Faridkot: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered status quo on the ₹20,000-crore worth properties of the last ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Faridkot, Maharaja Harinder Singh Brar, which means the trust will continue as caretaker till further orders.
The double bench of justice Uday Umesh Lalit and justice Vineet Saran issued notices to the respondents, including Brar’s younger daughter Amrit Kaur, and the next hearing is scheduled on October 6.
The court order came on a plea by the Maharawal Khewaji Trust that challenged the recent order of the Punjab and Haryana high court declaring his will in favour of the trust forged.
Trust chief executive officer Jagir Singh Sran said, “We will continue to take care of all royal properties as per the Maharaja’s will, which is real and correct. The order comes as a relief as the Maharaja’s daughter Amrit Kaur’s men were trying to take possession of the royal properties illegally. Now this matter is in the court’s knowledge.”
On June 1, the high court had upheld a Chandigarh court’s order, awarding majority share in the ₹20,000-crore property of Brar to his daughters Amrit Kaur, who challenged the will in 1992, and Deepinder Kaur.
The court held that descendants of Manjit Inder Singh, the last ruler’s brother, would get their mother Mohinder Kaur’s share.
On the will in dispute, the court observed that trustees conspired to create the will to take over the property. “The will is proved to be forged, fictitious, fabricated and shrouded with suspicious circumstances,” the court order said.
In 2013, the Chandigarh district court had declared the will, which had entitled the Maharawal Khewaji Trust as the caretaker of the properties, as illegal and void and granted inheritance to Amrit and Deepinder.
Harinder Singh Brar, the last ruler of the Faridkot princely state.
FARIDKOT ROYAL DISPUTE
Crowned maharaja at the age of three in 1918, Harinder Singh Brar was the last ruler of the Faridkot estate and was married to Narinder Kaur. The royal couple had three daughters, Amrit Kaur, Deepinder Kaur and Maheepinder Kaur and a son, Harmohinder Singh.
The son died in a road accident in 1981.
One of the rulers of the seven Sikh princely states, Harinder died in 1989 and left behind prime properties in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana and Chandigarh.
Maheepinder Kaur died a spinster, while Deepinder died while the legal battle was on. Amrit Kaur lives in Chandigarh.
The property dispute started soon after Harinder Singh Brar died in October 1989 after a will surfaced in which he had bequeathed his properties to the Maharwal Khewaji Trust, with his daughter Deepinder as its head.
The property dispute reached the high court in 2018 after a Chandigarh court declared the trust void and gave property to the daughters. In June this year, the high court upheld the Chandigarh court’s order.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The royal riches include movable and immovable assets in four states (Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana) and Chandigarh.
Rajmahal, Faridkot: Spread over 14 acres, it was constructed in 1885 as the royal residence. Now, a 150-bed charitable hospital stands on a portion of the palace ground.
Qila Mubarak, Faridkot: Built by Raja Mokulsi and reconstructed by Raja Hamir Singh around 1775, it is spread over 10 acres. The present main building was built around 1890.
Faridkot House, New Delhi: Located on a huge piece of prime land on Copernicus Marg, it is currently leased out to Central government at a monthly rent of ₹17.50 lakh. It was valued at ₹1,200 crore nine years ago.
Manimajra Fort, Chandigarh: The 300-year-old fort is spread over four acres.
Faridkot House, Mashobra (Shimla): A 260-bigha estate, it had five residences, three of which, including the Sherwood House, were destroyed in a fire.
18 vintage cars: A 1929 model Rolls Royce, 1929 model Graham, 1940 model Bentley, Jaguar, Daimler, Packard among others and all of them in working condition.
Aerodrome, Faridkot: Used by the civil administration and army, it is spread over 200 acres.
Gold and jewels: Valued at ₹1,000 crore, they are in Standard Chartered Bank’s custody in Mumbai.