Singhania grandkids asked to resolve property dispute by mediation

From ET Realty

MUMBAI: In a relief of sorts for the four grandchildren of Raymond creator Dr Vijaypat Singhania, the Bombay high court on Friday admitted their appeal against an interim order that had not granted their plea to prevent any deals or alienation of the vast family and company assets that they had staked a claim to for their “rightful share”.

A bench of Justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere fixed the appeal for final hearing on April 6, but observed that given the fact that it’s a family (grandkids vs granddad) matter, they could try for mediation.

The grandchildren-Ananya, 29, Rasaalika, 26, Tarini, 20, and the youngest, Raivathari, who turned 18 in May 2014-live in Singapore with their parents. Last January, they moved court through their constituted attorney Devkumar Aggarwal to assail a 17-year-old family settlement under which their parents had written off all claims over family assets.

Their father, Madhupati, Vijaypat’ eldest son, and mother, Anuradha, had left Mumbai 16 years ago after the family arrangement which the children now call “unfair and legally invalid”. But denying them any interim relief, Justice Gautam Patel had last August, after hearing their counsel Sharmila Deshmukh and Vijaypat Singhania’s counsel Virag Tulzapurkar, held that they made out “no prima facie case on their challenge”. The judge had instead observed that “given the obvious advantages derived by” Madhupati and Anuradha and, through them, their children, and “Madhupati’s quite egregiously exaggerated slant on the background and effects of the settlement, perhaps the less said the better”.

The grandkids on Friday had senior counsel Iqbal Chagla arguing their case. Chagla said the family settlement was “monstrous”, depriving the kids their rightful share. But Tulzapurkar said they could not wake up 17 years later to challenge it. The kids said their parents only let them know of it when the youngest turned 18.

Their case was that they were still minors when their ancestral property was distributed “wrongly” and they had a right to get back what should have come to them. The grandkids want that the family and even Raymond Ltd, a listed company with several institutional shareholders, be barred from dealing with the assets mentioned in the settlement. Their appeal said that Justice Patel had “failed to appreciate” that their individual rights to separate undivided ancestral property could not have been alienated without orders from a court under the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act and the Guardian Wards Act.

The appeal also said that the judge erred in holding that there was “collusion” between them and their parents and that they can’t claim relief since they didn’t challenge the properties allotted to their parents. Besides, “the settlement has no legal value since it is not registered”, they said, adding that the judge did not take all facts into consideration and wrongly dismissed their plea.

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