The Supreme Court on Monday decided to hear in detail the ongoing dispute between Ferani Hotels Private Limited (FHPL), a company controlled by the Gopal Raheja Group, and industrialist Nusli Nevil Wadia over the 460-acre land parcel in Malad, a Mumbai suburb.
A bench headed by Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya posted the matter for final hearing on February 3.
Ferani Hotels has challenged the Bombay High Court’s 2012 order that rejected 10 out of 15 additional documents submitted by it to support its claim that Wadia was not a fit administrator for the prime Mumbai land. Ferani Hotels is seeking the removal of Wadia as the sole administrator of the R23,000 crore property in Malad.
Challenging refusal to produce certain “critical/crucial additional evidence/documents relating to the fraud” allegedly played on the HC by Wadia, Ferani Hotels said that it was neither possible nor probable for it to have fathomed the extend of fraud that had been perpetrated by Wadia except on the basis of imagination run amok and/or wild conjecture and it was totally unrealistic and illogical for the HC to have excepted the developer to have a premonition in the matter and exercise due diligence in matters which had not even surfaced at the time of disposal of the petition by the lower court.
The HC should have appreciated that where there is a serious case of fraud, mere technicalities should not be introduced to stonewall fraud of such a massive nature from being exposed, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of the developer, argued.
Ferani Hotels alleged that Wadia had defrauded the beneficiaries of EF Dinshaw’s will by suppressing facts and usurping the late US national’s estate. It has sought to produce these documents supporting its case before the HC.
Wadia and Raheja have locked horns over development rights of the land parcel. Rahejas have already developed two malls, Inorbit and Hypercity, and Mindspace, a commercial complex, on the plot.
The dispute started from certain developments in 1970, when the land owner Eduljee Framroze Dinshaw, who had willed his personal property in India to his sister Bachoobai Dashkow, died in the US. As per the will, upon her death the property was to go to the Salvation Army, New York, and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, both US-based charities. In 1972, Bachoobai issued a Power of Attorney (PoA) to manage her properties in India and appointed Nusli Wadia as the administrator of the estate.
In 1995, Wadia entered into an agreement with Ferani Hotel Pvt Ltd, a company of Rahejas. It was decided that the Rahejas would develop the land and Wadia would receive a 12% share from the sales.
However, Wadia in 2000 moved the court citing certain provisions of the Indian Succession Act to establish that the bequest to the US charities, as provisioned in Dinshaw’s will, was invalid. The court ruled in 2001 that the bequest was invalid due to non-compliance of certain provisions (Section 118) of the Indian Succession Act. Aggrieved by this order, the US charities went into appeal in 2002 but later withdrew their appeal in July 2003.