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UK court to rule on £1 million sent to London by Hyderabad Nizam in 1948

The case has gone through several twists, with India and the descendants on the same side against Pakistan, which claims the money on the ground that it was a gift to the people of the country, or payment for helping the Hyderabad state during India’s annexation in 1948.

india Updated: Jun 25, 2019 20:56 IST
Hyderabad,Nizam money,UK Court
Nizam Osman Ali Khan .(HT File Photo)

The high court of England and Wales is due to rule on a historic case that involves India, Pakistan and descendants of the late 7th Nizam of Hyderabad, who sent £1 million to a London bank in 1948, now estimated to value at least £35 million.

The case has gone through several twists, with India and the descendants on the same side against Pakistan, which claims the money on the ground that it was a gift to the people of the country, or payment for helping the Hyderabad state during India’s annexation in 1948.

The latest two-week trial concluded before Justice Marcus Smith on Friday and the judgement is expected over the summer. Claimants include Mukarram Jah, Muffakhan Jah, the Union of India and the President of India.

The 7th Nizam had transferred the £1 million to the then Pakistan ambassador in London, Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola, for safe-keeping, who agreed “to keep the amount mentioned by you in my name in trust”.

The amount, accruing interest over the decades, lies in the NatWest bank in London.

Paul Hewitt, partner of law firm Withers acting for Mukarram Jah, said he “and his younger brother have waited decades to receive what their grandfather gifted them. Pakistan has blocked access for 70 years and we hope the recent trial will mean a final resolution at last”.

The Nizam had ‘assigned’ the money to the state of India under an assignment signed in 1965, two years before his death in 1967.

Court papers on behalf of the Nizam’ descendants and other claimants state: “India’s claim to the Fund is by way of the purported 1965 Assignment by the 7th Nizam; Pakistan relies on actions almost 20 years earlier to challenge India’s ability to rely on that Assignment”.

“Pakistan’s arguments become even more absurd when it comes to the other Interpleader Claimants. It is simply not clear from Pakistan’s pleading how alleged illegal actions by India more than 70 years ago can justify the Court stripping unconnected…innocent parties of their independent claims,” they add.

Lawyers for Pakistan argue that the “international, military and political context” of the original transfer was a response to India’s alleged violation of assurances from the British and the United Nations that India would not be allowed to invade Hyderabad.

Lawyer Khawar Qureshi told The Times: “Pakistan had assisted Hyderabad in her attempts at self-defence against Indian aggression by arranging the supply and transportation of arms to Hyderabad.”

The case has been heard over the decades in various British courts, including in the House of Lords, but a resolution may finally be reached in the forthcoming judgement.

First Published: Jun 25, 2019 18:15 IST