The long-pending dispute over the property of the last Nawab of Malerkotla has taken a significant turn, as the Punjab and Haryana high court has come down heavily on a former additional district judge (ADJ) for allowing the erstwhile ruler's sister-in-law to take away the heirloom, and asked the sister-in-law to give back the valuables till disputes are settled.
Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan and his wife Sajida Begum, of the erstwhile princely state of Malerkotla, had died childless, and thereafter a legal battle for the heirloom in their palace, Sheesh Mahal, had started. That dispute is pending for final decision before the Wakf tribunal, but the HC bench headed by justice K Kannan was "shocked" to know that the then ADJ DS Malwai, in his capacity then as presiding officer of the tribunal, had passed an interim order on May 21, 2008, permitting Sajida's sister Zahida Begum to remove the palace locks and take away the valuables.
Malwai, who was later compulsorily retired by the high court in a separate case, had "made adjudication before the tribunal a mockery," said the bench.
Zahida, who lives in Malerkotla, has now been directed to give the articles back to the Malerkotla police station house officer (SHO) with the proper inventory and the SHO would "restore the valuables in the palace… in the very place from where they were taken".
WHAT'S THE MATTER
The Sheesh Mahal was originally sealed on the Malerkotla sub-divisional magistrate's (SDM) complaint to the SHO in August 2006, days after the nawab's wife died and the disputes arose. The nawab had died in 1982 and there were many alleged wills and self-proclaimed heirs.
The HC orders came last week on a petition by one of such claimants, Fayyaz Ali Khan, a brother of the nawab's late wife. A resident of Shekhupura in Pakistan, Fayyaz sought quashing of the then ADJ's interim order, at which justice Kannan said, "I am astonished at the type of the order that has been passed by the presiding officer (Malwai)… When there was required to be an adjudication in relation to the property, there could not have been an order passed by the presiding officer allowing for removal of the goods."
Since the ADJ has been compulsorily retired, justice Kannan stated, "this makes it difficult for me to call for report from the judge." But he added that Fayyaz remains "at liberty to lodge an appropriate complaint before the competent police for investigation".