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Birlas' earlier wills take centrestage

Our Bureau

Kolkata , Aug. 17

KHAITAN & Co, lawyers for the Birlas in their legal battle against Mr R.S. Lodha, on Tuesday sprang a surprise by producing before the media copies of wills written by the late Birlas.

The first set of two wills were each executed in 1981, and the second set in the following year. A close scrutiny of the two documents indicates that the first was not very much different from the second in terms of their content except on a few counts.

The first, which named Mrs Birla, Mr K.K. Birla and Mr K.N. Tapuria as executors, was witnessed (on May 10, 1981) by Mr P.K. Khaitan and Mr Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala, both well-known advocates based in Kolkata.

The second, however, named a fourth person as executor - Mr P.K. Khaitan, who stood as witness to the first will. Executed on July 13, 1982, it had a completely new set of three witnesses: Mr B.P. Khaitan, Mr P.L. Agarwal and Mr S.J. Khaitan.

The first two have been identified as `advocate & notary public' and `advocate', respectively. The third witness has been identified simply as `student'.

Birla's wills bequeathed all property, including shares in limited companies, cash and jewellery, to his wife. In the event of her death, the executors were to settle the estate for "public charitable purposes", except for articles of personal use, decoration pieces, paintings and the like, which were to be handed over to the three daughters of Mr K.K. Birla in equal proportion.

The executors were given the power to donate the estate to one or more public charitable trusts, societies or institutions.

It was also made clear that the executors, subject to conditions, were free to dispose of assets forming part of the estate, reinvest the sale proceeds and put to charity the assets/money representing the estate - as they might think fit in their discretion.

On her part, Priyamvada Birla appointed her husband, G.P. Birla and Mr K.N. Tapuria as executors of her first will (done in 1981). It bequeathed ornaments, gold coins and personal articles in certain ways.

For instance, a pair of earclips (set with diamonds in white metals and gold, weighing 16.3 gm was to go to Mrs Amita Birla, wife of Mr C.K. Birla. A pair of earrings (diamonds and emerald drops) was to go to Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla, while the rest of the ornaments were to be given to the three daughters of Mr K.K. Birla in equal proportion.

Here, too, the executors had enough power to the to donate her estate to charities or institutions and even dispose of assets.

The second will written by her, however, had no mention of the earclips or earrings. Instead, it bequeathed all ornaments, gold coins and articles to the three daughters of Mr K.K. Birla in equal proportion.

According to Mr N.G. Khaitan of Khaitan & Co, the two wills are "mutual and concurrent" in nature. "There are minor differences between the two. The first had three executors, while the second had four. A number of family members were involved as witnesses", he told newspersons here.

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