Our Bureau

Kolkata, March 11

THE nine-month old Birla-Lodha feud took a significant turn on Friday with the Calcutta High Court rejecting the pleas of Mr B.K. Birla, Mr K.K. Birla and Mr Yashvardhan Birla and stating that they had no caveatable interest in the property of the late Priyamvada Devi Birla.

After hearing the four caveat petition of the Birlas, Mr Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta today said that only Mr G.P. Birla, one of the executors of Priyamvada Birla's 1982 will, had a caveatable interest.

In an effort to clear the large discrepancies in the estimation of the worth of the M.P. Birla Group, the court appointed a four-member team of special officers headed by Mr Ahin Chowdhury, a senior lawyer, to take stock of the total assets of the group.

Though it appeared that this round of the feud has gone in favour Mr Lodha, the Birla camp called a press conference to clarify that they had won too. In fact, the legal team of the either side claimed victory while briefing the media.

According to the legal advisor of the Birlas and a senior partner of Khaitan & Co, Mr N.G. Khaitan, the caveatable interest of one the Birlas (Mr G.P. Birla) had been established and it gave them an avenue to fight for their ultimate cause.

"We always wanted that the property should go to charity and so we can still fight for it. It is of academic interest whether the caveatable interest of one of Birlas or all the Birlas is upheld", Mr Khaitan told reporters.

Reacting to it, Mr Debanjan Mandal of Fox & Mandal, the legal firm appointed by Mr Lodha, said that of the four petitions filed by four Birla family members, three had been turned down.

"If everything is only of academic interest, then why did they file the four caveatable petitions? It is up to you to decide who has won this first round", Mr Mandal told reporters.

Mr Justice Sengupta also said that Mr K.N. Tapuria and Mr P.K. Khaitan, executors of Priyamvada Birla's 1982 will, had a cavetable interest.

Mr Khaitan was non-committal on whether they would now file separate caveat petitions. He did not even spell out whether the Birla would oppose this order and move to a higher court.

Regarding the appointment of the special officer, both the sides indulged in self-congratulation. All along, the Birlas had urged the court to appoint a receiver and the Lodha counsel had prayed for a special officer.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 12, 2005)
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