The high court here has cleared the way for the various far-reaching changes in editorial responsibilities decided by a majority of the board of directors for The Hindu group of publications, striking down an earlier Company Law Board stay in this regard. The minority says it will now appeal to the Supreme Court.
As earlier reported, a majority of the board of directors at Kasturi & Sons, the holding company which publishes the leading English daily and its various sister publications, had directed the divestment of editorial responsibility given to various members of the family. These changes were proposed by N Ram, chairman and editor-in-chief. Among those to be removed were
N Ravi, editor, and joint editors Nirmala Lakshman, K Venugopal and Malini Parthasarathy. Ravi was to be replaced as editor by the head of the daily’s bureau in Delhi, Siddharth Varadarajan, the first time anyone outside the family was given such a charge.
That was in April, and Ravi and the others hit went to the CLB in appeal. Meanwhile, Ram and the majority had requisitioned an extraordinary general body meeting (EGM) of the 60-odd shareholders, all members of the family, to ratify the changes. In May, the CLB bench here had allowed the shareholders meeting to be held, but the company was restrained from putting the changes into effect. A majority of the shareholders duly approved the changes. Ram and the majority then appealed to the HC against the CLB stay. After hearing the rival arguments, the HC reserved its judgement on June 14.
On Friday, judge Vinod Sharma directed removal of the stay, saying he was satisfied it could not be legally maintained. hence, the personnel and editorial changes passed by the board and approved by the shareholders are to be allowed to proceed. As for the main petition, on the succession plan at the group, an issue which had been taken to the CLB last year, too, by the warring groups, he directed it to decide “at the earliest, preferably within six months of the receipt of this order”. Ravi’s lawyers confirmed: “We will go for appeal at the Supreme Court before the next board meeting.”
When asked whether Friday's order would mean Varadarajan could be appointed as editor, one of the counsels said decisions taken at the EGM had to be formally approved at the next board meeting ,on July 20. Ram was not available for comment.