An Analysis Of Faridkot Ruler Property Dispute And How The HC Upholds The Verdict
Rakesh Nehra & Sachin Kaushik, Advocates
Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh
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Date : 10/08/2020
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An Analysis Of Faridkot Ruler Property Dispute And How The HC Upholds The VerdictINTRODUCTION On 01.06.2020, the Hon'ble Punjab & Haryana High Court finally adjudicated the 28 years long dispute over FARIDKOT RULER PROPERTY in its 547 pages judgement beautifully written and determined by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Raj Mohan Singh. This decision on such a long dispute has reposed the faith of people in the Indian Judiciary. In this article, we will try to decode and demystify the said judgement resulting in determination and adjudication of rancour over property estimated to be worth Rupees 20,000 crore. WHAT WAS THE DISPUTE ABOUT? Late Maharaja Colonel Sir Harinder Singh Brar was the last ruler of the former Faridkot State. He was born on 29.01.1915 and was the eldest son of Maharaja H.S. Farjand-i-Saddat-Nishan Hazrat-i-Kesar-i-Hind Maharaja BrijInder Singh Brar Bans Bahadur Raja of Faridkot. Raja Harinder Singh Brar died on 16.10.1989. His only son Tikka Harmohinder Singh died on 13.10.1981. Raja Harinder Singh Brar was survived by three daughters namely Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Rajkumari Deepinder Kaur and Rajkumari Mahipinder Kaur. Father of Raja Harinder Singh Brar i.e. Maharaja BrijInder Singh died in the year 1918. He was survived by his widow Maharani Mohinder Kaur, Raja Harinder Singh Brar and Kanwar Manjit Inder Singh. Raja Harinder Singh Brar succeeded by his three daughters as his son Tikka Harmohinder Singh had died earlier to his death. Kanwar Manjit Inder Singh was succeeded by Tikka Bharat Inder Singh, Rajkumari Devinder Kaur and thereafter Rajkumari Heminder Kaur. Wife of Raja Harinder Singh Brar had died during his life time, however she was alive on 01.06.1982 i.e. the date on which Raja Harinder Singh Brar is purported to have executed the alleged Will. Raja Harinder Singh Brar died on 16.10.1989 in Batra Hospital at Delhi. On 20.10.1989, 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 Board of Trustees and Executors. Under the aforesaid Will, all the concerned persons are alleged to have occupied the position with which they were invested under the said Will. They passed resolution No.1 dated 20.10.1989. Board of Trustees alleged to have taken possession, control and management of the entire estate of deceased Raja Harinder Singh Brar with the assent of the Executors. The properties located in various revenue estates were mutated in the name of the Trust and the urban properties were also transferred in the name of the Trust. Last rites of Raja Harinder Singh Brar were performed on 26.10.1989 in Qila Mubarik, Faridkot, where Sardar Karnail Singh Doad proclaimed in the huge gathering that late Raja Harinder Singh Brar had executed a registered Will dated 01.06.1982, there by bequeathing his entire properties in favour of Trust known as Maharwal Khewaji Trust with definite Board of Trustees for the benefit of public at large. On 14.10.1992, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur filed a suit for declaration that she is owner of 1/3rd share in the property as shown in the headnote of the plaint along with consequential relief of joint possession with defendants No.1 and 2. She further sought relief of injunction restraining the defendants from alienating the suit property by way of mortgage and exchange etc. At a subsequent stage, she also challenged the Will by way of amendment and in alternative prayer, claimed ownership of entire estate left by the deceased Raja Harinder Singh Brar on the basis of The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948. The second suit was filed by Kanwar Manjit Inder Singh through LRs seeking inheritance of entire estate of deceased Raja Harinder Singh on the basis of Rule of Primogeniture, besides Challenging the Will dated 01.06.1982 being null and void, which was partly decreed and partly dismissed vide judgment and decree dated 25.07.2013 passed by the Addl. Civil Judge (Senior Division) Chandigarh and Amrit Kaur was held entitled to joint possession to the extent of 1/2 (half) share with defendant No.1 Maharani Deepinder Kaur qua the properties, except the properties which have been acquired by any State Governments or Central Government. Trust which was constituted on the basis of the alleged Will is hereby declared as non-existent and the will dated 01.06.1982 was declared null and void. Feeling aggrieved from the said judgement and decree, appeal and cross objections were filed, which were dismissed by Ld. First Appellate Court, which leads to the filing of Second Appeal before the Hon'ble High Court, Chandigarh. QUESTIONS OF LAW INVOLVED AND THEIR DETERMINATION
(1) Whether the Raja of Faridkot' Estate Act 1948 is a valid enactment and is applicable for succession to the Estate of Raja by the plaintiff (Rajkumari Amrit Kaur)?
