In a major relief to the erstwhile Holkar royal family, the Supreme Court on Thursday set aside the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s directions that ordered probe by an Economics Office Wing (EOW) into the sale of properties of the Khasgi (Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Charities) Trust, Indore, by its trustees.
However, it directed the Registrar of Public Trust to hold a fresh enquiry into the sale of the properties by the trust to ascertain if any alienation made by trustees had resulted in any loss to the public trust.
The trustees also include Maharani Usha Devi (daughter of late Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar, who was the great-great grandson of Devi Ahilyabai Holkar) and her spouse Satish Malhotra.
Putting to rest the issue of ownership of the 246 properties that have been embroiled in contentious litigation since 2012, the Bench comprising justices A.M.Khanwilkar, Abhay S. Oka and C. T. Ravikumar held that the Khasgi Trust is a public trust governed by the provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Public Trusts Act, 1951 and asked the trustees to get it registered under the Act within a one month.
While the apex court held the properties described in Part ‘B’ of the Schedule to the Trust Deed as properties of the public Trust, it, however, said that any sale of these properties can be done only after getting the prior permission from the registrar.
It said that the HC’s direction to EOW of the state government to hold an inquiry was “not warranted”, but directed the registrar to call for the record of the trust relating to all the alienations made by the trustees. “If according to him any such loss was caused to the public trust, he shall decide and quantify the amount liable to be paid by the concerned trustees to the Khasgi Trust,” the judgment said, adding that the registrar may initiate any such other proceedings which are warranted by law for any illegality.
The Trust of the erstwhile royal family of Holkars manages a total of 246 properties spread over 12,000 acre of land in various states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu etc. The properties include 138 temples, 18 dharmshalas and 34 ghats among others.
A trust of the erstwhile royal family of Holkars managing properties in several states meant for charities had refuted allegations of fraud. The trustees had challenged the registrar’s order that had asserted that the ownership of the 246 properties lie with the state. However, this order was set aside by the MP HC’s single judge in 2013. On October 5, 2020, a Division Bench held the sale of endowment properties by the Khasgi Trust was a fraud. It also declared the sale null and void and ordered an inquiry by the EOW and also ruled that the properties managed by the Indore-based Trust will lie with the state government.
Even a high-level committee was formed to recover, retrieve and restore all religious and charitable institutions and other properties mentioned in trust deed.