After 20 years, actress Pooja Bedi, aunts win 'fake will' case and properties worth crores
Bollywood actress Pooja Bedi and her maternal aunts have won a 20-year-old case involving a 'will' through which the entire estates of her late uncle would be transferred to a charitable trust controlled by two unknown persons named as its 'executors'.
Mumbai, Nov 29 (IANS) Bollywood actress Pooja Bedi and her maternal aunts have won a 20-year-old case involving a 'will' through which the entire estates of her late uncle would be transferred to a charitable trust controlled by two unknown persons named as its 'executors'.
The properties, estimated to be worth crores of rupees, comprise a flat in an art deco building at Marine Drive, a flat in Mahim, a two-acre land in Panchgani hillstation, bank deposits, investments, etc, which were claimed by Bedi and her two maternal aunts, Monica Uberoi and Ashita Tham.
Bombay High Court's Justice Milind Jadhav has junked the authenticity of the purported will of her late maternal uncle, Bipin Gupta on various grounds, and dismissed the petition filed by one of the two executors, Vasant Sardal.
These grounds included: the signatures of the deceased (Gupta) on the pages of the document did not tally, there was no evidence about who drafted the prepared the 3-page will when Gupta was admitted to a hospital, the abnormality of the document in which half the second page was blank and the execution portion was on the third page, and there were no close relatives.
Justice Jadhav’s order clears the path for Bedi, 53, and her two aged aunts to claim one-third share each in the late Gupta’s estate and dispose of them off as they deem fit.
It was in 2004 that the executor Sardal approached the high court seeking probate of the will allegedly executed on June 20, 2003 by Gupta when he was admitted to Bombay Hospital for a hip fracture and kidney failure, and died after three months in September 2003.
The will named Sardal and Behram Ardeshir, who later renounced his executorship, was signed by Sardal’s son, police official Anil Sardal, and lawyer Santosh Raje as a witness.
As per the will, a trust proposed to be formed in the name of Gupta’s wife, ‘Pushpa Gupta Charitable Trust’ which would inherit all of his estates – comprising a flat in Firdaus Building on Marine Drive, a flat in Neel Tarang Building in Mahim, a two-acre plot in Panchgani hillstation, bank balances, investments in shares-bonds and other movable assets owing by him.
As the will stipulated the executors would be the trustees, they were indirectly authorised to control Gupta’s entire estate worth a fortune.
Rejecting the probate plea, Justice Jadhav noted that the will makes "an unnatural and obscure bequest" to a charitable trust to be controlled by the two executors who are complete strangers and third parties, not even closely related to the testator (the late Gupta), though he had three sisters and their children.
The judge also said that there was an indirect bequest in favour of the (two) executors and one of the witnesses, Anil Sardal, who appears to be "the mastermind of the entire conspiracy".
Here, the court took note of the second and former executor Ardeshir’s statement that the Sardal father-son duo had a "clear intention of usurping" the estate of the late Gupta, and how in May 2018, another judge had removed Sardal as an executor finding him to be too old and weak to function in that capacity, and how the son Anil Sardal was taking all the decisions.
Justice Jadhav also took note of how the will was not complying with the Indian Succession Act's Section 63, how the witness, advocate Raje, had not seen Gupta sign the undated document, then claimed he had signed it as a witness and handed it back to Gupta, but it was found in his possession after Gupta’s demise.
Bedi, daughter of acclaimed actor Kabir Bedi, and other family members, have welcomed the verdict with joy and appreciated the efforts of Justice Jadhav who put an end to their two-decade old quest for justice.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected] )