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Will reveals trust in Lodha

Calcutta, July 20: Priyamvada Birla said in her will that she chose Rajendra Singh Lodha as the heir to her property because she considered him fit to “maintain the ideals of Mr M.P. Birla”, her husband.

According to a portion of India’s most-sought-after will whose content is available with The Telegraph, Priyamvada Birla wrote in the document: “It is apprehended (that) if the property of M.P. Birla travels to (someone) other than Mr R.S. Lodha, the good name of M.P. Birla might be sent to oblivion.”

By virtue of the will, Lodha, who does not belong to the Birla family, has become the heir to some Rs 5,000-crore assets of the group. The Birlas have vowed to contest the will in court.

The will says: “Since we have no issue, so to protect the M.P. Birla property, of which I am absolute owner, by this will I give it to Mr R.S. Lodha and his family.” It was not known so far that Priyamvada Birla, who died on July 3, had included Lodha’s family in the will. Lodha has two sons, Aditya and Harsh Vardhan.

Lodha moved to authenticate (probate, in legal language) the will in Calcutta High Court yesterday, acting according to the script of Priyamvada Birla.

The will says: “After execution of the will, Mr R.S. Lodha will be the absolute owner of the property and I expect that Mr R.S. Lodha shall be executing the will for obtaining probate in the capacity of executor from an appropriate court of law.”

While making the probate application, Lodha also filed an affidavit listing the assets of the MP Birla group and their valuation.

Equally crucial were the accompanying affidavits of two attesting witnesses to the will. The affidavits strengthen the will’s legal sanctity, virtually closing out the possibility of the witnesses turning hostile. Such a rumour has been circulating for the past few days.

Three witnesses are believed to have signed the will — P.. Agarwal, a lawyer, Dr Madan Mishra, the family physician of the Birlas, and M.P. Sharma, Priyamvada Birla’s secretary.

It is not known which two filed the affidavits. In any case, a will needs only two witnesses. And, for legal sanctity, only one witness needs to file an affidavit with the probate petition.

From the wording of the will, it appears Priyamvada Birla was concerned about keeping alive the legacy of her husband who died in 1990. She keeps returning to the theme.

“All trusts, educational institutions and business institutions, which stand in the name of M.P. Birla, shall function without changing the style and character of the institutions. I hope, after my death, Mr R.S. Lodha will continue to maintain the ideals of Mr M.P. Birla as usual,” the will says.

If the content is correct, the argument that Lodha is an “outsider”, which the Birlas have been harping on, loses strength because Priyamvada Birla does not appear to have thought so.

Quite the contrary — she seemed to feel anyone other than Lodha was not suited to uphold what she called “ideals” of the MP Birla group.

The Birlas had issued a notice to Lodha to furnish a copy of the will. It could not be confirmed if a copy has been given.

After the inheritance became known last week, the Birlas filed caveats both in Calcutta High Court and Alipore District Judges Court to prevent Lodha from authenticating the will without informing members of the Birla family.

Sources in the high court said a notice was issued today to those who had filed caveats, communicating to them that the probate petition had been filed.

A spokesperson for the Birla family, however, said: “We haven’t received any notice and the family is not expecting anything before Thursday.”

See Business Telegraph

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