(2) Whether Law of Primogeniture is applicable in the succession of Estate of deceased Raja Harinder Singh?
(3) Whether Raja Harinder Singh executed a valid Will dated 01.06.1982 and Maharwal Khewaji Trust constituted thereunder is a legally constituted Trust?
(4) Whether Civil Suit No.4193 dated 21.08.2010/04.04.1992 titled 'Kanwar Manjit Inder Singh through LR v. Maharani Deepinder Kaur and others' is maintainable?
(5). Whether Civil Suit No.437 dated 23.07.2010/15.10.1992 titled 'Rajkumari Amrit Kaur v. Maharani Deepinder Kaur and others is maintainable?ISSUE NO.1 DECISION: The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 does not advance the case of the appellant Rajkumari Amrit Kaur for the succession of the Estate. The said Act was not a valid law on the date of commencement of Constitution of India on 26.01.1950 as the said Act never savedby Article 372 of the Constitution of India, rather Ordinance No.XVI (2005 BK) as amended by Ordinance No.XVIII (2006BK) was saved on the strength of proclamation made by Rajpramukh on 24.11.1949 as no Constituent Assembly came into being and Rajpramukh proclaimed that Constitution of India shall be the Constitution of PEPSU. The said fact finds mention in the White Paper on record. Once The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 was not adopted and it had ceased to have any effect on the covenanting States, therefore, it has no application to the succession in terms of Section 4 of The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948. Once the Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 itself was not approved by PEPSU, the properties as per list of properties in the hands of late Raja Harinder Singh Brar will not be governed by the said Act. It is held that The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 stood repealed in view of Section 3 of Ordinance No.I and Ordinance No.XVI (2005 BK) as amended by Ordinance XVIII (2006 BK) which was the result of valid exercise of legislative powers by Rajpramukh and Ordinance No.XVI (2005 BK) was saved by Article 372 of the Constitution of India as law. The Rajpramukh made a proclamation on 24.11.1949 that the Constitution of India shall be the Constitution of PEPSU, therefore, Ordinance No.XVI(2005 BK) unequivocally fell in the category of laws as defined under Article 13(3)(a) and (b) of the Constitution of India. Therefore, The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 has no application in the context of succession in the present case(s). Rajpramukh was exercising legislative powers under Ordinances No.I and XVI (2005 BK) and Ordinance No.XVIII(2006 BK) as held in Dalip Kumar v. State of Rajasthan and Dalmiya Dadri Cement Limited's cases (supra). Article 372 of the Constitution of India did not save The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 and at the time of commencement of Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the said Act had stood repealed in view of Ordinances, reference of which has already been made. Exception in terms of Section 5(ii) of the Hindu Succession Act is not attracted in case of succession of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur on the basis of Section 4(3) of The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948. The 26th Amendment of Constitution of India has also the effect of repealing The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 and succession to Raja Faridkot's of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 in any manner. Moreover, According to Section 30(2) of Patiala General Clauses Act, (2002 BK), when an Ordinance expires, it does not revive anything not in force or existing at the time of expiry of the Ordinance, rather provision of Section 6 shall apply which provides that on expiry of Ordinance, it shall not revive anything not in force. From this proposition as well, The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 is not covered under exception of Section 5(ii) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. For the reasons recorded hereinabove, it is held that The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 is not a valid enactment after commencement of Constitution of India and is not applicable for succession to the Estate of deceased Raja Harinder Singh Brar by the appellant-Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. ISSUE NO.2 DECISION: In view of the latest law of the land settled by the Hon'ble Apex Court, succession is to be governed by the personal law of succession and not as per Rule of Primogeniture. The aforesaid judgment Madhav Rao Scindia, etc. v. Union of India, (1971) 1 SCC 85 has been rendered by the Hon'ble Apex Court after considering earlier precedents/Constitutional Benches of the Hon'ble Apex Court, therefore, the judgment in question cannot be 'per incuriam'. The Hon'ble Apex Court has set at naught the controversy arising from different precedents by way of present authoritative judgment after consideration of earlier judgments of the Hon'ble Apex Court and has taken recourse to the principle for settling the issue to the hilt. The judgment is well founded on reasons and is a law declared by the Hon'ble Apex Court under Article 141 of the Constitution of India. The law declared by the Hon'ble Apex Court by way of authoritative pronouncement is the law of the land. The law includes not only legislative enactments, but also judicial precedents. Reference can be made to Virender Kumar Dixit v. State of U.P., 2014(9) ADJ 506 and Bhargavi Constructions and another v. Kothakapu Muthyam Reddy And others, 2017(4) R.C.R. (Civil) 359. For the reasons recorded hereinabove, it is concluded that Law/Rule of Primogeniture has no validity in the present case. The succession has to be governed by the personal law of succession and not as per Rule of Primogeniture. ISSUE NO.3 DECISION: The alleged Will dated 01.06.1982 executed by Raja Harinder Singh is found to be forged, fabricated and shrouded with suspicious circumstances and Maharwal Khewaji Trust constituted thereunder is not a legally constituted Trust. The decision was based on following reasons:
1. The alleged Will dated 01.06.1982 isproved to be forged, fabricated and shrouded with suspicious circumstances on the basis of statement of DW-3 Maharani Deepinder Kaur.
