K.C. Agrawal, J.
1. These are three connected special appeals under Chapter VIII, Rule 5 of the High Court Rules against the order dated 22nd December, 1982, passed by a learned single judge in Company Petition No. 12 of 1982, on an application for temporary injunction.
2. After the conclusion of arguments on April 27, 1983, we passed a brief order allowing the appeals partly and we are giving the detailed reasons.
3. The facts giving rise to these appeals are that O. P. No. 1, Somani Steels Ltd., is a company incorporated under the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956. The issued capital of the company is Rs. 50,00,000 in 5 lakhs equity shares of Rs. 10 each. The paid up capital is Rs. 49,63,000. O. P. No. 2, R. K. Somani, is the managing director. The following pedigree gives the details of Somani family which holds more than 50 per cent. of shares.
(died on 4-5-77)
=Smt. Ratan Devi Somani
(Died on 24-3-1978)
| | | | |
R.K.Somani S.K.Somani N.K.Somani M.K.Somani D.K.Somani
(O.P.No.2) =Smt. Saroj =Smt. Premlata (petitioner)
=Smt. Phool Somani Somani =Smt. Saroj
Lata Somani Somani
(O. P. No. 5 )
K.K.Somani Smt. Pushpa Somani
D.K. Somani, petitioner, gave an application under Section 155 of the Companies Act, 1956 (to be referred hereafter as 'the Act'), for the rectification of the register of opposite party No. 1, Somani Steels Ltd. The application was contested by opposite parties Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5.
4. The dispute is between the families of two brothers, R.K. Somani and D.K. Somani. The grievance of the petitioner is that he has been ousted from the board of directors and the opposite parties want to fraudulently usurp the management and control of Somani Steels Ltd. for their own ends.
5. The petitioner's case is that opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3 illegally transferred the following shares in their favour.
SteelEnterprises (P.) Ltd.
Late Sri H. K.Somani
Late Smt. RatanDevi Somani
For the sake of clarity we will give the respective versions in respect of each 6f the three lots separately.
Steel Enterprises (P.) Ltd. :
Late H.K. Somani, R.K. Somani (O. P. No. 2) and D.K. Somani (P.) Ltd. had 15,000 shares. On November 16, 1974, these shares were sold to Steel Enterprises (P.) Ltd., vide annexure CA-1, to the counter-affidavit of R.K. Somani in April, 1975. D.K. Somani (P.) Ltd. filed title suit No. 67 of 1976, against Seth Nanakchand Shadiram and five others in the Court of Second Subordinate Judge, Alipur. H.K. Somani, R.K. Somani (O.P. No. 2), Somani Steels Ltd. (O. P. No, 1) and Steel Enterprises (P.) Ltd. (O. P. No. 4) were defendants Nos. 2 to 5 for a declaration that the transfer is void, illegal and not binding on the plaintiff. Annexure CA-2 is a copy of the plaint.
6. Late H. K. Somani and Smt. Saroj Somani, wife of the petitioner, held 19,900 shares. On November 16, 1974, these shares were transferred to Steel Enterprises (P.) Ltd., vide appendix CA-10. Smt. Saroj Somani filed representative suit No. 146 of 1975, in the Court of Second Subordinate Judge, Alipore, and also gave an application for appointment of an administrator.
7. On September 15, 1975, a meeting of the board of directors of Steel Enterprises (P.) Ltd. passed a resolution approving transfer of 34,900 shares of Somani Steels Ltd. to K. K. Somani (O. P. No. 4) for valuable consideration. Directors, H. K. Somani, R. K. Somani (O. P. No. 2) and Smt. Phoollata Somani (O. P. No. 5), were present in the meeting. On 20th September, 1975, three transfer deeds were executed in favour of K. K. Somani (O.P. No. 4), vide appendices CA-13, CA-14 and CA-15.
8. On September 26, 1975, the court appointed Sarvasri P. N. Mathur and Ranadeb Chaudhury as administrators in the suit filed by Smt. Saroj Somani.
9. The petitioner's case is that the resolution dated September 15, 1975, was fabricated and ante-dated after the appointment of administrators on September 26, 1975, that opposite parties Nos. 2 and 5 were not entitled to act as directors as they had retired by rotation and no annual general meeting was held in 1973-74, that they were restrained from acting as directors by the Alipore Court, that they did not disclose their interest as required in Section 299 of the Act, that only the late H.K. Somani could be said to have attended the meeting as a director in the eye of law, that the quorum was not complete, that no valid resolution approving transfer in favour of opposite party No. 3, K. K. Somani, could be passed, that in fact no resolution was passed and the minutes of the meeting were fabricated and ante-dated, that the transfer was without any consideration and that there was no necessity for the same.
