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Birla war echoes in apex court

New Delhi, Aug. 12: The Birla-Lodha tussle over the ownership of the MP Birla group has reached the Supreme Court.

S. N. Prasad, co-accused with Rajendra Singh Lodha in a criminal case over the assets of the MP Birla group, today moved a petition challenging a July 1 Calcutta High Court order.

Rajendra Prasad Pansari had filed a criminal case against Lodha, Prasad, V. Gauri Shanker and S. K. Daga, accusing them of entering into a criminal conspiracy to usurp the assets of the MP Birla group.

The high court had dismissed Prasad’s petition seeking to quash criminal proceedings initiated by Pansari last October, and sent the case back to Alipore Court. The high court had said the sub-divisional judicial magistrate, Alipore, would be free to proceed with the criminal case.

Now, with Prasad taking the case to the Supreme Court, another chapter has been added to the legal battle over the assets of the MP Birla group. If the Supreme Court dismisses the petition, the case will bounce back to Alipore Court; if not, the focus of the legal battle will shift to Delhi.

Despite the confrontation on other fronts ' company law board, a civil suit in high court ' the criminal case is a priority for both the Birlas and Lodha.

The chartered accountant is engaged in a fierce legal battle with the Birlas for the past one year since his claim that Priyamvada Birla made him the sole successor of the assets of the MP Birla group. Pansari, a close confidant of the Birla family, said in his criminal case that Lodha misused his fiduciary capacity and conspired to “hijack properties worth over Rs 2,400 crore” meant for public charitable institutions through a will that was a “fraud”.

Pansari, who had worked with various MP Birla group charitable institutions and trusts, claimed that these assets were supposed to be vested in five trusts meant for charitable purposes.

In his special leave petition (SLP) filed through advocate Ankur Chawla, Prasad contended that the criminal complaint against Lodha and others should be quashed as “it has been filed by a person who has no interest in estate and properties”.

It was stated that the complainant has been “set up by a party” to the civil proceedings in Priyamvada’s will case and, hence, should be quashed.

“A criminal complaint filed at the instance of a third party, who is not a beneficiary under the trusts or the will nor has any interest in any of the properties mentioned in the complaint, should be quashed on the ground of abuse of the process of law,” the SLP said.

No date has been fixed for hearing the petition.

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