The legal battle between two of Mumbai’s most high-profile business empires over a piece of land worth nearly Rs. 60,000 crores just got more complicated.
The six-year old legal case between K. Raheja builders and industrialist Nusli Wadia over large tracts of land in suburban Malad area has been challenged by the former Maharaja of Bastar, who claims to be the original owner of the disputed land.
An application submitted before the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court and the office of Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority by TVK Production of Amravati, who has the power of attorney from former Maharaja Kumar Hariharchandra Bhanjadeo of Jagdalpur, has sought pre-litigation settlement in the case. A copy of the application is available with The Hindu.
The application claimed that the Maharaja’s late mother Maharani Hitendrakumaridevi had purchased around 470 acres of land from F. E. Dinshaw estate in 1970, before Nusli Wadia was appointed sole administrator of the estate and effects of late Eduljee Dinshaw Mumbai.
When contacted by this reporter, a spokesperson of the E. F. Dinshaw Estate said, “Ownership of the land has always been with the Estate of F.E. Dinshaw since 1930 and later with E.F. Dinshaw and the Trusts. We are shocked at the fraudulent and frivolous claim of ownership by a certain party (Hariharchandra Bhanjdeo). Being a legal issue, we will deal with it appropriately.”
The applicant claimed to have the receipts of the payment made for the purchase. “It was due to unavoidable reasons that the registration process for registering the said Sale Deed has remained pending,” said the application first filed in May 2013 and now again in April 2014.
“Our application has neither been heard nor been disposed off. We can prove that the land belongs to us. But we are trying our best to avoid time-consuming, stringent procedure of litigation,” said Advocate Parag Pradhan, who is representing the TVK Production. He added that the current legal battle between the Wadias and Rahejas is a complete sham. “It was started only to keep us out,” he claimed.
When asked about 44-year delay in claiming ownership given that the property was “purchased” in 1970, Mr. Pradhan claimed that the recent circulars issued by the state government’s revenue department allow them to register the property even today.
According to the application, it all started in 1969 after a Supreme Court order appointed National and Grindlays Bank Ltd as the trustee of estate of late F. E. Dinshaw at Malad. On September 12, 1969, the bank’s manager in his capacity as a trustee approved the proposal of sale of the Malad land, admeasuring 470 acres and 16 gunthas to late Hitendrakumaridevi.
In subsequent letters sent in August and September 1970, the manager of F. E. Dinshaw estate and Nusli Wadia, in his capacity as the administrator of the estate addressed letters to her acknowledging the payment made for the purchase of the land and sent receipts. In February 1971, the surveyor of F. E. Dinshaw estate executed a measurement sheet demarcating the said land sold to Hitendrakumaridevi. In December 1972, Mr. Wadia was appointed sole administrator of the estate following a Bombay High Court order. The registration of the sale agreement was delayed after a series of deaths in the royal family.
In 1995, Mr. Wadia in capacity as the administrator entered into a development agreement with the Raheja builders. However, by 2008 the relations between the two groups went sour and Wadias moved the court demanding removal of constructed properties and sought compensation. Since then, the matter is pending in court.