10. The contesting opposite parties refuted these allegations and affirmed that a meeting of the board of directors was actually held on September 15, 1971, that three directors attended the meeting, that a resolution was duly passed, that transfer was made for valuable consideration, that the shares were entered in the register on October 4, 1975, and that the appointment of administrators was made on September 26, 1975, while much before the formalities of transfer were completed. It is also affirmed that opposite parties Nos. 2 and 5 were duly elected directors and were competent to participate in the meeting.
Late H. K. Somani :
11. Out of 44,800 shares said to have belonged to the late H.K. Somani, the petitioner, has challenged the validity of the transfer of 11,950 shares and 11,400 shares, totalling 23,350 shares.
12. The petitioner's case with regard to 11,950 shares is that on April 19, 1971, H, K. Somani executed a will, annexure-F, to the affidavit of D.K. Somani whereby he bequeathed his property to his wife, Smt. Ratan Devi Somani, and in the event of her predeceasing him, to his sons, R.K. Somani (O. P. No. 2) and D.K. Somani (petitioner). After the death of H. K. Somani in May, 1977, the petitioner moved an application for probate in the Calcutta High Court.
13. The opposite parties' case is that after the will dated April 19, 1971, the petitioner and his wife quarrelled with H. K. Somani as a result of which he was annoyed and on December 4, 1975, he executed another will, vide annexure CA-16 to the counter-affidavit of R.K. Somani, whereby he revoked the earlier will and bequeathed his entire property to K. K. Somani (P. W. 3). It is said that no probate was required in respect of these shares. The transfer was registered in the register of shareholders on May 30, 1977. The opposite parties are contesting the probate proceedings before the Calcutta High Court.
14. The petitioner's case with regard to 11,400 shares is that late H. K. Somani, his wife, Smt. Ratan Devi Somani, R. K. Somani (O.P. No. 2) and K. K. Somani (O. P. No. 1) jointly held 11,400 shares. The petitioner claims right to these shares on the basis of the will dated April 19, 1971, of which the validity is in dispute before the Calcutta High Court.
15. The opposite parties' case is that after the death of H. K. Somani, these shares became the joint property of opposite party No. 2, R. K. Somani, his son, opposite party No. 3, K. K. Somani and his mother, Smt. Ratan Devi Somani. On July 25, 1977, these shares were transferred to R. K. Somani (O. P. No. 2) and his wife, Smt. Phoollata Somani (O. P. No. 5).
Late Smt. Ratan Devi Somani :
16. The petitioner's case is that after the death of Smt. Ratan Devi Somani, opposite party No. 2, fraudulently and illegally transferred her 19,900, shares showing that the same had been transferred during her lifetime. The opposite party No. 2 did not obtain any succession certificate after the death of Smt. Ratan Devi Somani. The petitioner is entitled to succeed to his mother.
17. The opposite parties' case is that Smt. Ratan Devi Somani had 21,000 shares. On December 10, 1974, she transferred these shares in favour of herself, her husband, H. K. Somani, her son, opposite party No. 2, R. K. Somani, and her grandson, opposite party No. 3, K. K. Somani. Annexure CA-17 is the copy of the transfer deed dated December 10, 1974. H. K. Somani died on May 4, 1977, and his grandson, opposite party No. 3, K. K. Somani, in pursuance of will dated December 4, 1975 (sic). On February 3, 1978, Smt. Ratan Devi Somani, opposite party No. 2, R. K. Somani and opposite party No. 3, K. K. Somani (after the death of H. K. Somani), transferred these shares in favour of opposite parties Nos. 2 and 3, R. K. Somani and K. K. Somani. Annexure CA-18 is the copy of the transfer deed.
18. The case of the opposite parties is that the transfers have been validly made and there is no basis for the imputation made by the petitioner. It is also said that the petitioner retired in due course in 1975, and he was not ousted.
19. The above is the background in which the petitioner gave the application under Section 155 of the Act and opposite parties Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 vehemently contested the same. Affidavits, counter-affidavits, rejoinder-affidavits with numerous annexures running into hundreds of pages have been filed by the parties. The validity and legality of numerous documents filed on either side is also disputed.
