Battle over Gayatri Devi's shares: SC issues notices on pleas
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has issued notices on two petitions filed against a Delhi High Court verdict allowing transfer of some shares of late Maharani Gayatri Devi to her grandchildren Devraj and Lalitya Kumari.
The High Court, while reversing a Company Law Board (CLB) order, had ordered rectification of share register of Jai Mahal Hotels Pvt Ltd in which Gayatri Devi held 99 per cent stakes. It had allowed the plea of Devraj and Lalitya that these shares be registered in their names.
Taking note of petitions of Jai Mahal Hotels Pvt Ltd and Urvashi Devi, a member of the royal family, the bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice Anil R Dave said, "Issue notice on both Special Leave Petitions... The respondents will be entitled to file their respective counter affidavits to the SLPs within two weeks; rejoinder, thereto, if any, may be filed within two weeks thereafter."
The bench also said, "In the meantime, the parties are directed to maintain status quo with regard to transmission of the shares in question."
Jai Mahal Hotels, in its plea filed through lawyers Mukul Rohatgi and Sanjiv Sen, said though the High Court admitted various legal and factual issues of the case, it did not consider its arguments and "reversed the well reasoned judgement of the CLB, New Delhi".
Devraj and Lalitya had moved the High Court saying their father Jagat Singh was the son of Gayatri Devi and Sawai Man Singh and held 99 per cent shares in the firm.
Jagat Singh died leaving a will that Gayatri Devi would be the owner of all his properties, including the shares in the company.
Later, Gayatri Devi, who died on July 29, 2009, left a will saying her grandchildren Devraj and Lalitya would inherit all her properties, they had told the High Court.
The High Court had allowed the plea and ordered rectification of company records which would show Devraj and Lalitya as holders of the stakes held earlier by Gayatri Devi.
Besides Jai Mahal Hotels Pvt Ltd, the transfer of shares was opposed by Prithviraj and Jai Singh -- sons of Sawai Man Singh with his other wife.
Urvashi Devi, maternal granddaughter of Sawai Man Singh, also opposed the share transfer.
The High Court, in its judgement, had said, "Admittedly, these shares were in the name of Jagat Singh who had bequeathed them to his mother Gayatri Devi and she in terms of a settlement arrived at between her grandchildren, followed by her will had bequeathed the said share holding thereafter in favour of her grandchildren (Devraj and Lalitya)..."
In its plea to the apex court, Jai Mahal Hotel Pvt Ltd said, "The company judge (of HC) has practically declared Devraj's Group to be legal heirs of the late Maharaj Jagat Singh and late Rajmata Gayatri Devi directly contrary to order dated 19.08.2010 of a Coordinate Bench of the Delhi High Court hearing the Civil Suit for partition amongst the same family members wherein the Civil Court had declared both the groups to be the legal heirs of late Gayatri Devi.
"There are two groups claiming the shares as legal heirs, viz. Devraj's group and Urvashi Devi's group.
"Though Gayatri Devi was throughout supporting Urvashi Devi Group, but just before her death it is claimed a compromise between Devraj Group and Gyatri Devi took place which resulted in a compromise decree being passed by the district judge, Jaipur on 19.02.2009 whereby entire estate including shares of Jagat Singh now comes to Devraj Group."
The petition further said, "The impugned (HC) judgement is contrary to documents on record. If the will of Jagat Singh is held to be valid as has been done then Devraj Group automatically gets excluded from succession. The property of Jagat Singh devolved to Gayatri Devi and since Jagat Singh was adopted out of the family, Devraj Group went out of the family and upon death of Gayatri Devi her entire property would devolve on Urvashi Devi Group."