Criminal proceedings against Azim Premji and wife over illegal transfer of assets

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed criminal proceedings against the former chairman of Wipro, Azim Premji, and his wife on their plea seeking quashing of the summons issued by a Bengaluru trial court on a ‘frivolous and mischievous’ complaint filed by an NGO alleging breach of trust and corruption in the merger of three firms with a Premji group firm.

Chennai-based NGO India Awake for Transparency had accused the Premjis of illegally transferring assets from the firm’s Vidya, Regal and Napean into a private trust and a new company in 2014 without following due process.


A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy also issued notice to an NGO, Indian Awake for Transparency, and others and sought their response. Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi, A M Singhvi appearing for Premji and others said that the complaint was mischievous in nature.

Senior advocate S Ganesh and advocate Vipin Nair appearing for G Venkateshwara Rao, said that the NGO India Awake for Transparency is being used by one R.Subramanian, as a corporate fa ade to file frivolous litigation.

Premji, his wife, Yasmeen, and others had moved the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka High Court’s May 15 order that dismissed their pleas to quash the summons.

Senior counsel Abhishekh Singhvi argued that the trial court had failed to scrutinize the evidence thoroughly to find out the truthfulness of the allegations and should have ordered an inquiry before taking cognizance of the claims.

According to Premji, the complaints were “completely mala fide, misconceived, and dishonest” and may have been the result of a business partnership with Subhiksha’s R Subramanian going sour.

They said the criminal complaints filed by the NGO were masterminded by Subramanian nearly three years after the merger took place, adding that their group firm had to file criminal complaints against a Subramanian-owned company after cheques worth crores of rupees bounced in 2013, which are still pending.

Besides, the complaints were liable to be quashed on the ground of gross suppression alone as the complainant had deliberately not disclosed the information that the HC had sanctioned the Scheme of Amalgamation in 2015/16 before the trial court, the petition said.

The NGO had alleged that Premji, his wife and others were entrusted with the dominion over properties and assets of three companies as directors. They were holding assets of these three companies with a total worth of Rs 31,342 crore in a fiduciary capacity, without having any financial interest or ownership therein, the complaint said. It said the three companies belonged to the government and hence could not have been merged.