At the end to yet another round of litigation regarding ownership of the properties of Maharaja Colonel Sir Harinder Singh Brar, the Ruler of Faridkot, the Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld the rights of his two daughters over his estate and asserted that the June 1982 ‘will’ favoring the Maharawal Khewaji Trust is forged and fabricated.

CASE OF A FORGED WILL -HIGH COURT CHANDIGARH

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The properties were under the control of the Trust till date. In a recent development, the High  Court also ruled that Brar’s mother, Maharani Mohinder Kaur, would have a share in his property. It validated her 1990 will bequeathing her share in favor of her other son, Kanwar Manjit Inder Singh, and his son and daughter.

Facts in Brief:

  • One of the Maharajas of seven Sikh princely, Harinder Singh Brar was the last Ruler of the Faridkot estate and was married to Narinder Kaurroyal couple had three daughters, Amrit Kaur, Deepinder Kaur, and Maheepinder Kaur and one son, Harmohinder Singh. The son died in a road accident in 1981.
  • In October1989, Harinder Brar passed away. Soon after his death, a ‘will’ surfaced, in which he had bequeathed his properties to the Trust, Maharwal Khewaji Trust, with his daughter Deepinder Kaur as its head.
  • The ‘will’ was immediately disputed by the daughters. In 1992, daughter Amrit Kaur filed a civil suit demanding 1/3 of share in the property. In 2013, itwas held by the court that will was forged, and property would go to daughters.
  • In 2018, the Additional Sessions Court reaffirmed the ruling of the lower court. Maharal Khewaji Trust challenged this decision in Punjab & Haryana High Court.

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Legal Stand Point:

The main legal issues in the case included the applicability of The Raja of Faridkot’s Estate Act 1948, the Rule of Primogeniture (by which eldest son inherits the property), or whether Hindu Succession Act would be applicable in the case.

Section 4 of the Hindu Succession Act:

“Over-riding effect of Act.—

(1) Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act,—

(a) any text, rule or interpretation of Hindu law or any custom or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to have effect with respect to any matter for which provision is made in this Act;

(b) any other law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to apply to Hindus in so far as it is inconsistent with any of the provisions contained in this Act.”

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Section 5 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956:

Act not to apply to certain properties.—This Act shall not apply to—

(i) any property succession to which is regulated by the Indian Succession Act, 1925, by reason of the provisions contained in section 21 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954;

(ii) any estate which descends to a single heir by the terms of any covenant or agreement entered into by the Ruler of any Indian State with the Government of India or by the terms of any enactment passed before the commencement of this Act;

(iii) the Valiamma Thampuran Kovilagam Estate and the Palace Fund administered by the Palace Administration Board by reason of the powers conferred by Proclamation (IX of 1124) dated 29th June, 1949, promulgated by the Maharaja of Cochin. State amendment

(a) Kerala State has passed an Act for the partition of the valiamma Thampuran Kovilegam Estate and the Palace Fund: Kerala Act 16 of 1961, sec. 10. “10. Amendment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.—Clause (iii) of section 5 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (Central Act 30 of 1956), shall be omitted with effect on and from the date of execution of the partition deed under section 6.”

Section 4 makes it clear that the Hindu Succession Act abrogated all laws of succession and custom applicable to Hindus before 1956, whether by virtue of any text or rule of Hindu Law or any custom or usage having the force of law. This Act also supersedes any other law contained in any central or state legislation in force immediately before this Act came in to force insofar as such legislation is inconsistent with the provisions contained in the Act. 

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Analysis:

The defendant side argued that Maharaja of Faridkot and other such rulers of sovereign regions in August 1948 signed an agreement with the Government of India, following Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU) came into being. The rulers were to submit a list of their personal properties at that time to an administrator or Rajpramukh. The laws of Patiala remained applicable to PEPSU for the time being.  However, the high court rejected the argument and held that the 1948 Act was not an existing enactment when coming into force of India’s Constitution in 1950. Thus the matter would not be covered under Section 5 (ii) of The Hindu Succession Act, 1956. It was asserted that ‘once the Raja of Faridkot’s Estate Act, 1948 itself was not approved by PEPSU, the properties as per the list of properties in the hands of late Raja Harinder Singh Brar will not be governed by the said Act’.

The High Court also rejected the argument for the applicability of the Rule of Primogeniture. It was held by the High court that he custom ceased to exist on the merger of Faridkot state with the dominion of India, adding that even the rights and privileges conferred upon the Ruler under any Covenant or agreement came to an end with his death and that they are not inheritable and do not devolve as of right on the next heir.

Also, the court reaffirmed the findings of both lower courts and held that document presented by Trust as ‘will’ is forged and fabricated.

The verdict made it clear that the parties would succeed to the estate of the late Maharaja Harinder Singh Brar of Faridkot as per The Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The lawful shares of the parties would be quantified, and after that, all will succeed in accordance with the law.

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For case specific advice, please contact Punjab Haryana High Court Best/Expert Lawyers Advocates for Cheating/Forgery/Property Fraud/Will/ Criminal Cases, Chandigarh Panchkula Mohali. Zirakpur Kharar Derabassi

This post is written by Gourav Kathuria

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