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Rediff.com  » Business » Birlas file probate for 'mutual' will

Birlas file probate for 'mutual' will

August 18, 2004 08:54 IST
The Birla-Lodha battle took a new turn on Tuesday with the Birla family filing an application for probate of "mutual" wills made by late M P Birla and Priyamvada Birla in 1982.

The two wills, dated July 13, 1982 by M P Birla and Priyamvada Birla essentially bequeaths each other absolutely all properties upon death and the executors of the will, who would have the authority to make over, donate or settle for charitable purposes.

Birla vs Lodha: War over a will

N G Khaitan, legal advisor to the Birla family said that the two wills were mutual and concurrent.

The executors of mutual 1982 will of late M P Birla were Priyamvada Birla, K K Birla, Pradip Khaitan (of Khaitan & Co) and Kashinath Tapuriah (brother of Priyamvada Birla).

N G Khaitan circulated a similar will made by M P Birla but dated May 10, 1981. The executors in this will were Priyamvada Birla, K K Birla and Kashinath Tapuriah.

The executors of Priyamvada Birla's will dated July 13, 1982 were M P Birla, G P Birla and Kashinath Tapuriah.

With this, there are three application for probate of the estate of M P Birla and Priyamvada Birla, two mutual wills dated July 13, 1982 by M P Birla and Priyamvada Birla and another application for will made by Priyamvada Birla in 1999, filed by R S Lodha.

Khaitan said, "We have filed a suit in the Calcutta high court where I have taken a stand that R S Lodha is neither a rightful executor nor a lawful executor and his inter-meddling with the estate of M P Birla is unlawful. He should hand over the entire estate to the executors of the mutual will".

Khaitan added that the will being "mutual" was irrevocable. He also pointed out that Lodha's probate application puts a value of Rs 3.52 crore (Rs 35.2 million) to the estate of M P Birla, but according to the Birla family it was to the tune of Rs 2,404 crore (Rs 24.04 billion).

This

valuation by the Birla family pertained only to Priyamvada Birla's shareholding in various companies. Taking the charitable trusts into consideration, the total value of the assets would be in the region of Rs 5,000 crore (Rs 50 billion), said Khaitan.

However, the "mutual" wills of 1982 by M P Birla and Priyamvada Birla were not registered wills unlike the will made by late Priyamvada Birla in 1999, bequeathing all assets to R S Lodha.

Khaitan said that registration was not necessary for the will but probate was an absolute must.

Khaitan said, both sisters of M P Birla--Lakshmi Newar and Radha Mohta--had filed affidavits stating they had no objection to the grant of probate to the executors of the 1982 will.

The sisters had filed affidavits objecting to the application for probate of the will made by Priyamvada Birla in 1999.

Kashinath Tapuriah, brother of late Priyamvada Birla, thought that Priyamvada 'must have been misled' to carry out the Will of 1999 which said R S Lodha would be the beneficiary of the M P Birla estate.

Speaking to Business Standard Tapuriah said: "She was very much aware of the mutual and concurrent will made in 1982. She could not have acted differently thereafter. Thus, I assume she must have been misled."

Tapuriah pointed out that either his sister was made to think that 'the estate will go to a trust' or that it was 'camouflaged in some manner' as 'she had implicit trust' in Lodha.

The other reason for being mislead could be that Priyamvada Devi was not well versed with the legal intricacies.

Pointing that she was very devoted to her husband, Tapuriah noted: "I cannot believe that she could revoke the joint commitment made in 1982. They arrived at the decision of making a mutual and concurrent will after a prolonged illness during 1979-81. Their sole intention was to do something which must benefit the community at large."

BS Bureau in Kolkata