The Supreme Court on Monday said that no other member of the extended Birla family except Ganga Prasad Birla could challenge Priyamvada Birla’s will of 1999 that its executor Rajendra Singh Lodha had produced in the Calcutta high court after her death in July 2004.
Three other members of the Birla family—K.K. Birla, B.K. Birla and Yashovardhan Birla—had also challenged the will, but justice S. B. Sinha and justice Harjit Singh Bedi said they could not oppose the probate proceedings pending at the Calcutta high court. K.K.Birla is chairman of HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint.
Probate is simply the technical term given to the legal process of settling an estate which ends with the distribution of all of the individual’s property in accordance with the will.
Rajendra Singh Lodha
The court ruled G. P. Birla’s right to challenge the will stemmed from his being the executor of an earlier will that Priyamvada Birla had written in 1982.
The 1999 will had also been challenged by Priyamvada Birla’s sisters-in-law , Radha Devi Mohota and Laxmi Devi Newar. Lodha did not dispute their interest in the estate.
The apex court’s order effectively means the process of validating the 1999 will could finally start after almost four years of litigation.
Commenting on the judgement, Lodha’s lawyer Debanjan Mandal said: “We are very happy. This judgement vindicates our contention that the challenge of the Birla family is untenable. Our contention was upheld twice before by the Calcutta high court (and) now conclusively by the Supreme Court.”
Admiting that the dismissal of petitions was a “loss of face”, the Birla family’s lawyer N. G. Khaitan said: “It is a victory at the same time because the court has ruled that the 1999 will should be heard first.
Unless Mr Lodha manages to establish it (as authentic), the case would be decided. The real battle will now begin.”