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Supreme Court rejects plea against administrators' powers on Birla assets


New Delhi:

The Supreme Court has dismissed a petition challenging the appointment of three-member panel of administrators of late Priyamvada Devi Birla's estate and its powers.

"We find no merit in the petitions for special leave. These are dismissed," a bench of justices Aftab Alam and
Ranjana Prakash Desai said, dismissing the plea filed by a chartered accountant Harsh Vardhan Lodha  whose family is engaged in a legal battle over the property since 2004.

Lodha had challenged the powers granted by the Calcutta High Court to the three-member committee of administrators for controlling the block of shares held by the late Priyamvada Devi in the entire M P Birla group of companies.

Lodha in his petition had contended that the voting rights in respect of the block of shares owned by the late
Priyamvada Devi were never exercised in the past and therefore, there was no need to confer the voting rights to the administrators.

He had also said the heirs of late R S Lodha had been managing the estate and the companies and therefore strangers should not be allowed to disturb management of the companies.

The high court on August 23 had asked the administrators of late Priyamvada Birla's estate to protect her assets. It had said the administrators would be entitled to all rights as shareholders in respect of shares which formed part of her estate.

The administrators cannot, however, distribute any asset of the estate over which the Birlas and Lodhas are fighting a bitter legal battle since 2004 following the death of Priyamvada Birla, the high court had directed.

Late R S Lodha had claimed that he had been bequeathed the assets of M P Birla by his widow Priyamvada through a 'Will' of 1999, which the Birlas had challenged before the high court and had also sought probate of two 'mutual wills' of M P Birla and Priyamvada Birla, which are said to have given M P Birla's property to charity.

The M P Birla group, estimated to be worth Rs 5000 crore in 2004, operates several companies like Birla
Corporation Ltd, Universal Cables, Vindhya Telelinks, Birla Ericsson Optical Ltd etc.

Following the death of R S Lodha, a chartered accountant by profession, in October 2008, prayers were made before the high court by Birlas to appoint administrator to the estate of Priyamvada Birla.

The court had appointed three administrators -- Justice C K Thakkar, former Supreme Court judge, M K Sharma and Amal Chandra Chakraborty.

Story first published on: November 27, 2012 20:03 (IST)

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