A two-judge panel of India’s National Company Law Appellate Tribunal on Wednesday said Ratan Tata’s actions against Mistry were oppressive and the appointment of a new chairman was illegal. The court also said Tata Sons’ move to turn private from a public company was unlawful and ordered a reversal.
The order will take effect after four weeks and Tata has the option to challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court.
“While this is bound to be contested in the highest court, the legal battle will be negative for investors in the near term,” said Dharmesh Kant, Mumbai-based head of retail research at Indianivesh Securities Ltd. “The order is extremely disturbing for the Tata Group as it raises questions on their corporate governance.”
The verdict adds a new headache for the salt-to-software group, which faces business challenges including a cost-cutting drive at its Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc unit and the impact of an economic slump back home in India.
Shares of Tata Motors Ltd. and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. fell after the verdict, dragging down the main equity gauge. Representatives for the Tata Group and Mistry’s office couldn’t immediately comment. “Investors will surely reduce their group exposure,” said Sameer Kalra, Mumbai-based strategist at Target Investing. “All strategic changes which happened under the current chairman will be paused till the Supreme Court verdict is out.”
Mistry was ousted as chairman of Tata Sons in October 2016, about four years after he had taken over the position from Ratan Tata. He turned to the National Company Law Tribunal to overturn the dismissal and, following an unfavorable ruling, appealed to the NCLAT seeking to expunge disparaging remarks against him in the original order.