Mumbai: The daughter of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, has asked an Indian court to grant his claim to a sprawling home built by her father in India before the country’s partition in 1947.
Jinnah constructed a European-style seafront bungalow in in the late 1930s in India’s commercial capital of Mumbai, where he lived with his wife and only daughter before moving to newly created Pakistan at independence.
For decades, Jinnah House, with its imposing columns, Italian marble and walnut paneling, was home to Britain’s deputy high commissioner, but mostly fell into disuse after being vacated in 1982.
On Tuesday (7 August), Jinnah’s 88-year-old daughter, Dina Wadia, who lives in New York, approached the high court in Mumbai in a bid to gain ownership of the property, built on 2.5 acres (1 ha) of land estimated to be worth about $400 million.
“Being the only child of Mr. Jinnah she is the sole heir to his property,” Wadia’s lawyer, Shrikath Doijode, said.
“This is the only property in India which she is claiming and which is in the possession of the Indian government at present.”
The historic house was the venue for watershed talks on the subcontinent’s partition between Jinnah and Indian leaders. Pakistan has repeatedly requested New Delhi either to sell or lease the house to its government for use as a consular office.
India has neither refused nor accepted that request. The house now remains locked and is in an advanced state of decay.
After partition, the Indian government appropriated immovable and movable property left behind by those who chose to go to Pakistan, designating such assets as evacuee property.
But as a goodwill gesture, India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, ensured neither Jinnah nor his daughter were declared evacuees. Nor was Jinnah House registered as an evacuee property.
“She didn’t even leave India to go to Pakistan and married in India,” Doijode said of Wadia, who angered her father by marrying Neville Wadia, a Parsi-Christian businessman.
Their son, Nusli, lives in Mumbai and heads a large textile and real estate business.
Wadia’s petition argues the title to the house remained with Jinnah until his death in 1948, and thereafter devolved to his sole heir, his daughter.
A British national, Dina Wadia first staked her claim to the property in the 1990s and has since written several letters to successive Indian prime ministers, including one this February.
Wadia decided to go to court after the Indian government announced plans to turn Jinnah House into a centre for South Asian arts and culture.
The court has given the government two weeks to file a reply.