A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Thursday declined to pass an interim stay on a single bench judgement over administering the Priyamvada Devi Birla estate by a court-appointed committee through majority decision, while clarifying parts of the order under challenge. Declining the prayer for an interim stay of the single bench judgement of September 18, the division bench observed that it seems that the order of Justice Sahidullah Munshi refers to material facts, reflects reasons and demonstrates judicial consideration and determination of matters which fall within the domain of Section 247 of the Succession Act.
"We cannot treat it as a perverse decision or one which deflects the course of justice; or, that it is not in the best interest of the PDBs (Priyamvada Devi Birla)estate," the division bench comprising Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice Shampa Sarkar observed. The single bench judgement had restrained Harsh Vardhan Lodha from holding any office in any of the MP Birla Group entities during the pendency of a suit over thesuccession of the Priyamvada Devi Birla estate.
The single bench of the high court is also hearing a probate application by Harsh Vardhan, whose late father RS Lodha had claimed that Priyamvada Devi Birla bequeathed her estate, comprising the MP Birla Group, to him through a will. The Birlas, one of the oldest industrial groups in the country, have challenged the probate application by RS Lodha family and they have been involved in a legal battle over the control of the MP Birla Group since the death of Priyamvada Devi Birla in 2004.
Priyamvada Devi Birla's husband MP Birla had died in 1990. The bench said that it is also of the view that the power of the court-appointed Administrative Pendente Lite Committee (APLC) to control and administer the estate is repeatedly asserted through the different judicial orders of the probate court, the division bench of the high court as well as the Supreme Court.
"We, therefore, do not find any reason to issue any order of stay as sought for at this stage," the division bench said. The bench, however, clarified that the word "implement" occurring in paragraph (a) among the three directions issued by Justice Munshi means abide by.
"It is further clarified that the operation of paragraph (b) among the directions would be a restriction on plaintiff no. 1 Harsh Vardhan Lodha to the extent of it being a restriction from holding any office in any of the 15entities of the MP Birla Group during the pendency of the suit, on the strength of the shares referable to the estate of PDB," the division bench said in its order.
Paragraph (a) of the single bench order said that the plaintiffs shall implement the decision dated July 19, 2019and July 30, 2019 of the APL Committee taken by majority as also all consequential decisions of the APL in furtherance of the said decisions and shall be restrained from drawing any benefit personally from out of the assets of the estate of the deceased during the pendency of the testamentary suit.