Tata Trusts managing trustee R. Venkataramanan resigns

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Signage for Tata Communications Ltd. is displayed atop of the company's headquarters in Mumbai, India. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

R.Venkataramanan, a long-time Tata Group associate, resigned as managing trustee of Tata Trusts on Wednesday. A late evening press release from Tata Trusts, which has majority control of the $100 billion Tata Sons Ltd, said that the trusts have accepted his resignation and that Venkataramanan will relinquish his responsibilities on 31 March.

A committee of trustees, comprising Tata Trusts chairman Ratan Tata and vice chairmen Vijay Singh and Venu Srinivasan, has been established with immediate effect to oversee operations and select a chief executive for the trusts, the statement said.

The trustees also named Noel Tata, chairman of Trent Ltd and managing director of Tata International, and Jehangir H.C. Jehangir, who is currently spearheading the healthcare mission at Jehangir Hospital, Pune, as trustees of Sir Ratan Tata Trust, the statement said.

Venkataramanan’s resignation comes after the income tax department on 6 February withdrew a longstanding tax exemption to Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, citing the 2.66 crore compensation paid to him as one of the department’s primary concerns.

Also, in May 2018, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against Venkataramanan and other executives at low-cost airline AirAsia India, which is majority owned by the Tata Group, for allegedly trying to bribe government officials to manipulate local civil aviation policies that would give the airline a competitive advantage.

Venkataramanan was the nominee for Tata Sons on the AirAsia India board and had allegedly lobbied to get approvals including Foreign Investment Promotion Bureau (FIPB) clearances and amendment/removal of the 5/20 rule, which at the time required airlines to operate for at least five years and induct 20 aircraft in its fleet before starting international operations. Both the income tax and CBI cases are believed to have emerged from documents submitted by Cyrus Mistry after he was ousted as Tata Sons chairman in December 2016.

Venkataramanan has continued to enjoy Tata Group’s support through the AirAsia imbroglio. For several years, he was executive assistant to Ratan Tata, the former chairman of the Tata Group.

In Wednesday’s press release, Tata Trusts said Venkataramanan, at the trusts’ meeting, had informed the chairman and the trustees “that he had been considering other options, given that he was completing five years as the trusts’ executive trustee/managing trustee, and sought to be relieved”.

Since inception in 1892, Tata Trusts, a group of public charities, have played a role in areas of healthcare and nutrition, water and sanitation, education, energy, rural upliftment, urban poverty alleviation, and arts, craft and culture.

This article was first published on livemint.com.