New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday directed the Company Law Board (CLB) to hear the dispute involving the members of the family owning The Hindu newspaper over the naming of a new editor-in-chief.
The newspaper’s senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan has been named as the successor of N. Ram, the current editor-in-chief.
While directing the CLB to commence hearing on day-to-day basis, an apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panikar Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatantar Kumar, refused to stay the July 1 Madras High Court interim order that cleared the way for the appointment of Varadarajan as editor-in-chief after Ram retires.
“As the impugned order of the high Court is an interim order, we see no reason to interfere at this stage,” said the court.
“Since the day-to-day working of the newspaper was likely to be affected on account of the dispute, we are of the view that the matter needed to be expeditiously heard and disposed by the CLB,” the court said.
“We direct the CLB to place the matter for final hearing in the week commencing from Aug 8. We make it clear that CLB will proceed to hear the matter on day-to-day basis,” the order said.
The court said that the CLB will hear the matter without being influenced by what has already been observed in the earlier proceedings on the matter before the high court.
The differences within the family came into the open Ram appointed Varadarajan as his successor.
The newspaper’s editor N. Ravi, executive editor Malini Parthasarthy and managing director N. Murali, moved the apex court challenging the high court verdict which cleared the way for the appointment of Varadarajan as the next editor-in-chief.
The court was told that the decision to appoint Varadarajan to succeed Ram was against the convention and practices of the family owning the more than 100-year-old newspaper.
The court was told that under the convention and practices only a member could hold the position of editor-in-chief. The court was told that there were many competent and qualified people in The Hindu family to succeed Ram.
Arguing for N. Ravi, counsel Mukul Rohatgi tried to make out a strong case for a stay on the high court order.
He said that for a hundred years now, The Hindu has been a family-run company, with four branches of the family who have 25 percent stake each having a member in a top position.
This was being sought to be overturned to bring in a rank outsider to become editor and decide the “heart” and the “mind” of the paper, he said.
The family members, all of whom were eminently qualified for the posts, were also being sought to be ousted simultaneously, he argued.
The CLB, acting on a plea by Ravi, stayed a resolution of May 20 that had named Varadarajan to succeed Ram. But on appeal, the high court July 1 stayed the CLB decision.
The apex court has now sent back the matter to the CLB.