The Supreme Court on Friday refused to grant any interim relief to the Birlas, even as it admitted their appeal against a division bench verdict of the Calcutta High Court which defined the powers of administrators over the estate of the late Priyamvada Devi Birla, according to a media statement issued by Fox & Mandal, counsel for Lodhas.

Granting relief to the Lodhas on December 14, 2023, the division bench of the High Court restricted the role of administrators in MP Birla Group companies, as the Bench observed that a testamentary court cannot decide issues of title conclusively.

“A testamentary court cannot decide issues of title conclusively; such power lies purely within the domain of civil courts. However, while deciding an application under Section 247 of the Indian Succession Act for appointment of administrator pendente lite, the testamentary court may decide the extent of the estate of the deceased testator/testatrix prima facie,” the Division Bench of Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharya had said, while passing the judgment.

Birlas moved the Supreme Court against the Division Bench verdict. The apex court admitted their appeal for hearing. It, however, did not grant any interim relief.

“By declining to grant any interim relief, the apex court has cleared the deck for Harsh Vardhan Lodha, chairman of the MP Birla Group, to initiate legal proceedings to correct all wrongdoings that started with a section of administrators of Priyamvada Birla’s estate attempting to seize control of all entities of the Group on the strength of a controversial verdict of a single judge of the Calcutta High Court passed on September 18, 2020,” Fox & Mandal said in its statement.

Notably, passing an order on September 18, 2020, Justice Sahidullah Munshi of the High Court had restrained Harsh Vardhan Lodha from holding any office in any of the entities of MP Birla Group during pendency of the (Testamentary) Suit.

Lodhas alleged that even though the verdict was modified by the Division Bench of the High Court, it was used as a handle to disrupt the operations of several trusts, societies and companies of the MP Birla Group, and led to proliferation of court cases.

“The MP Birla Group will not have to deal with these distractions anymore,” said Debanjan Mandal, partner, Fox and Mandal. “Also, the time has come to put an end to the mismanagement at trusts, societies and companies, where the administrators and a cohort of MP Birla Group employees had unlawfully tried to alter the management structure,” Mandal added.

The genesis of over 19-year-old legal row between the Birlas and the Lodhas over controlling the Birla Estate lies in the contested will of late Priyamvada Devi Birla, which was executed in July 1982 after the purported will allegedly transferred the shares of the MP Birla Group, collectively called as the Birla Estate, in favour of Rajendra Singh Lodha.

The legal tussle began after the July 1982 wills that gave away all the assets to charities, but another will of April 18, 1999, gave them to Rajendra Singh Lodha, now being pursued by his son Harsh Vardhan Lodha and other heirs.