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NCLAT transfers Axis Finance and IDBI Bank appeals on Zee-Sony merger to chairperson-led bench : Reports

Challenges to the Zee-Sony merger have been transferred to a third bench in under a month, providing legal clarity for the creation of a $10-billion media giant in India.

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) has transferred the appeals filed by Axis Finance and IDBI Bank regarding the Zee-Sony merger to a different bench according to the media reports. On October 31, the case was transferred to the bench of the chairperson, as the chairperson-led bench is already handling IDBI's insolvency plea against Zee Entertainment Enterprises.

This marks the third time in less than a month that the challenges to the Zee-Sony merger have been moved to a different bench. Previously, the case was heard by a bench led by Justice (retd) Rakesh Kumar, who resigned on October 30 due to contempt proceedings against him in the Supreme Court. The matter was then placed before a bench led by Justice (retd) Anant Bijay Singh, who later transferred it to the Chairperson's court.

During the recent hearing, Axis Finance and IDBI Bank presented their arguments for approximately 45 minutes. ZEEL's lawyers had previously urged the tribunal not to issue any orders in the case, as they claimed that Axis Finance lacked the necessary standing to file such a plea. They also objected to the adjournment, asserting that IDBI's case arose from a different set of facts.

The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) had approved the merger of Zee Entertainment and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) on August 10, paving the way for the creation of a $10-billion media giant in India. The NCLT dismissed all objections regarding the merger. Zee Entertainment and Sony Pictures had reached an agreement in December 2021 to combine their businesses, seeking necessary approvals from various regulatory bodies, including the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

The bench stated that, given the chairperson-led bench's involvement in an insolvency appeal filed by IDBI Bank against Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL), it would be more appropriate for the same bench to hear these petitions. Previously, the appeals were listed before another NCLAT bench, but that bench also transferred them to the chairperson's bench.

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