20. The petitioner moved an application for a temporary injunction. On September 2, 1982, the following interim order was passed:
' Issue notice. Until further orders, respondents Nos. 2, 3 and 5 are restrained from transferring further shares held by late H. K. Somani and Smt. Ratan Devi Somani. They are further restrained from transferring the shares of Messrs. Steel Enterprises (P.) Ltd. Respondents Nos. 2, 3 and 5 are further restrained from exercising any voting rights in respect of the aforesaid shares. '
After hearing the learned counsel for the parties on the application for injunction, the learned single judge considered the question of maintainability of the petition and the plea of limitation. He considered the legal position and in the light of the same he held that the petition was not maintainable in respect of the shares of late H.K. Somani and Smt. Ratan Devi Somani, while it is maintainable in respect of 36,900 shares of Steel Enterprises (P.) Ltd. He repelled the plea that the petition is barred by time. He was satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out and the balance of convenience lies in favour of the petitioner. He vacated the interim order in respect of the shares of H.K. Somani and Smt. Ratan Devi Somani and confirmed the same in respect of 36,900 shares of Steel Enterprises (P.) Ltd. The order regarding the exercise of voting rights in respect of these shares was also maintained.
21. Special Appeal No. 2 of 1983 has been filed by opposite party No. 3, K.K. Somani. Special Appeal No. 3 of 1983 has been filed by opposite party No. 1, Somani Steels Ltd. Special Appeal No. 4 of 1983 has been filed by the petitioner, D.K. Somani.
22. Sri S.N. Varma and Sri Sudhir Chandra appeared for the appellants in Special Appeals Nos. 2 and 3 of 1983 while Sri D. Mitra, an advocate of Calcutta High Court, and Sri A.K. Banerji appeared for the appellant in Special Appeal No. 4 of 1983. For the sake of convenience we have referred to the parties as arrayed in the petition.
23. We have heard the learned counsel for the parties at considerable length. Our attention has also been drawn to the various affidavits and annexures filed along with the same.
24. Section 155 of the Act provides as below :
' 155. Power of court to rectify register of members.--(1) If--(a) the name of any person--
(i) is without sufficient cause, entered in the register of members of a company, or
(ii) after having been entered in the register is, without sufficient cause, omitted therefrom ; or
(b) default is made, or unnecessary delay takes place in entering on the register the fact of any person having become, or ceased to be, a member : the person aggrieved, or any member of the company, or the company, may apply to the court for rectification of the register.
(2) The court may either reject the application or order rectification of the register ; and in the latter case, may direct the company to pay the damages/if any, sustained by any party aggrieved.
In either case, the court in its discretion may make such order as to costs as it thinks fit.
(3) On an application under this section, the court-
(a) may decide any question relating to the title of any person who is a party to the application to have his name entered in or omitted from the register, whether the question arises between members or alleged members, or between members or alleged members on the one hand and the company on the other hand, and
(b) generally, may decide any question which it is necessary or expedient to decide in connection with the application for rectification.
(4) From any order passed by the court on the application or on any issue raised therein and tried separately, an appeal shall lie on the groundsmentioned in Section 100, Civil Procedure Code 1908.
(a) if the order be passed by a District Court, to the High Court;
(b) if the order be passed by a single judge of a High Court consisting of three or more judges, to a Bench of that High Court.
(5) The provisions of Sub-sections (1) to (4) shall apply in relation to the rectification of the register of debenture holders as they apply in relation to the rectification of the register of members. '
We are unable to accept that these appeals could be filed under Sub-clause (4) of Section 155. 'From any order passed by the court on the application' has to be read with Sub-clause (2) which provides that the 'court may either reject the application, or order rectification of the register.' The impugned order is not 'any order passed by the court on the application'. It is an order passed on an application for temporary injunction given in a company case under Section 155 of the Act. The appeals, however, be under Chapter VIII, Rule 5 of the High Court Rules.
25. We are unable to agree with the contention that the learned single judge has finally determined the question of maintainability and limitation. We are of the opinion that the learned single judge has recorded tentative findings on the arguments advanced before him on these points during thehearing of the application for temporary injunction. The learned single judge specifically mentioned this with regard to his finding on prima facie case. We think that had the learned single judge any intention of deciding these points finally, he would have framed issues and would have permitted the parties to adduce such evidence as they deemed fit and proper. The parties could also produce original documents of which the validity has been challenged. As the learned judge has recorded only tentative findings and these points have to be finally decided, we refrain from making any comments which may prejudice the final determination of these points. We deem it proper to decide the question of temporary injunction on the assumption that the petition is maintainable and within time.
