SC stays arbitration proceedings between MS Dhoni and Amrapali Group over commercial dispute


PTI

New Delhi, July 25

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the arbitration proceedings initiated by former India captain MS Dhoni against the Amrapali group of companies, a now defunct real estate firm for which the cricketer was the brand ambassador over some financial dispute.

The apex court-appointed forensic auditors had told the bench that Amrapali Group had entered into “false pacts” with Rhiti Sports Management Pvt Ltd (RSMPL), which promotes Dhoni’s brand, so that the home buyers’ money and the total amount to be “illegally diverted”. 42.22 crore was paid to RSMPL during 2009-2015.

Dhoni had moved the Delhi High Court, which on October 16, 2019, appointed its former judge Veena Birbal as the sole arbitrator to mediate a commercial dispute between the cricketer and the real estate firm.

A bench of Justices UU Lalit and Bela M Trivedi was on Monday briefed by the court-appointed receiver about the pending arbitration proceedings between Dhoni and the defunct real estate companies and the difficulties faced in taking it forward.

In the order, the top court said that in order to secure the interest of home buyers, it had taken cognizance of the cases and appointed a court receiver to ensure that the housing projects are completed well within time and the buyers be allotted apartments.

“In view of these, it will be extremely difficult for the receiver to defend and take care of such litigation… It cannot be expected that the erstwhile management or any other scholar can represent the companies of Amrapali Group before the sole arbitrator. It is,” the bench said.

Issuing notice to the cricketer, the top court requested Justice Birbal to “hold his hand” and not to proceed with the mediation.

In April 2019, Dhoni had moved the apex court seeking protection of his ownership rights over the over 5,500 sq ft penthouse he had booked 10 years ago in an Amrapali Group project.

Advocate ML Lahoti, who is also associated with the case, said that Dhoni was given a huge amount by the real estate firm to be its brand ambassador, and “at that time we had argued that the amount was to be recovered”. “The issue of recovery of money is going on in the apex court.”

The apex court is monitoring various housing projects of the defunct real estate group which are now being built by NBCC.

The apex court, in its July 23, 2019 judgment, had cracked the whip on builders guilty of breach of trust by home buyers and ordered the cancellation of the registration of Amrapali Group under the real estate law RERA and called it Major properties were taken out. NCR by abolishing land leases.

Amrapali’s former group directors Anil Kumar Sharma, Shiv Priya and Ajay Kumar are in jail on the orders of the apex court.

The court had directed the Enforcement Directorate to probe alleged money laundering by realtors, giving relief to over 42,000 home buyers of the Amrapali group.

The top court, which is trying to bring in funds for stalled projects, had then directed state-run NBCC to complete the stalled projects of Amrapali Group.