Bombay HC asks Vijaypat Singhania to vacate Juhu bungalow, hand it over to Kolkata group
MUMBAI: Over eight years after an arbitrator divided their considerable family properties three-ways, the Bombay high court has directed Dr Vijaypat Singhania, Raymond Group chairman emeritus, to honour the arbitral award and hand over vacant possession of Kamla Cottage, a bungalow in Juhu to Kolkata branch of the family. The bungalow, a prime property is a veritable museum and is full of highly valuable art, artefacts and furniture worth crores. The order to vacate the bungalow comes as a set back to Dr Singhania.
The court directed the Kolkata group to pay Rs 46 crore to the Kanpur and Bombay group of the Singhania family in six weeks after which Dr Singhania has eight weeks to vacate the bungalow. The court thus rejected a plea by Dr Singhania’s lawyer for a stay of the order.
The family divided into three groups–Calcutta Group, the Bombay Group and the Kanpur Group were all members of the Singhania family that was carrying on business under the name of “M/s. J.K. Bankers” (Juggilal Kamlapat Bankers), a partnership firm. In 1987, by way of a family settlement, the partnership firm was dissolved. The groups agreed to distribute the immovable properties. But disputes arose over the manner of distribution.
In 2006 the Supreme Court appointed an arbitrator. In 2008 the arbitrator while splitting the property passed an award directing that the Kolkata Group receive the Juhu property, vacant and free from encumbrance. It also laid down which group would get other properties in other parts of India.
The Singhania family has thus been mired in a family dispute for decades. The order by the HC passed on Friday was in response to a plea by the family of Vijaypat’s late brother from the Kolkata group for execution of the Arbitral award and to ensure that Singhnia vacates the Juhu bungalow. The high court had earlier upheld the award in 2009 and then again, in appeal, in 2013. The challenge to the award was by both the Kanpur and Bombay group led by Vijaypat Singhania. Vijaypath Singhania resides at Bhulabhai Desai road.
The HC held that Singhania cannot refuse to hand over the Juhu bungalow on the ground that he hasn’t received properties due to him from the Kanpur group.
The HC held both Kanpur and Bombay groups’ conduct of dragging the litigation for 30 years despite entering into a family settlement in 1987 ”smacks of utter dishonesty and of being self–centred. “Using their money power, the Kanpur Group and Bombay Group (all are leading industrialists) have for their selfish motives and greed only dragged on the litigation and consumed precious judicial time of this court and also of the Apex Court,” said Justice K R Shriram in his order.
The HC said submissions by the Kanpur group that the “six month period has not commenced for the handing over the possession as per the Arbitral Award” was “preposterous”.
“The dispute between the parties has now been going on for almost thirty years. To raise an issue that the 6 month period has not begun is a desperate attempt to clutch at straws…The 6 months period is long over. The Kanpur group has not even complied with the written confirmation as required under Paragraph 29 of the Award. In absence of such a written confirmation that they are willing to vacate the properties, they are in breach and have made themselves liable to execution proceedings.”
Justice Shriram in the order passed on Friday said, “it is true that family disputes have a different concept and equity” and added, “The parties are members of a family descending from a common ancestor and they must sink their
disputes and differences, settle and resolve their conflicting claims once and for all in order to buy peace of mind and bring about complete harmony and goodwill in the family. The Bombay Group and Kanpur Group should strive to enforce a family arrangement and the award (decree) honestly.”
The HC deferred a plea made by Vijaypat Singhania’s estranged son Madhupati who sought protection of his share of about Rs 3 crore from the money due to the Bombay group. The court deferred it until the share out of the Rs.23.40 crores payable to
Bombay Group is determined independently.
Madhupati meanwhile is also embroiled with his father in a separate legal battle, initiated by his four children over rights claimed by them to ancestral and family property.
The HC ordered that “The Calcutta Group within six weeks to deposit the amounts payable to the Bombay Group and the Kanpur Group with the Prothonotary and Senior Master, High Court, Bombay. The Prothonotary to invest these amounts in fixed deposit with a nationalised bank for a minimum period of one year at a time. Within eight weeks of the Calcutta Group depositing these amounts, the Bombay Group to vacate the Juhu property. If the Bombay Group fails to vacate, on the expiry of eight weeks period, the Court Receiver to take actual physical possession of the Juhu property and hand over the same to the Calcutta Group. He may, should the need arise, even take police assistance to comply with these directions.”