2. The handwriting expert report qua genuiness of the signatures of Raja Harinder Singh on the will cannot be treated as genuine report from any angle.
3. Evasive stand of the witness DW-1 (attesting witness of will) throughout, admission of fact on being subjected to proof and his background would make him interested witness and on the basis of his testimony, the Will in question cannot be held to be genuine, rather the same is proved to be forged, fabricated and shrouded with suspicious circumstances which could not be dispelled by the propounder of the Will.
4. The Will dated 22.05.1952 (Ex.PX-133/Ex.D-20) has no adverse effect on the right of the plaintiff - Rajkumari Amrit Kaur in the inheritance of Raja's Estate.ISSUE NO. 4 DECISION: Simpliciter suit for declaration is barred under the provisions of Section 34 of the Specific Relief Act and relief of possession cannot be claimed under the garb of mandatory injunction in the facts and circumstances of the case as the conditions of Section 39 of the Specific Relief Act are not fulfilled. While deciding maintainability of the suit filed by Kanwar Manjit Inder Singh through LR, effect of Will dated 29.03.1990 (Ex.D-10) executed by Maharani Mohinder Kaur mother of late Raja Harinder Singh is also to be seen. This Court is not precluded from taking judicial notice of inheritance, based on the Will of Maharani Mohinder Kaur on the date of death of Raja Harinder Singh on 16.10.1989, as the inheritance cannot remain in abeyance. The lawful share had come to the fold of late Maharani Mohinder Kaur on the basis of succession under Hindu Succession Act. Such qualified share is the subject matter of registered Will dated 29.03.1990 (Ex.D-10), which cannot remain in abeyance after the death of Maharani Mohinder Kaur on 05.03.1991. In this way, the beneficiaries of the Will (Ex.D-10) would also be entitled to some share in the estate of Raja Harinder Singh on the basis of inheritance by late Maharani Mohinder Kaur and further inheritance by Kanwar Manjit Inder Singh, Rajkumari Devinder Kaur and Kanwar Bharat Inder Singh on the strength of registered Will dated 29.03.1990. The Will under probate was dated 27.01.1997 and that was in respect of movable and immovable properties owned and possessed by Kanwar Manjit Inder Singh as per clause 8 of the aforesaid Will. In view of aforesaid position, the rigour of inheritance based on registered Will dated 29.03.1990, has to be honoured as per spirit of Will dated 29.03.1990 executed by Maharani Mohinder Kaur. For the reasons recorded hereinabove, the Will dated 29.03.1990 (Ex.D-10) executed by Maharani Mohinder Kaur has definite bearing on the succession of the parties to the estate of Raja Harinder Singh in accordance with law. ISSUE NO. 5 DECISION: The said issue is discussed in the following categories:-
1. Maintainability of the suit filed by plaintiff- Rajkumari Amrit Kaur.
2. Limitation regarding challenge to the Will dated 01.06.1982.
3. Limitation with regard to filing of court fee.
1. For deciding maintainability of the suit filed by plaintiff-Rajkumari Amrit Kaur following points need to be adjudicated upon:-
(a) Question of court fee.
(b) Whether the suit is barred under Section 34 of the Specific Relief Act or not?
(c) Non-joinder and mis-joinder of necessary parties.
(d) Relief beyond pleadings.
