Faridkot royal dispute: Supreme Court allows caretaker trust to operate bank accounts to pay salaries


The Supreme Court has allowed the Maharawal Khewaji Trust that manages the ₹20,000-crore worth property of the last ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Faridkot, Harinder Singh Brar, to operate its bank accounts for making payments till the final judgment.

All bank accounts of the trust were frozen after the Punjab and Haryana high court declared Brar’s will of June 1, 1982, in favour of the trust as forged. On June 1, the high court had upheld a Chandigarh court’s order, awarding a majority share in the ₹20,000-crore property to Brar’s daughters Amrit Kaur, who challenged the will in 1992, and Deepinder Kaur.

The trust has filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court challenging the high court order. The apex court ordered status quo till the judgment, allowing the trust to continue as caretaker.

During the hearing on the SLP, the trust filed an interlocutory application praying that during the pendency of petition, it be permitted to operate bank accounts for paying salaries, taxes, utilities and maintenance of the royal properties and towards expenses of the charitable hospital.

The application has given details about the expenses that are due for four months from June 1 to September 30, which amount to Rs 2.8 crore, including Rs 80 lakh for monthly salaries of 244 employees in Faridkot, Mashobra, Manimajra, New Delhi and Dhana. The trust has also given details of 12 bank accounts through which the expenses and expenditures are to be met.

The trust argued that the banks have frozen its accounts as a result of which the activities undertaken by it are getting affected. However, the defence opposed the application, claiming in the name of expenditure towards fulfilling the objectives of the trust, the amounts are being misused.

COURT ORDERS PERIODIC UPDATE ON EXPENSES

The double bench of justice Umesh Lalit and justice Ravindra Bhat said since the activities undertaken by the trust are in the nature of running a hospital and philanthropic causes, at this stage, it is permitted to operate the accounts strictly for purposes enumerated in the application. However, the maintenance, repair and upkeep of properties, including the Raja Mahal and the fort at Faridkot, were not included in this.

“The details of the expenses incurred and the credits received shall be placed on record periodically. The first report shall be filed on October 30 and the second on November 30,” the double bench ordered

The apex court also directed the managers of these banks to send the statement of accounts from June 1 to October 30, which shall be furnished in the court on November 10.

The next hearing on the SLP challenging the high court order is on November 4.

Harinder Singh Brar, the last ruler of the Faridkot princely state.
(
HT Photo
)

LONGSTANDING DISPUTE

Crowned maharaja at the age of three in 1918, Harinder Singh Brar was the last ruler of the Faridkotestate and was married to Narinder Kaur. The royalcouple 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 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, the high court upheld the Chandigarh court’s order.



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