The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Not her will, says Birla solicitor

Calcutta, July 22: Amid rumours of negotiations between the Birlas and the Lodhas today, the solicitor of the country’s first business family returned to the original line of argument of the Birlas that questioned the veracity of Priyamvada Birla’s will.

According to the will read out on July 12, she left all assets to Rajendra Singh Lodha.

“The contention of my clients (the Birlas) is that it cannot be the will of Priyamvada Birla. Lodha read it out to the Birla family but never showed it to them,” .G. Khaitan, speaking for Khaitan & Co, the solicitor of the Birla family, said in his office.

To authenticate the will, Lodha filed a probate petition in the testamentary department of Calcutta High Court on Monday.

This was the first time since the inheritance controversy became public that anyone from the side of the Birlas held a news conference.

Khaitan, who is spearheading the Birla family’s legal moves, said: “My clients weren’t given a copy of the will and none of us has seen it.”

He said the Birlas were determined to challenge the will in a court of law. Asked if he thought the will was forged, Khaitan said he could not comment.

One of the three witnesses to the will is believed to be P.L. Agarwal, a senior lawyer with Khaitan & Co.

“He might have signed it without knowing the contents,” Khaitan said.

“He is only a witness to the document that lawyers often become, but not an executant or party to it.”

As the Birlas had filed caveats — to ensure they get a hearing once the will comes for authentication — in the high court, notices have been issued to the family.

“We haven’t received any notice as yet. But we will move the court as and when we get it and fight it out legally. We are in no hurry,” Khaitan said.

He did blow the battle bugle, but played safe on the possibility of an out-of-court settlement between the two sides — the Birlas’ main contention being that family property cannot be handed to an “outsider”. “I don’t know what’s there to settle. But if a proposal comes, we (the Birlas) will surely discuss it.”

The city’s business community was abuzz with rumours that the solicitors, representing both the families, had a series of meetings on Thursday.

No one from Fox & Mandal, the solicitor for the Lodhas, was available for comment. Nor would Khaitan & Co either confirm or deny the meetings.

Reiterating that his clients wanted to use the assets only for charity, Khaitan said: “None of the members of the Birla family or its friends or relatives is interested in the property and they want it to go for the purpose of charity.”

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