(e) Assignment of right by the plaintiff in favour of 3rd party.1. Maintainability of the suit filed by plaintiff- Raj kumari Amrit Kaur Point (a) - In the light of legal principles laid down by the Hon'ble Apex Court in the Manohar v. Shivarajan and others, 2014(4) SCC 163, the waiver in respect of court fee (if any) can be appreciated and the plaint cannot be rejected on this score alone. Even otherwise issue of court fee exclusively lies under the domain of the court and the plaintiff in view of law laid down in Sri Rathnavarmaraja v. Smt. Vimla, 1961 AIR(SC) 1299 followed in CR No.5104 of 2017 titled 'Mohinder Kumar v. Baldev Kumar' decided on 29.11.2017. The issue of court fee is answered accordingly. Point (b) - Non-maintainability of suit on the ground of bar under Section 34 of the Specific Relief Act cannot be appreciated. Point (c) - Suit is not bad on account of non-joinder of necessary parties. Since the validity of Will dated 01.06.1982 has been discarded, therefore, this issue would also go to its fold and the inheritance cannot remain in abeyance even in the absence of a suit. Point (d) - The Court can grant relief to the parties which has emerged from the record. Validity of Will dated 01.06.1982 has been discarded. Effect of undisputed Will dated 29.03.1990 (Ex.D-10) has also been noticed by this Court, therefore, the parties would succeed to the estate of late Raja as per The Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The lawful shares of the parties would be quantified and thereafter all will succeed in accordance with law. The Court can take even judicial notice of any admitted fact in order to impart justiceand to achieve ends of justice. Point (e) - Will dated 01.06.1982 has been discarded, therefore, this question pales into insignificance and has no bearing in the case as the plaintiff has contested the case throughout and represented the estate of the deceased in her capacity as one of the heirs. 2. Limitation regarding challenge to the Will dated 01.06.1982 The suit has been preferred within limitation as the suit based on title does not attract any limitation of three years. The defendants have not claimed or proved their adverse possession by way of leading any evidence. There cannot be any dispute with regard to the proposition based on Article 58 of the Limitation Act, however question which is to be determined is whether the case in hand is governed by Article 58 or 65 of the Limitation Act. The proposed challenge to the Will by way of amendment is virtually a challenge to the document on the basis of title. Such a prayer does not attract any such limitation of three years. Even the filing of application and acceptance thereof vide order dated 19.02.1994 would fall within the period of five years from the date of death of Raja Harinder Singh. The Will was produced by the defendants only in the year 2012. Even there was no such correct knowledge available with the plaintiff prior thereto. The Trust has not claimed or proved its adverse possession. 3. Limitation with regard to filing of court fee Since the Will has been declared null and void, therefore, this point has become nugatory. Result of Second Appeal RSA No.2006 of 2018 titled 'Rajkumari Amrit Kaur v. Maharani Deepinder Kaur and others' is dismissed. The claim with regard to succession to the estateof late Raja Harinder Singh on the basis of The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 is not sustainable. RSA No.1418 of 2018 titled 'Maharani Deepinder Kaur and others v. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and others' is totally devoid of merits. The same is dismissed. Will dated 01.06.1982 is found to be forged,fabricated and shrouded with suspicious circumstances. Therefore, the same has been rightly discarded by the Courts below and the Trust created thereunder is also held to be unfounded. RSA No.2176 of 2018 titled 'Bharat Inder Singh (since deceased) though his LR Kanwar Amarinder Singh Brar v. Maharwal Khewaji Trust through its Boards of Trustees and others' is dismissed with the following observations:-
The claim with regard to succession to the estate and private properties of deceased Raja Harinder Singh on the basis of Law of Primogeniture is dismissed, however the appellant would succeed to proportionate share of late Maharani Mohinder Kaur on the basis of registered Will dated 29.03.1990 executed by her. Maharani Mohinder Kaur (mother of Raja) was alive at the time of death of Raja on 16.10.1989 and she being one of the first class heirs of Raja would have succeeded share in the estate/properties of late Raja. Therefore, on the basis ofdeemed succession/inheritance by Maharani Mohinder Kauron 16.10.1989 and thereafter to the extent of share conferred by late Maharani Mohinder Kaur upon the appellant by virtue of aforesaid Will dated 29.03.1990(Ex.D-10), the appellant would succeed to the said proportionate share in the estate of late Raja in accordance with law.EPILOGUE From the above discussion, the following conclusion can be deduced:
1. That the Will dated 01.06.1982 is found to be forged, fabricated and shrouded with suspicious circumstances, therefore, the claim of trust over Raja's estate is discarded and dismissed.
2. That the Hon'ble High Court holds that The Raja of Faridkot's Estate Act, 1948 is invalid after commencement of Constitution of India, and therefore, Rajkumari Amritkaur has no legal right over property in question on the basis of the said Act. However, she is entitled to her share in the estate in view of inheritance rule and law of succession.
3. That the will dated 29.03.1990 executed by Maharani Mohinder Kaur (mother of Raja) is valid, therefore, the legal heirs of Bharat Inder Singh are entitled to the share in the Raja's estate to the extent of share of Maharani Mohinder Kaur bequeathed to Kanwar Manjit Singh and further inherited by Rajkumari Devinder Kaur and Kanwar Bharat Inder Singh on the strength of registered Will dated 29.03.1990. It is imperative to mention here that Maharani Mohinder Kaur was alive on the death of Raja Harinder Brar, therefore, his share in the property is devolved on his mother Maharani Mohinder Kaur to the extent of her share being class-1 heir as per law of succession.
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