The Supreme Court upheld the Punjab and Haryana High Court order on Wednesday in a three-decade-old legal battle, giving major share in properties of the erstwhile Faridkot Maharaja Harinder Singh Brar, worth around Rs 20,000 crore, to his daughters Amrit Kaur and Deepinder Kaur.
The Bench of Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia, while making some amendments in the High Court order, also dissolved the Maharawal Khewaji Trust, which was taking care of the properties fro the past 33 years.
Earlier on July 28, the Apex Court had reserved its order.
Harinder Brar was crowned as the ruler of Faridkot in 1918, at the age of three. He was married to Narinder Kaur and the couple had four children, including three daughters (Amrit Kaur, Deepinder Kaur and Maheepinder Kaur), and a son (Tikka Harmohinder Singh).
After the death of his only son in a road accident in 1981, Brar slipped into depression. After Brar’s death in 1989, a will came to light, which asked the Trust to take care of his properties.
As per the will, since Amrit Kaur had married against the wishes of her father, she was disinherited from his property.
In 2001, Maheepinder Kaur died in Shimla under mysterious circumstances.
Brar’s daughter, Amrit filed a civil suit in the district court challenging the will in 1992, saying that her father could not have legally bequeathed his properties to the Trust because they were ancestral and governed by the law related to the Hindu joint family. She also questioned the authenticity of the will.
The Chandigarh district court declared the will as illegal and void in 2013, and granted inheritance to Brar’s daughters.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld the Chandigarh court order in June 2020, awarding a majority share of Brar’s property to his daughters.
The High Court also ruled that the descendants of Manjit Inder Singh, the Maharaja’s brother, would get their mother Mohinder Kaur’s share.
It observed that the trustees conspired to create the will, to take over the property.
The High Court noted that the June 1, 1982 will has been proven to be forged, fictitious, fabricated and shrouded with suspicious circumstances.
Challenging the High Court verdict, the Trust moved the top court of the country. In August 2020, the Supreme Court ordered status quo till the judgement and allowed the trust to continue as a caretaker.
Harinder Brar, the erstwhile King of Faridkot, had movable and immovable assets in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, and Chandigarh. His properties include Rajmahal in Faridkot, which is spread over 14 acres. A charitable hospital having 150 beds has come up on a portion of the palace ground.
The erstwhile royal family also possess Qila Mubarak in Faridkot, spread over 10 acres and New Delhi’s Faridkot House, located on prime land on Copernicus Marg.
The Government of India had leased Faridkot House on a monthly rent of Rs 17.50 lakh. Some nine years ago, it was valued at Rs 1,200 crore.