The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has decided to remove Harsh Vardhan Lodha and Aditya Vikram Lodha from its register of members for three months.
The Lodha brothers, partners of accountancy firm Lodha & Co, will not be able to practice during this period.
In a letter written to the complainants on November 6, ICAI’s director (discipline) Vandana D. Nagpal said the decision of the council was taken “upon a consideration of the joint written representation, dated July 24, 2013, received from respondent number one, CA Aditya Vikram Lodha, and respondent number two, CA Harsh Vardhan Lodha, and also the oral submissions made by them before it”.
“The council ordered that the names of the two respondents be removed from the Register of Members for a period of three months with respect to the allegations falling within the meaning of clause (I) of Part III of the first schedule of Chartered Accountants Act, 1949,” the order reads.
Nagpal’s letter adds: “The said punishment would run independent of the recommendations made earlier to the high court for misconduct under second schedule to the Chartered Accountants Act.”
The complaints against the Lodha brothers were filed in 2005. One of the complainants, Suresh Kumar Sharma, is an official of Kesoram Industries Ltd, the BK Birla Group flagship.
The Lodha brothers have been embroiled in a major legal battle with the Birla family over the ownership of the MP Birla empire. Harsh Lodha is the chairman of Birla Corporation, the flagship company of the MP Birla group.
The Birlas and the Lodhas have been at loggerheads since 2004 when late Rajendra S. Lodha, father of Harsh and Aditya, sought probate of a will made by late Priyamvada Birla, wife of M.P. Birla, that had bequeathed the MP Birla empire to him.
According to ICAI guidelines, the council can hand down punishment under the first schedule. However, vetting by the high court is required in the case of punishment given under the second schedule.
Sources close to Lodhas claimed that the brothers would come out of the latest skirmish unscathed as in the past.
“We are surprised to see the unsigned note being circulated by O. P. Agarwal and K. P. Khandelwal with regard to the ICAI’s findings against our clients. The said note is incorrect and an apparent attempt at distorting the findings of the council,” read a statement attributed to the lawyers representing the Lodhas.
Incidentally, K. P. Khandelwal is a director of Kesoram. The note suggested that the Lodhas had overstated the number of partners they had in the firm in order to get business.
“It should have been mentioned that the complainants had filed 15 charges of alleged misconduct against the Lodhas of which they have been acquitted by the ICAI itself in the vast majority of these and found not guilty,” the statement said.
“Of the small number of charges remaining, we have every confidence that once the facts are properly appreciated our clients will be fully absolved. There has been no finding that suggests there was any mistake in the number of partners as has been implied in the note circulated and our clients have acted in a transparent manner,” added the statement issued by the Lodha lawyers.
“Similar complaints had been filed with other regulatory authorities, including the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Reserve Bank of India, a couple of years ago which had been responded to by our clients to their satisfaction,” the statement added.
“Consequently, we have full faith in the legal system and every confidence that our clients shall obtain justice in the remaining matters too,” the lawyers to the Lodhas said in the statement.