The heirs of Maharani Gayatri Devi of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family, considered the wealthiest royalty of Rajasthan, have approached the Delhi High Court for getting back nearly 800 kg of gold seized by the government in 1975.
The gold, listed as the private property of Gayatri Devi's husband, the late Maharaja Sawai Man Singh, was seized by the Income Tax (IT) department as the family had not declared it to the authorities as stipulated by the Gold Control Act, 1968. The act has now been repealed.
Gayatri Devi died July 29 last year.
Challenging the Gold Control Administrator's (Delhi) 1980 order, Man Singh's successor and eldest son Brig. (retd) Sawai Bhawani Singh, in his petition, contended: "There was no reason for us to believe that the entire gold had not been declared under the Gold Control Act."
In a brief hearing Friday, central government counsel S.K. Dubey told Justice S. Muralidhar that under the Gold Control Act and the Indian Defence Rules 1968, possession of raw gold was illegal and, if found, it had to be sold to the authorised dealers or a goldsmith within six months.
"The family has violated both the rules, so a fine of Rs.1.5 crore was imposed on them by the government. It was later reduced to Rs.80 lakh," Dubey submitted.
However, Dubey's arguments remained incomplete and will continue Monday as well.
In his petition, Bhawani Singh cited how he risked his life and fought for the country in the 1971 India-Pakistan war "in spite of his parentage and position in life and so devoted was he to the country that he fought the war and got Mahavir Chakra for his gallantry during 1971".
"A person of such high devotion to the country's cause would not go and break the laws of the country knowingly," he contended, urging that the confiscation order and fine be quashed and the government's action be declared null and void.
The erstwhile Jaipur royal family had also lost a legal battle in 2002 when a local court in Jaipur ruled that the gold confiscated from the royal fort was part of a hidden treasure and, under the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878, the ownership of any hidden treasure lies with the state government.
Members of the former royal family maintained that the fort was part of the family's private property and no one should have any claim over it.