Azim Premji heaves a sigh of relief — Supreme Court stays criminal proceedings against the Wipro founder for siphoning off crores

Azim Premji heaves a sigh of relief — Supreme Court stays criminal proceedings against the Wipro founder for siphoning off crores
Indian billionaire and Wipro founder Azim PremjiBCCL

  • The Indian Supreme Court granted a stay in the criminal proceedings against Indian billionaire Azim Premji that were supposed to kick off tomorrow, on December 19.
  • Premji and four others have been accused of financial fraud and siphoning of funds to the tune of over ₹13,000 crore by the Indian Awake for Transparency NGO.
  • According to Premji, the complaints are motivated by personal vendetta under R. Subramanian who is using the NGO as a corporate façade to file frivolous litigation.
Indian billionaire and founder of IT giant Wipro, Azim Premji, and his wife are facing allegations of financial fraud alongside two others. But, the Supreme Court has put a stay on the criminal proceedings against him and declared that Premji won’t have to physically appear in court on December 19.

This comes after the Karnataka High Court dismissed petitions against the summons issued to Premji and four others for alleged criminal breach of trust and illegal transfer of funds.

The case was registered after the Chennai-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) India Awake for Transparency accused them of illegally transferring funds from 3 different companies to a new company.

“The issue is limited to amalgamation, your lords,” senior advocate AM Singhvi representing Azim Premji told the bench headed by SK Kaul. According to him, the allegations made in the complaints, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, do not prima facie constitute any offences or make out a case.

Allegations of financial fraud against Azim Premji
Premji, the IT czar of India, is generally lauded for being the man who gave away half of his net worth to charity.

However, India Awake for Transparency accused Premji of siphoning away ₹13,602 crores from three shadow banks — Napean Trading & Investment Company, Vidya Investment & Trading Company, and Regal Investments & Trading Company — in the form of gifts between 2010 and 2012.

The three companies were eventually merged into a fourth privately-owned trust called Hasham Investment and Trading Company. This gave the accused control over the remaining assets of the company worth ₹31,342 crore and it’s been losing money ever since.

According to the plea, filed by a businessman in Bangalore, these actions violate several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Prevention of Corruption Act.

Alleged violations under the Prevention of Corruption Act:
  • Sections 34, 120B: criminal conspiracy
  • Section 34: acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention
  • Section 409: criminal breach of trust
A summons was subsequently issued by an Additional City Civil and Sessions Court in January.

Premji, his wife, Yaseem Premji and Pagalthivarthi Srinivasan initially approached the Karnataka High Court with petitions questioning the summons. However, they were shortly dismissed.

According to Premji, the complaints against him are motivated by a personal vendetta. He believes that India Awake for Transparency is being used by a man called R. Subramanian as a corporate façade to file frivolous litigation against him and his affiliates. Hasham had earlier taken Subramanium to court for loan default and dishonoured cheques.