There was some respite for Bollywood actor Jackie Shroff, who has been fighting a legal battle with his former business partner since the last decade. The respite comes after Bombay High Court set aside an order passed by an arbitrator against the actor, ordering him to give up the $ 3.5 million, an amount he was entitled to after the two partners settled their disputes amicably.
This means, Shroff would get the money, which he is entitled to, after withdrawing the criminal offence, he had filed against his partner.
Both Shroff and his partner - Ratnam Iyer, were shareholders in a private firm that held shares in Multi Screen Media (MSM) Private Limited, which was earlier known as Sony Entertainment Private Limited.
In April 2010, Shroff had filed a criminal complaint with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police disputing his signature on a document requesting a bank to find a buyer for their shares. He had filed the case against Iyer and other partners.
Subsequently, in 2011, the partners settled the dispute with Iyer agreeing to give $ 1.5 million to Shroff soon after he withdrew the case lodged with the EOW. Another $ 2 million was agreed to be paid to Shroff after his shares in MSM were sold.
The settlement had a clause making mandatory for Iyer to inform Shroff about the sale of the shares. And the actor was supposed not to file any complaint against him.
However, in June 2011, Shroff's wife Ayesha wrote an email to Iyer informing him that they have learnt that an agreement has been signed for the sale of MSM. To this, Iyer responded that the actual sale was yet to take place and in his reply he further said that whenever a deal would be cracked, "She might take the money and run for which she was waiting. (sic)”
The response did not go well with Ayesha, who replied in another mail that “no one wish to continue to fraternize with a forger.”
Iyer took exception to this mail and claimed that it has caused huge damage to his reputation. He accordingly moved an arbitrator, who concluded that the mail was defamatory and thus breached the settlement clauses. The arbitrator further held Shroff was not entitled to the $ 3.5 million, as settled earlier.
Shroff challenged this order before a bench of Justice Suresh Gupte, who concluded that the mails of Ayesha, in no manner brought disrepute to Iyer, wherein he could seek damages to the tune of $ 3.5 million.
The bench further held that Ayesha was not an authorised agent by Jackie and thus her emails does not breach the settlement arrived by the two partners.
The bench noted that Iyer got all that he wanted, right from withdrawal of the EOW case, to Shroff giving up his shares and also his position in their private firm.
"And after all that is done, Iyer even gets back his entire money of $ 3.5 million. And that because Shroff's wife calls him a ‘forger’ in a private communication," Justice Gupte held.
The bench accordingly held that the arbitrator's order is the very opposite of justice and would be a travesty of
justice to uphold such award.
"It is completely unreasonable, impossible, and I dare say, perverse. It is
partly based on no evidence, partly on non-application of mind, and partly,
by a wholesale misapplication of law resulting into miscarriage of justice.
All in all, it shocks the conscience of the court," Justice Gupte held while setting aside the arbitrator's orders.