26. The learned single judge has referred to the various provisions of the Companies Act, 1956, and has held that the court has supervisory jurisdiction. He held:
' In this view of the matter, if certain blocks of shares are likely to affect the management of the company which would ultimately affect a large number of shareholders, then, in my opinion, it would be appropriate that the matter may be decided expeditiously by the High Court instead of relegating the parties to a civil suit which is likely to take years for decision. It is, therefore, a relevant circumstance for the exercise of the discretion by the court for entertaining a petition. '
We are unable to agree with the learned single judge on the supervisory jurisdiction of this court. The provisions referred to by him are specific provisions for specific situations. The court has no power beyond the scope of these provisions. The supervisory jurisdiction of the court is provided for in Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution. The court cannot be concerned by the acquisition of a block of shares by an individual or group of persons. All that has to be assured is that the transfer is made in accordance with the law. Monopoly in shareholdings is a common feature in companies. The court cannot be concerned if an individual or a group of persons acquire blocks of shares in a company to have more effective hand in the management of the company. All that the court is concerned with is that the affairs of a company are managed according to the rules and regulations and not in a manner which may be detrimental to the shareholders in general. The court has thus not to be concerned as to who manages the affairs of a company so long as the management is done according to rules and regulations and not in a manner detrimental to the interest of shareholders in general. It is for this that specific provisions referred to by the learned single judge have been made. We would like to record our dissent with the view that the court has any supervisory jurisdiction.
27. Reliance was placed on the case of United Commercial Bank v. Bank of India, AIR 1981 SC 1426 ;  52 Comp Cas 186 (SC). It was held thatno injunction could be granted under Order 39, Rule 1 and Rule 2, CPC, unless the plaintiffs establish that they have a prima facie case, meaning thereby that there was a bona fide contention between the parties or a serious question to be tried. The Supreme Court was critical of the High Court for not having touched upon the question where the balance of convenience lay and for not having dealt with the question as to whether the plaintiffs would be put to irreparable loss if injunction was not granted.
28. At this stage, the court cannot be justified in embarking on anything resembling a trial of the action on conflicting affidavits in order to evaluate the strength of either party's case. It may be improper to take into account in tipping the balance the relative strength of each party's case as revealed by the affidavits adduced on the hearing of the application. Resolution of controversy involved in the application filed under Section 155 would need more affidavits and evidence than what had been filed.
29. The respondent strenuously urged before us that the court should have taken into account the balance of convenience and decided the injunction application on that basis. The submission of the learned counsel is well-founded.
30. The object of the interlocutory injunction is to protect the plaintiff against the injury by violation of his right for which he could not be compensated in damages. The plaintiff's need for which protection is required is to be weighed against the corresponding need of the defendant. The court must weigh one's need against another and determine where the ' balance of convenience' lies.
31. We are, however, unable to agree with the learned single judge that the balance of convenience lies in favour of the petitioner. The petitioner has neither made any averment nor proved that he would suffer irreparble injury if the temporary injunction is refused. The learned single judge has not considered the circumstances that the petitioner has come to the court after almost seven years. The contesting opposite parties Nos. 2, 3 and 5 have been exercising voting rights during all this period. It has not been shown as to how would the petitioners suffer if the opposite parties continue to exercise voting rights during the pendency of this petition also. We consider it highly inequitable to deprive the opposite parties of their voting rights which they have been exercising for the last seven years. The interest of the parties will be safeguarded if the opposite parties are directed not to transfer the disputed shares during the pendency of the petition. The learned counsel for the contesting opposite parties also stated that they have no intention of transferring these shares. The result is that the appeals succeed partly. The judgment of the learned single judge dated December 22, 1982, to the extent indicated below is modified.
32. The application for injunction made by the petitioner, K.K. Somani, is allowed to the extent that opposite parties Nos. 2, 3 and 5 are restrained from transferring shares held by the late H.K. Somani and Smt. Ratan Devi Somani. They are further restrained from transferring 36,900 shares purchased from Steel Enterprises P. Ltd. In other respects, the application for injunction is rejected.
33. In the circumstances, the parties shall bear their own costs. Interim stay orders passed in these three special appeals are vacated.