The Madhya Pradesh high court on Wednesday served notice on the Centre over a petition filed by actress Sharmila Tagore challenging a move by a central department to assume control of all properties of the last Nawab of Bhopal.
The court also continued its stay on the execution of a February 25 order by the Custodian of Enemy Property for India (CEP) to take possession of the nawab’s properties under the Enemy Property Act, 1968.
The CEP is empowered by the Act to appropriate properties in India owned by Pakistani nationals.
Besides the government, the court served notices on the CEP and the principal secretary, MP revenue department while hearing the petition, which was also filed by Sabah Ali Khan and actress Soha Ali Khan along with Sharmila Tagore, the heirs of the late Nawab of Bhopal.
The fresh petition is in a series of already pending petitions filed by her son, actor Saif Ali Khan over the same issue earlier.
“The orders declaring the property to be enemy property which has been inherited by the petitioners have been passed in complete violation of the merger agreement,” the petitioners’ counsel Rajesh Pancholi told the court.
“The merger agreement was entered into between the Union of India and the then Nawab Hamidullah Khan Bahadur,” the counsel said, adding that CEP’s order was in “violation of the merger agreement and the certificate of the Union government under Article 366(22) of the Constitution of India.”
The CEP had declared the property of Hamidullah Khan as enemy property on the ground that his elder daughter princess Abida Sultan had migrated to Pakistan in 1950.
“When the princess left for Pakistan, the Nawab of Bhopal was alive so no question arises to consider the property to be enemy property,” the counsel said.
Justice Alok Aradhe after hearing the petitioners’ counsel directed status quo on the matter till the next date of hearing.
Earlier, Saif, son of late cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and actress Sharmila Tagore, had approached the HC challenging the CEP order.
The nawab’s properties include 15 residential properties and 23 cottages -- listed in the merger agreement as "private properties” -- and estimated to be worth several crores of rupees.
Hamidullah Khan had three daughters, Abida, Sajida and Rabia. The eldest, Abida, migrated to Pakistan and her son Shahryar Khan later became Pakistan’s foreign secretary and chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Hamidullah Khan died on February 4, 1960 and the government of India recognised his second daughter, Sajida, as his successor. She received all prerogatives extended to rulers by the government.
His second daughter Sajida was married to Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi and their son Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi had later captained the Indian cricket team. The nawab’s third daughter Rabia lived in Bhopal till her death.