Andhra Pradesh

Battle Royale: female progeny challenge the ‘Male heir’ rule of Vizianagaram’s royal trust MANSAS

A file photo of the Vizianagaram Fort.

A file photo of the Vizianagaram Fort.  

The A.P. Government’s recent order has stirred up a hornet’s nest, and set to kick off a possibly protracted legal battle among the former royals

The Vizianagaram princely State which has a special place in Indian history has once again come into the limelight with the feud between family members of Pusapati Ananda Gajapathi Raju and Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju for control over the richest prime lands of North Andhra region.

High stakes battle

The legal battle between two the families might continue for many years, according to legal experts. But what’s at stake? Around 14,800 acres of prime lands - spread mostly in Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram districts - technically come under the jurisdiction of Maharaja Alak Narayana Society of Arts and Science (MANSAS), and their worth is said to be more than ₹ 50,000 crore, according to sources. The Trust also controls prime lands of 108 temples including the Simhachalam Devasthanam, the second biggest temple in Andhra Pradesh.

P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju

P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju  

 

The latest spark was lit when the Andhra Pradesh Government last week replaced the current male chairman with the grand daughter who has been challenging the male heir rule of the Trust.

Country’s richest Trust

MANSAS, established in 1958, is considered to be the richest Trust in the country with the control of valuable lands and prestigious educational institutions including Maha Raja College, MR Music Music College, M.R.Sanskrit College, among others, established over a century ago. There were no disputes in the last 62 years as P.V.G. Raju, who established the Society was chairperson between 1958 and 1994.

After the death of Mr. P.V.G. Raju, his eldest son Pusapati Ananda Gajapathi Raju, who served as MP during the Congress regime continued in the post till 2016. With his sudden demise, his brother Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju took over and continued until his sudden removal from the post by Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy government. Mr.Ananda Gajapathi Raju's daughter Sanchaita Gajapathi Raju who had been fighting for the legal rights over properties could finally become the chairperson of the Trust.

The government’s move has also provided an opportunity for other family members - including Ashok Gajapathi’s daughter Aditi Vijayalakshmi Gajapathi Raju, Ananda Gajapathi Raju’s second daughter Urmila Gajapathi Raju, P.V.G. Raju’s daughter R.V.Suneetha Prasad - to be in the Trust. The Pusapati family’s younger generation members - Arun Kapur and Vijay K.Sondhi - could also get a place as per the GO MS No.75 which was issued on March 3 by the Endowments Department that also takes care of properties along with MANSAS Trust. Vizianagaram MP Bellana Chandrasekhar and Vizianagaram MLA Kolagatla Veerabhadra Swamy were also made members of the Board.

Royal Court to High Court

However, Mr. Ashok Gajapathi Raju’s family which was unhappy over the appointment of the new body decided to challenge the government’s decision in the A.P. High Court. Meanwhile, Ms.Sanchaita who had already filed cases over personal properties of the Pusapati family decided to continue the legal battle on her own strength. In the normal course, there might not be any controversy over the properties. Mr. Ananda Gajapathi Raju’s wife Uma Gajapathi Raju divorced her husband in 1991. Even after the break up, Ms.Sanchaita used to visit her father’s house and took his guidance for studies. Ms.Sanchaita says she is the legitimate heir as per the existing laws in spite of her mother’s divorce. She also questions the ‘Male heir ‘ rule of the Trust to ensure equal rights for women of the Pusapati family in the Trust affairs.

Speaking to The Hindu, Vizianagaram Bar Association former President Kantubhukta Srinivasa Rao said providing an opportunity for all family members in the Board of MANSAS was a good sign although there was a dispute over the chairperson’s post. He has also added that The Indian Succession Act-1925 can find a solution to the dispute with regard to issues of personal properties.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 7:29:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/battle-royale-in-vizianagaram/article31015263.ece

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