In a setback for the Lodhas, the Calcutta high court on Thursday ruled that a three-member committee of administrators headed by a former Supreme Court (SC) judge shall exercise all powers and rights, including voting rights of shares, of the late Priyamvada Birla over her entire estate till the disposal of the probate suits in respect of her will.
Chief justice JN Patel and justice Soumitra Pal, however, said the administrators shall also take steps to protect and preserve Priyamvada’s asset, which is sub-judice in the suits filed by RS Lodha and the Birlas in 2004 for granting probate of Priyamvada’s wills in respect of MP Birla’s estate.
The judges, however, stayed the voting rights of Priyamvada’s shares for four weeks
to enable the Lodhas to move the SC.
The administrators’ panel comprises former SC judge justice CK Thakker, Birla group nominee Amal Chakraborty and Lodha group nominee MK Sharma.
The ruling was passed on a batch of petitions filed on behalf of the late Laxmi Devi Newar and Radha Devi Mohta, heirs and sisters of MP Birla through advocate NG Khaitan of Khaitan & Company.
Lodhas’ children and nominees Harsh Vardhan Lodha, Aditya Vikram Lodha and Minakshi Periwal filed their petitions through advocate Debanjan Mandal of Fox & Mandal.
While the Birlas’ advocates asked for appointment of independent administrators to protect Priyamvada’s estate, the Lodhas’ advocates asked for appointment of Lodha’s son Harsh Vardhan as an administrator for exercising powers to receive dividends and as a mere manager only.
Welcoming the ruling, Khaitan said: “We are happy that the independent administrators have also been authorised to exercise the voting rights of Priyamvada Birla and vested her entire assets to them to protect her estate.”
The case dates back to 2004. Immediately after Priyamvada’s demise, Lodha moved the high court for probate of her alleged will of 1999, claiming that she had bequeathed her entire assets to him for charitable purposes.
Countering this, the Birlas filed a suit for probate of two mutual wills made by MP and Priyamvada Birla in respect of MP Birla’s entire assets for charitable purposes. After RS Lodha’s death in 2008, the Birlas and Lodhas filed the petitions for appointment of administrators over Priyamvada’s estate.