The Singhanias may be headed towards a compromise after years of battling it out in full public view. The fatherson duo has told this newspaper that they are ready to sign a settlement agreement that was drafted about a year and a half ago.
Responding to his father Vijaypat Singhania’s interview published on Saturday (see pic), Gautam who is in the Maldives currently, said his father claimed to have trust issues with him but is yet to sign the agreement and settle the issue once and for all.
“The day my father can prove that I backtracked on my commitment with respect to the dispute between me and him, I will leave the country,” Gautam told this reporter over the phone.
“The agreement was drafted about 18 months ago and required both my father and me to fulfil some conditions. But he never signed that agreement. I will sign and give it to you (this reporter) and see if my father agrees to sign it,” the current chairman and managing director of Raymond Group told this reporter.
When asked if the agreement was drafted on “mutually agreeable terms,” he replied in the affirmative.
“I am tired of this and I want this to end now,” Gautam said, adding, “If he is willing to deliver on what he is supposed to as per that agreement, I am willing to deliver my 100 per cent.”
According to Gautam, the same document was presented before the Bombay High Court as well as the Arbitration Tribunal which is now hearing the dispute between the two regarding Singhania’s claim over the duplex at JK House.
When contacted, Singhania’s lawyer Vibhav Krishna, too, said that his client was willing to come to the table and sign the agreement provided Gautam signed it too.
In response to Singhania’s statement that he was willing to live with Gautam and his family provided it was done legally, the Raymond scion said that he had no problem in signing such an agreement but it was not possible to pass on the ownership of the disputed property to his father as it had been rejected by the shareholders of the company – Raymond Ltd.
Gautam also accused his sister Shefali Ruia of instigating their father to fight for the ownership of the JK House apartment. Singhania, however, rubbished the claim and said Gautam was unnecessarily dragging her name into this as he was not on good terms with her.
Interestingly, it was Ruia’s office at Nariman Point where Singhania spoke to this newspaper on Friday.
Gautam also alleged that his father was insisting on the ownership of the duplex at his sister’s behest, despite the fact that the Board of Directors had agreed for a life-time interest in his favour, which would allow him to live there till the time he so desired. When asked about this, Singhania agreed to accept the Board’s offer but insisted that he would continue to fight for ownership.
Vibhav Krishna, quoting Singhania, said that Gautam was making all the statements to this newspaper because he wanted to show the authority hearing their application under the Maintenance and Welfare of Senior Citizens Act that they were trying to settle the issue.
In response to Singhania’s allegation that Gautam was preventing his daughters – Niharika and Nisa – from meeting the octogenarian, Gautam swore that he had no such role to play. “I am a big follower of Lord Balaji. I go there (Tirupati) very regularly, and I have never stopped my daughters from meeting my father. They have taken that decision on their own.”
He also refuted Singhania’s statement that he never contacted his father and was not disinclined to settle the dispute.
I made multiple attempts by approaching more than 10 well-known personalities and relatives to try and settle the issue, he said.
According to Gautam, he had approached Deepak Parekh (HDFC Bank), Dr Deepak Thacker (Breach Candy Hospital) and his father’s elder cousin Bharat Hari Singhania for mediation.
Singhania, on Friday, had mentioned that he (Singhania) had approached Bharat Hari to try and mediate, but it was Gautam who had backtracked. Gautam, however, disputed this and said he never disagreed to talk to Bharat.
When this newspaper contacted Deepak Parekh, he refused to discuss the issue. However, Singhania accepted that Parekh did approach him to mediate, but the talks did not go forward as the two could never meet.
Dr Thacker confirmed that Gautam had indeed sought his intervention on the issue, but he could not take it forward as he did not get a chance to meet Singhania after his surgery in March 2017.
Repeated attempts to contact Bharat Hari who is based in Delhi did not yield any response.
Lastly, when asked if, with this kind of acrimony, the two could live under the same roof, Gautam sighed. “He is my father. He is 81years old. I want him to be happy. I am genuinely pained at this. I will do a dandavat (pay obeisance) not 100 but 200 times, but I want us to lead a happy life.”