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Punjab & Haryana High Court Declares Faridkot Maharaja's Will As Forged; Divides Estate Between Two Surviving Daughters And Nephew [Read Judgment]

Nitish Kashyap
14 Jun 2020 6:51 AM GMT
Punjab & Haryana High Court Declares Faridkot Maharajas Will As Forged; Divides Estate Between Two Surviving Daughters And Nephew [Read Judgment]
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The High Court of Punjab and Haryana on Wednesday held that the will of the former Maharaja of the erstwhile state of Faridkot which was made public over 30 years ago, was forged by the persons in-charge at the time in order to plunder the entire estate valued at over Rs.20,000 crores.

Justice Raj Mohan Singh in a 547-page judgment declared that the two surviving daughters of the late Raja, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Maharani Deepinder Singh were entitled to inherit and share the properties in question. Court also allowed the claim of the late Raja's nephew Amrinder Singh Brar to proportionate share in the Raja's estate. He relied on the registered will of Maharani Mohinder Kaur (Raja's Mother) dated March 1990.

Case Background

Late Maharaja Colonel Sir Harinder Singh Brar was the last ruler of the former Faridkot State. He was born on January 29, 1915 and was the eldest son of Maharaja HS Farjand-iSaddat-Nishan Hazrat-i-Kesar-i-Hind Maharaja Brij Inder Singh Brar Bans Bahadur.

Raja Harinder Singh Brar died on October 16, 1989 at Batra Hospital in Delhi. His only son Tikka Harmohinder Singh died on October 13, 1981. He was survived by three daughters namely Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Rajkumari Deepinder Kaur and Rajkumari Mahipinder Kaur.

Wife of Raja Harinder Singh Brar had died during his lifetime, however she was alive on June 1,.1982, the date on which Raja Harinder Singh Brar is purported to have executed the alleged Will.

On October 20, 1989, Board of Trustees and Executors assembled in the Palace known as Moti Mahal Qila Mubarik, Faridkot, where Sardar Umrao Singh Dhaliwal read over the contents of Will in the presence of everyone. As per the said will, the late Raja Harinder Singh Brar had bequeathed his entire properties in favour of a Trust known as Maharwal Khewaji Trust with definite Board of Trustees for the benefit of the public at large.

The Raja's eldest daughter Amrit Kaur was disinherited and excluded from the will reportedly for marrying against his wishes in 1952, but no reason was mentioned in the will. Whereas, his other two daughters Deepinder Kaur and Mahipinder Kaur were made Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of said Trust.

Thereafter, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur filed a suit for declaration that she is owner of 1/3rd share in the property along with consequential relief of joint possession with her two sisters.At a subsequent stage, she also challenged the Will by way of amendment and claimed ownership of the entire estate left by the deceased Raja on the basis of The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948.

The second suit was filed by the Raja's brother Kanwar Bharat Inder Singh (now deceased) through hsi LR Kanwar Amarinder Singh Brar seeking inheritance of the entire estate of deceased Raja Harinder Singh on the basis of Rule of Primogeniture, besides challenging the Will dated June 1, 1982 being null and void. Both the suits were ordered to be consolidated and evidence was led.

Submissions

Rajkumari Amrit Kaur referred to the Covenant/Agreement of accession between the sovereign state of Faridkot and Government of India. As a result of the Covenant, the Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) came into being. It was a union of eight princely states wherein the Rulers of covenanting States were required to submit a list of properties to the Rajpramukh which they wanted to keep as personal properties.

It was submitted on behalf of Rajkumari Kaur that her father Raja Harinder Singh Brar's properties submitted before the Union were treated to be the ancestral as well private individual properties, subject to the law of inheritance. The inheritance of such properties cannot be governed by the Rule of Primogeniture as it is a feudal law and the same is discriminatory because it excludes females in the matter of inheritance, the plaintiff contended.

Rajkmari Kaur asserted that the properties in dispute are joint Hindu and ancestral properties, therefore, she is entitled to succeed to the properties along with her sisters after the death of Raja Harinder Singh Brar as he had no right to alienate such ancestral joint Hindu family properties by way of alleged Will and also she is the eldest surviving child and there is no male child.

