In a case described as 'tragic' and involving Sikh family traditions, the high court here has dismissed the claim of a 87-year-old Indian-origin businessman against his two sons for a one-third share in property that includes a string of hotels in London.
The case was brought by Bal Mohinder Singh against his sons Jasminder, 63, and Herinder, 47. Singh claimed that he and his sons were members of a joint Sikh family and that family property was under a trust for male family members under the 'Mitakshara' system.
Judge William Blackburne dismissed the frail and wheelchair-bound Singh's claim, but said: "Although I have rejected father's claim, it by no means follows that I regard him or mother as having in any way acted dishonestly in making it . On the contrary, they struck me as having advanced this claim in all good faith believing it to be well founded".
The ruling delivered on Tuesday added: "The root of the difference between them was in their upbringings, with the father being raised in rural British India and the mother in Kenya. But Jasminder completing his education in the UK and taking little interest in the religious side of Sikhism."
One of the richest Indian-origin families in Britain, Singh and Jasminder began from a small family post office in Stamford Hill, North London, in 1973 and went on to own the multi-million Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel group.
Expressing shame at his sons denying him a share in the property, Singh said in a witness statement in court: "Both I and his mother are deeply ashamed that Jasminder should publicly renounce his cultural heritage and the mutual rights and obligations in which he was brought up".
He added: "That family system based on custom and religious teaching is widely practised and universally understood by Hindus and Sikhs in India today just as it was in British India where I was brought up".
"My life has been devoted to winning respect for myself and family in those communities and the respect which we have earned as a family has been the basis for the success of our business in this country".
"For Jasminder to deny that and claim all the credit and ownership for himself will be shocking to wide sections of those communities particularly our family friends - that is why his mother and I are so ashamed."
The judge said that the litigation had "highlighted the extraordinary enterprise" which had enabled the Singh family to rise from "obscurity" in rural British India and "make a fortune" in Britain in the space of two generations.
He said the family's story had a "heroic quality" and that it had been "painful" to listen to the "tragic differences" between Singh and his sons.
During the trial, the court moved to one of Singh's hotels due to his frailty. Singh and his wife Satwant, 80, live with Jasminder in a seven-bedroom country house Tetworth Hall near Ascot racecourse, Berkshire, with their families.