The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in Mumbai has issued an interim stay on arbitration proceedings involving Shaadi.com’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Anupam Mittal, scheduled to commence before an arbitral tribunal in Singapore. The decision comes as a result of a plea filed by CEO Anupam Mittal, alleging mismanagement within his company. The NCLT’s order temporarily suspends the arbitration proceedings, which were set to take place from September 18 to 22, 2023.
Background of the Dispute The dispute revolves around disagreements between Anupam Mittal and Westbridge Ventures concerning their stakes in People Interactive (India) Pvt Ltd, the owner of the matrimonial website Shaadi.com. Westbridge asserted certain contractual rights, including exit rights, outlined in the Shareholders Agreement (SHA) executed with People Interactive. The SHA contained an arbitration clause designating Singapore as the seat of arbitration, with the enforcement of awards subject to Indian laws.
Mittal’s Allegations Anupam Mittal claimed that Westbridge’s actions, including attempts to appoint its nominees to People Interactive’s Board of Directors, amounted to oppression and mismanagement. He argued that since oppression cases are not arbitrable in India, the NCLT was the appropriate forum for his grievance. Mittal contended that even if an award were obtained from the Singapore tribunal, it would not be enforceable in India under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
Westbridge’s Position Westbridge contended that the dispute should be resolved under Singaporean law due to the specific arbitration clause in the SHA. It maintained that the issue pertained to contractual disputes, particularly the exercise of exit rights, rather than mismanagement of the company.
NCLT’s Decision The NCLT, considering the High Court’s observations regarding potential irreparable loss to Mittal, granted the injunction until the company petition’s resolution. The tribunal noted that Westbridge could still invoke Section 45 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act during the NCLT proceedings. Conversely, proceeding with arbitration in Singapore and obtaining exit rights would render Mittal without remedy, rendering the current petition moot.
Legal Representatives Senior Advocates Ravi Kadam and Sharan Jagtiani, along with other advocates, represented Anupam Mittal, while Senior Advocates Janak Dwarkadas and Nikhil Sakhardande, with their legal team, represented Westbridge in the dispute.
The interim stay on arbitration proceedings aims to address the ongoing disputes and seek resolution through the appropriate legal channels in India.