Moreover, the Will is the result of misrepresentation, undue influence played upon the late Raja by Brijinder Pal Singh Brar, Advocate for one of the attesting witnesses of the Will, plaintiff contended. She alleged that after the death of Raja's only son, he used to remain depressed. After about eight months, the Will in question was allegedly executed with the help of the beneficiaries as the Raja was surrounded by the coterie around him, who took advantage of the Raja's vulnerability and exercised undue influence upon him by way of misrepresentation and fraud.

On the other hand, the late Raja's brother Kanwar Manjit Inder Singh questioned the entitlement of the plaintiff viz-a-viz. the properties left by late Raja Harinder Singh. He claimed that in the matter of succession rule of lineal primogeniture would apply. In the absence of male living child, the brothers would succeed the late Raja Harinder Singh Brar and he would inherit all the moveable and immovable properties left by Raja Harinder Singh Brar.

According to Rule of Primogeniture, females do not inherit any property and no cause of action is accrued in favour of the plaintiff to file the suit in question.

The trial Court, ultimately, on the basis of evidence held that the Will does not appear to be genuine as there are a large number of suspicious circumstances proving the Will to be an invalid document. Trial Court also held that Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was entitled to joint possession to the extent ½ of all the properties with Maharani Deepinder Kaur.

As regards applicability of the Rule of Primogeniture to the estate of Raja Harinder Singh, the trial Court held that the said rule is not applicable, nor The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 applies to the case.

The trial Court further held that in the earlier suits decided by the Courts at District Faridkot, the plaintiff Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was not party in those cases, therefore, the plaintiff was not bound by the earlier judgments. Aggrieved by the judgment of the Civil Judge, Chandigarh Rajkumari Amrit Kaur moved the High Court claiming the entire estate of her father and challenged the Will.

Judgment

After examining statements of several witness including parties in the case, Court noted that there were significant questions regarding the validity of the will-

"The entire testimony of DW-3 Maharani Deepinder Kaur would show that a false story regarding discovery of alleged Will from the personal locker of Raja was made on October 20, 1989. The locker was being operated by the Raja personally. The alleged Will was shown to be taken out from the locker by an employee of Raja namely US Dhaliwal, who opened the same o in the absence of all the three daughters and mother of Raja. Although Maharani Deepinder Kaur and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur were present in Raj Mahal at the time."

Moreover, declarations were made on October 17, 1989 (before the will was discovered) from employees of Raja that now they are employees of the Trust and the Trust has taken over possession and control of Raja's Estate.

"The said declarations were nothing but a forecast from undisclosed sources. By that time, nobody was in knowledge about the existence of Trust and the Will in question. The manner in which the declarant got to know about the Will which was not even disclosed on 17.10.1989, remained a hidden mystery and the irresistible conclusion is that the alleged Will was not executed by the Raja, rather the same was the result of evil design of the persons in command, who utilized their resources to plunder the entire Estate of Raja", Court observed.

Court concluded that the will was forged and declared it to be null and void-

"Over all testimony and admissions made by DW-3 Maharani Deepinder Kaur would destroy the authenticity of the Will to the hilt. Hence the alleged Will dated 01.06.1982 is proved to be forged, fabricated and shrouded with suspicious circumstances on the basis of statement of DW-3 Maharani Deepinder Kaur."

Also, as regards the registered will of Maharani Mohinder Kaur (mother of the late Raja) dated March 29, 1990, Court noted that she being one of the first class heirs of Raja would have succeeded part of the estate/properties of the late Raja. Therefore, the appellant Amarinder Singh Brar would succeed to the said proportionate share in the estate of late Raja in accordance with law.

Senior Advocate Manjit Khair appeared on behalf of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and the Raja's nephew Kanwar Amrinder Singh Brar, whereas Senior Advocate Ashok Aggarwal appeared for Maharani Deepinder Kaur.

Click Here To Download Judgment

[Read Judgment]




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