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Birla issue: Judge 'releases' criminal case

December 20, 2004 17:38 IST

In a surprising development in the ongoing legal battle between Birlas and Rajendra Lodha for the control of M P Birla group, Justice D P Sengupta of the Calcutta high court on Monday expressed his unwillingness to further hear the criminal case filed by Birlas against Lodha.

Justice Sengupta 'released' the matter before the start of the hearing on Monday, citing 'compelling circumstances' without giving further details.

The matter would now go back to the chief justice for re-allocation to any other judge in the court.

Birlas had earlier filed a criminal case against Lodha and three others before the SDJM court, Alipur, against which Lodha side had filed a petition before the high court seeking quashing of the proceedings in the lower court.

Justice S P Mitra, who heard the matter on December 8 in the absence of Justice Sengupta, had stayed the proceedings before the SDJM court till December 16.

Subsequently Justice Sengupta heard the matter for three days in which two sides engaged in bitter exchanges with noted criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani along with S K Kapur appearing for Birlas and Pradip Ghosh and Joymalya Bagchi for Lodhas.

The Birlas, who are also engaged in a civil case with Lodha over the purported will of Priyamvada Birla, had filed the criminal case, alleging that Lodha along with Shivnath Prasad, V Gauri Shankar and S K Daga had resorted to cheating and criminal conspiracy in the matter.

It was alleged in the petition, filed by Rajinder Prasad Pansari on behalf of Birlas, that Lodha had committed a fraud on Priyamvada Birla, who by her purported will had bequeathed the entire assets to him.

It was also claimed that Lodha had dissolved three trusts under the M P Birla group, days before Priyamvada's purported will was made and had converted all trust properties worth Rs 2,400 crore (Rs 24 billion) into Priyamvada's personal property.

The criminal case was moved under sections 120b (criminal conspiracy) read with 406 (criminal breach of trust), 417 and 420 (cheating), 204 (destruction of documents to prevent its production as evidence) of IPC and sections 93(i)(c) (issue of search warrant) against Lodha and the three others.

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