Judge Hands Back Birla-Lodha Case Citing Personal Relation

Kolkata, July 26 | Updated: Jul 28 2004, 05:03am hrs
The Birlas versus Lodha court battle over the will of Mrs Priyamvada Birla has been stalled even before it started with the high court judge slated to hear it handing it back to the chief justice citing a possible conflict of interest.

And even as Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee finished citing his reasons for pulling out, the lights went out at the high court building. The case has now been released to acting Chief Justice AN Ray, who will have to name a new judge for the probate hearing.

When the case came up for hearing at around 2.30pm, Justice Mukherjee told a packed courtroom that he was not willing to take up the matter because of his personal association with the Birla family. Justice Mukherjee said his uncle had also been closely associated with the Birlas, especially Mr SK Birla.

I wont like to take up this application as my association with the Birla family has been for quite some time now. I am afraid that some of the clients associated with the case might raise questions on this point, Justice Mukherjee said.

He said that he is not inclined to take up the matter and is, therefore, immediately releasing the case by requesting the Chief Justice to refer the case to some other bench. As he rounded up his comments by wishing both parties success, the lights went out.

In her last will, Mrs Priyamvada Birla has reportedly named Mr RS Lodha, a chartered accountant who was the co-chairman of the group, as the sole inheritor of the assets of the group built up by her late husband, Mr Madhav Prasad Birla.

The Birlas, who are not ready to see a non-Birla inheriting the property, are disputing the purported will. At Mondays hearing, the Birlas were represented by Mr Satyabrata Julu Mukherjee, a former Union minister, and Samaraditya Pal. Khaitan & Co are the solicitor firm for the Birlas. Mr Lodha was represented by Mr Anindya Mitra and Pratap Chatterjee on behalf of Fox & Mandal. Mr Satyabrata Mukherjee requested Justice Mukherjee to release the case as early as possible, since there were some major time constraints. Justice Mukherjee said: I assure you Mr Mukherjee that I will release the case this afternoon itself. I wish both parties success.