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Jinnah's kin claim right over his house

The bungalow located in Mumbai has become the centre of dispute in the Bombay High Court with some more claimants asserting their rights over it, reports Urvi Mahajani.
Hindustan Times | By Urvi Mahajani, Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 03, 2008 03:29 AM IST

The bungalow spread over 10,000 square meters plot in Malabar Hill, South Mumbai has become the centre of dispute in the Bombay High Court with some more claimants asserting their rights over it.

After Dina Wadia, daughter of founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah, there have been two other persons who have approached the high court refuting claim of Wadia as the sole heir to Jinnah House. Earlier, even Pakistan government had approached the government of India laying its claim on the Jinnah house "as it had sentimental values attached to millions of Pakistanis."

Mumbai residents, Mohamed Ebrahim and Shakir Ebrahim have intervened in Wadia's petition claiming that they have one-sixth right each in the house. They have filed petition seeking intervention in Wadia's petition, which will be heard on April 24. Mohamed and Shakir are son and grandson respectively of Ms Ashraf Rajabally Ebrahim. Ashraf was the daughter of Mariam, sister of Jinnah.

According to the Indian government, Jinnah had bequeathed his property to sister Fatima through his will dated May 30, 1939. Fatima was then declared evacuee following which the government of India took over the Jinnah House.

However, the Chief Court of Sindh had granted succession certificate on October 25, 1948 to Fatima and her husband Liyaqat Ali Khan. In 1967, Fatima died intestate.

According to Mohamed and Shakir's petition, Fatima was governed by the Ithna Ashari Shia Law at the time of her death. "Fatima left behind her surviving full sister Mohatarma Shirin as her only heir as per the Shia Law," states the petition.

Also, Jinnah House being immovable property situated in India, its devolution would be governed by the Indian law which is proper law as per the principles of private international law.

Shirin too expired intestate in 19980 in Pakistan. She had a son, Akbar, who pre-deceased her. Shirin too was governed by the Ithna Ashari Shia Law whereby all her property, including the Jinnah House, was left in the name of Mariam. After Mariam's death, the property was left in the name of her daughter Ashraf Fajabally Ebrahim.

Hence, Ashraf's son Mohamed and her grandson Shakir derive their entitlement to the Jinnah House, states their petition.

The duo have contested the basic claim of Wadia that Jinnah did not leave a will behind. "The fact of the matter is that the Courts in Pakistan have administered the estate of Mr Mohammed Ali Jinnah in accordance with his will," states the petition.

Besides, under the Indian Succession Act 1925, Muslims are exempted from provisions relating to the grant of probate. Even in Pakistan they provisions of Indian Succession Act apply. Therefore the absence of probate is inconsequential, adds the petition.

In July 2007, Wadia filed a petition in the HC seeking claim over her ancestral property. She alleged that the central government's move to take over the property was illegal. According to Wadia, Jinnah's will was never probated and hence it had no legal standing. Hence she was entitled to the bungalow being his only legal heir.

Jinnah had five siblings – one brother Ahmed and four sisters, Fatima, Mariam, Rehmat and Shirin.

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