The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Birla offensive with joint will
Charity chant in new testament
N.G. Khaitan addressing a press conference in Calcutta on Tuesday. Picture by Amit Dutta

Calcutta, Aug. 17: Two wills were pitted against one with the Birlas today unveiling documents that predate what has been claimed as the last testament of Priyamvada Birla.

The Birla family filed a petition in Calcutta High Court seeking probate (legal authentication) of two mutual wills of M. P. Birla and his wife Priyamvada. The move is a challenge to the Priyamvada will in which she has left all her properties to Rajendra Singh Lodha.

“We filed a petition to have the wills probated. Mutual and concurrent, they were made on July 13, 1982, before same sets of witnesses,” said N. G. Khaitan of Khaitan & Co, the solicitor firm representing the Birlas.

Kashinath Tapuriah, brother of Priyamvada Birla, and Arvind Newar, son of M. P. Birla’s sister Laxmi Bai Newar, joined the solicitor as he spoke to reporters. Both sisters of M. P. Birla — Laxmi Bai Newar and Radha Bai Mohta —filed an affidavit in court today, saying they had no objection to probating the mutual wills.

The Birlas have been at war with Lodha since the chartered accountant claimed that Priyamvada bequeathed all assets of the MP Birla group to him. He has filed an application in court to have the will probated.

“This is not her will. She could not have made this will. Let me tell you, that in legal terms, this amounts to a fraud on her husband,” said Khaitan, referring to the Priyamvada will that names Lodha as the sole successor.

The application for authentication of the two wills was backed by Birlas’ estimate of the value of MP Birla group assets.

“Estimating the fair prices of her holdings, we have valued the worth of her personal assets at Rs 2,404 crore. But, if we include other assets, the amount will be around Rs 5,000 crore,” Khaitan said.

Lodha’s probate application, by contrast, values the properties at Rs 3.52 crore. “If that is the value, we are willing to pay Rs 100 crore. And then, we will use the entire property for the purpose of charity,” Khaitan added.

The Birlas circulated the copies of the wills, which included the names of the executors, to prove that M. P. Birla and Priyamvada wanted their properties to go to charity.

M. P. Birla’s will had four executors — his wife, K. K. Birla, Kashi Nath Tapuriah and Pradip Kumar Khaitan. Priyamvada named three in the joint document — her husband, G. P. Birla and Kashi Nath Tapuriah. Khaitan said executors had filed the petitions to secure legal sanction for their testaments.

Khaitan & Co has already filed a suit seeking to stop Lodha from dealing with Priyamvada’s properties.

“On the basis of the mutual and concurrent wills, I filed a suit in Calcutta High Court. I have taken a stand that R. S. Lodha is neither a rightful nor a lawful executor and that he is meddling with the estate of Priyamvada Birla in a wrongful manner. He should hand over the estate to the executors of the 1982 mutual will,” said Khaitan.

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