Mumbai: IndiGo cofounder Rahul Bhatia, seeking a court order to obtain documents from his partner Rakesh Gangwal, has alleged that he has a “history of being uncooperative and obstructive” with petitioners’ requests.
Bhatia made the claim in his latest request to the US district court of Florida to accept his application for documents from his partner to be used in a separate case he filed in the London Court of International Arbitration.
“There are reasons to believe that the respondents (Gangwal camp) will not timely or fully comply with the LCIA tribunal’s discovery requests, notwithstanding assurances to the contrary made to this court,” Bhatia’s counsel said in his re-application. “This belief is built on Mr Gangwal’s history of being uncooperative and obstructive with respect to petitioners’ requests.”
In the LCIA case filed in October, Bhatia alleged that Gangwal breached the shareholders’ agreement signed between the two founders of India’s biggest airline by market share.
Bhatia’s re-application was filed on November 15, after Gangwal, a US resident, requested last week that the first application, filed by Bhatia on October 16, be rejected. ET has reviewed the documents.
Emails sent to Gangwal and a spokesperson for Bhatia remained unanswered before the story went to press
In Gangwal’s application, his counsel said that under the LCIA case, an arbitral tribunal would be set up shortly and it would issue an order for disclosure of all relevant documents and testimony from both parties.
Stating that Gangwal will cooperate with the document disclosure procedures laid down by the arbitral tribunal, the counsel said Bhatia’s application is unnecessary and redundant and “a blatant attempt to ‘jump the gun’ and get one-sided discovery outside the framework created by the arbitration clause.”
In the re-application, Bhatia’s counsel also cited a case that expanded the scope of Section 1782, the law invoked in his discovery application, to include “administrative and quasi-judicial proceedings” abroad in addition to court proceedings in the definition of “foreign tribunal.”
Gangwal’s lawyers had said the law invoked ‘does not apply to private commercial arbitrations.’
Bhatia’s counsel cited examples of Gangwal’s alleged uncooperative and obstructive stance, saying he had rejected “requests” to remove updates of his feud with Bhatia from his website and to not make further public disclosures to ‘third parties’ in connection with IndiGo or the arbitration claimants.
Gangwal also has so far failed to produce any documents to substantiate the allegations underlying his complaints to the Securities and Exchange Board of India, Bhatia’s lawyer Dheeraj Nair said in his accompanying declaration.
When the IndiGo board, including Gangwal, unanimously decided on July 20, 2019, to expand its size to 10 members from six and notified the stock exchanges, Gangwal changed his mind two days later and declared that the resolution be unwound, Nair added.
IndiGo’s two founders have been locked in a public feud for the better part of this year over issues including shareholder rights – the selection and appointment of IndiGo’s chairman and key management personnel – enjoyed and allegedly misused by Bhatia, alleged related-party transactions between IndiGo and companies affiliated to Bhatia’s IGE Group, and the absence of a woman director.
After board meetings where most of the issues were discussed and appeared to be resolved, Bhatia moved the LCIA in October and then approached the Florida court.