SUPREME COURT ISSUES NOTICE TO LODHA ON BIRLA PETITION

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THE Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to RS Lodha on a petition moved by KK Birla, BK Birla and Yashovardhan Birla challenging a Calcutta high court order which had ruled that they do not have caveatable interest in the will of the late Priyambada Birla. Mrs Birla had bequeathed her Rs 5,000 crore estate to Mr Lodha, her chartered accountant.

A bench comprising Justice BP Singh and Justice HS Bedi also issued notices to the representatives and legal heirs of Late Laxmi Devi Newar, including Nand Gopal Khaitan, to file their replies within four weeks
.
Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani appearing for the petitioners said that it was their duty to see that the Priyamvada Birla estate was not being appropriated and was given to three public charities as designated under the mutual wills executed by MP Birla and his wife Priyamvada Birla in 1982.
 
As trustees and potential beneficiaries under the mutual wills of 1982, they were duty bound to contest the will of late Priyambada Birla made in 1999 and oppose the grant of probate so that they were not being accused of breach of trust, said Jethmalani.
 
However, advocates Mukul Rohatagi and R Nariman appearing for Lodha, said that under the 1982 will, MP Birla’s widow Priyamvada Birla had received absolute rights over the property, and she had bequeathed the entire estate to Lodha after her death in July 2004 through a will made in 1999.
 
“The three Birla members are opposing the probate because they have got nothing and want to claim interest by contesting the 1999 will,” said Mr Rohatagi.
A division bench of the High Court had, on December 21 2006, upheld a single bench order which had said that three Birla family members had no caveatable interest in Lodha’s probate petition for the MP Birla group’s assets. The Bench, while dismissing the appeal, stayed the operation of the order for four weeks, enabling the Birlas to move the apex court.

While dismissing the appeal of the Birlas, the high court had also dismissed the cross appeal of RS Lodha challenging the order of the single Judge, who held that GP Birla has caveatable interest in the 1999 will of Priyamvada Birla.
In 2004, RS Lodha filed a probate petition for the will of Priyamvada Birla in the capacity of an executor.

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