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Birla case: 'Will executed by fraud'

October 05, 2004 16:07 IST

In their continuing legal battle for the control of M P Birla Group, the Birlas on Tuesday filed a criminal case against Rajendra S Lodha alleging that he was trying to convert some of the group's trust property in his own name for personal gain.

Noted criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani appeared for the Birlas as he filed the petition on behalf of Subhash Bansari, secretary of three trusts under the M P Birla Group.

After hearing the petition, Additional District Judge Mumtaz Khan reserved his order. The petitioner sought a search warrant and recovery of original documents relating to the trusts formed by M P Birla and Priyamvada Birla.

The petition against Lodha was filed under sections 420 (cheating), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 467 (forgery of valuable security, will, etc) of the Indian Penal Code.

Lodha was one of the four accused in the petition with three others being S L Prasad, Dr Gauri Shankar and H K Daga.

In his submission before the judge Jethmalani alleged that Lodha was trying to convert the property of five charitable trusts and three charitable institutions, meant for public good, in his own name for personal gain.

The estimated value of the property under these trusts is Rs 2,400 crore (Rs 24 billion), the petition claimed.

He also alleged that the purported will of Priyamvada Birla of 1999 was executed by fraud.

The petitioner on behalf of Birlas, Bansari, was the secretary of three of the charitable institutions.

The Birla side also produced a witness, M P Sharma, in the court who was once personal secretary to Priyamvada Birla. Lodha, a chartered accountant and former auditor of a number of Birla group companies, had earlier claimed that the entire assets of M P Birla Group had been bequeathed to him by Priyamvada Birla, who died childless on July 3 this year, and sought a probate of her 1999 purported will.

The Birla family, however, challenged his claim in the Calcutta high court, claiming that M P Birla, who had died in 1990, and his wife, Priyamvada, wanted the entire assets of the property to go to charitable trusts as per a purported mutual will prepared in 1982. The matter is pending before the high court.

Jethmalani alleged in his submission that the huge property in the trusts of M P Birla and Priyamvada Birla, were willed in the name of Lodha by giving Priyamvada the false notion that it was being willed to public charity.

He also submitted that Priyamvada was not in the know of Lodha's purpose, claiming that it was a clear case of forgery, criminal breach of trust and conspiracy.

Jethmalani claimed the will was executed by fraud. He prayed that a search warrant be issued for recovery of the original documents of the three charitable trusts and five charitable institutions.

The petitioner Bansari, in his deposition claimed the three charitable institutions -- Hindustan Medical Institution, Eastern India Educational Institution and M P Birla Foundation -- were formed for public good, and the same properties that were managed by the trusts were now being claimed as personal property by Lodha.

The petitioner claimed nothing had been disclosed by Lodha about the trust properties before the Calcutta high court, where he filed a probate petition for the purported will of 1999.

Bansari submitted that he, in his capacity as honorary secretary of the three trusts, would have certainly known had the trusts been revoked, as claimed by Lodha, on April 15, 1999, when the purported will of Priyamvada was signed.

Sharma, who was one of the three witnesses in Priyamvada's purported will of 1999, claimed in his deposition he had signed the document with the belief that it would go for public charity. He also said Priyamvada was not present when he signed the purported will.

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