonable opportunity" to file a reply. Zee says the NCLAT decision justifies its complete faith in the Indian judicial system.

Zee MD and CEO Punit Goenka Zee MD and CEO Punit Goenka

After the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) today directed the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to allow Zee Entertainment Ltd (ZEEL) "reasonable and sufficient opportunity" to file a reply, the company has said the NCLAT has reinforced the principles of "natural justice", granting it an opportunity to be heard.

The appellate tribunal also said the NCLT has committed an "error" by ordering Zee to file a reply in two days, which violates the principles of "natural justice".

The NCLAT order said: "Therefore, it is clear that the Learned NCLT has committed an error in not granting reasonable and sufficient time for filing a reply, which is a complete violation of Rule 37 of NCLT Rules and Principles of Natural Justice."

The order said: "Reasonable and sufficient opportunity should be given to the appellants for filing a reply".

"After hearing both the parties, the Learned Company Appeal (AT) No. 121 of 2021 15 of 15 NCLT should proceed further. The appeal is disposed of accordingly-no order as to costs," the order said.

Zee said the NCLAT decision justifies its complete faith in the Indian judicial system. "The due process of the law grants everyone an opportunity to present their case. NCLAT has taken cognizance of our plea and has reinforced the principles of natural justice, granting us a reasonable opportunity to be heard," a Zee spokesperson said in a statement.

The company said it will "continue to take all the necessary steps that are in the best interests of all its shareholders and as per the applicable law".

Zee on Wednesday had challenged the National Company Law Tribunal's (NCLT) Mumbai bench order after a plea filed by Invesco and OFI, the investors in the entertainment behemoth. It moved the NCLAT and sought at least a week to file a reply on their plea.

The NCLT had earlier given ZEE "less than two days" to file the reply on the plea seeking direction to the Zee board to convene an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) and remove Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Punit Goenka.

The plea also sought to reconstitute the board with the appointment of six new directors. Goenka is the son of Zee Founder and Chairman of Essel Group Subhash Chandra.

During an interview with Business Today TV, Chandra said Invesco is backed by someone. "Invesco is one of our oldest shareholders and I am unable to understand what they want," he said, adding that it only wants to "takeover Zee without complying with the takeover regulation by calling for an EGM".

Earlier in the day, the appellate tribunal said it will pronounce the judgement during the evening. Meanwhile, the NCLT also adjourned the hearing on Invesco's petition seeking convening of shareholders' meet by ZEE, saying it will wait for the appellate tribunal's order related to the matter.

Last week, the Zee board had rejected the minority shareholders' demand and termed the requisition as "invalid and illegal". Invesco Developing Markets Fund (formerly Invesco Oppenheimer Developing Markets Fund) along with OFI Global China Fund LLC hold a 17.88 per cent stake in ZEEL.

Besides, on September 22, ZEEL and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) had announced their mergers, which will create the country's largest media company. The merged entity, in which SPNI's parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment would infuse $1.575 billion, will be a public listed company in India.

The Zee stock closed at Rs 292.25, down Rs 2.45 or 0.83 per cent, as compared to the previous session close of Rs 294.70 on the National Stock Exchange (NSE).

Also read: Subhash Chandra says Invesco is backed by someone

Also Read: Zee-Invesco saga: NCLT says it's 'mandate' of the law that Zee calls for EGM

Also read: NCLT directs Zee to submit reply on plea filed by Invesco and OFI Global China by Oct 7

Also read: Zee-Invesco spat: ZEEL moves NCLAT against NCLT order on EGM plea