A look at property disputes that took place in Mumbai's prominent families

Jan 27, 2014, 05:40 IST | Varun Singh

The fight between Uddhav and Jaidev Thackeray is headed to court. This is by no means the first time that Mumbai will witness a high-profile legal battle between two or more family members over property

In the Mahabharata, the Kauravas and their cousins the Pandavas are locked in a war unto death, after the former denies the latter the right to own five villages. The fratricidal war that ended with the battle of Kurukshetra led to thousands of deaths.

(From left) Uddhav Thackeray, Raj Thackeray, Jaidev Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray at Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's funeral in 2012

Thousands of years later, property remains one of the chief causes that tear apart siblings and families. The recent controversy surrounding the final will of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, has brought the issue of brothers fighting over a piece of land to the forefront, bringing out in the open, the bitter rivalry between the elder Jaidev and his young brother Uddhav Thackeray.

Sheetal Mafatlal

The latter, the current Shiv Sena chief, has inherited all the property in the will while the former has been kept out. This hasn’t gone down well with Jaidev who has now approached the court, questioning the veracity of
the will.

The Thackeray family property includes the Matoshri bungalow at Kalanagar, a farmhouse at Panvel, apart from other investments. However, as per the will, only Uddhav holds rights to all this property, except for one floor of Matoshri that has been assigned to Jaidev’s son.

Niranjan Hiranandani

Brothers not in arms
This is definitely not the first time however, that an ugly legal battle has erupted in a high-profile family. The dispute in the Mafatlal family over several properties in South Mumbai and expensive paintings and the Hiranandani family dispute worth nearly Rs 3,000 crore has already made headlines. The Baroda royal family dispute over property worth nearly Rs 20,000 crore kept legal circles buzzing till a settlement was arrived at recently. And the ongoing legal battle between Kamal Amrohi’s heirs over the popular Kamalistan studio worth nearly Rs 200 crore are well documented.

Lawyers claim most such property disputes cut across social and cultural barriers and affect politicians, socialites, industrialists and sports personalities alike.

Shandar Amrohi

A prominent builder told SUNDAY MiDDAY that there was a time when ego issues were the main reason for families splitting down the middle but things have changed. Money and property is the root of most fights, he added. Rajesh Vardhan, managing director of Vardhaman group, believes: “Property is not just a place to stay. It spells money. Even those who do not have a legitimate claim get involved and ask for their share,” said Vardhan.

According to advocate Vinod Sampat, the speed at which property prices go up in Mumbai is one of the main reasons for legal battles over property. “Who would like to let go of even a tiny share in a property in Mumbai," said Sampat.
Advocate Adik Shirodkar, who also happens to be the executor for the will of Bal Thackeray puts it well when he says, "People who are not there when needed, sometimes do not find their names in the will. But they still harbour hopes of getting something."

There will be blood
Several families have been involved in lengthy legal battles over property in recent times. A few readily come to mind.
The Mafatlal Family: Well-known socialite Sheetal Mafatlal, her estranged husband Atulya, mother-in-law Madhuri and her brother-in-law Ajay are embroiled in a legal battle. It began with Sheetal filing harassment charges against her mother-in-law and brother-in-law. Madhuri and Ajay counter-alleged that Sheetal and her husband wanted to oust them from their bungalow. Accusations against Sheetal also included alleged stealing of paintings. The case continues. Even Sheetal's husband, who once stood by his wife, seems to have changed sides. At stake also is a 10,000 square foot apartment on Altamount Road.

The Hiranandani Family: Real estate tycoon Niranjan Hiranandani faced legal trouble from his daughter Priya. Allegedly an internal investigation into a legal case filed against his son Darshan, found that Priya had funded the legal team opposing Darshan.

Without ever confirming that his two children were indeed locked in a bitter battle, in a recent interview to a newspaper Niranjan Hiranandani was quoted saying, that young people have high ambitions but little tolerance.

Kamalistan Studio: The famous Kamalistan studios made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Actress Preity Zinta also got embroiled in it. The brothers Tazdar, Shandar and their sister Rukshaar and nephews were all involved in a bitter battle to become sole owners of the R500 crore property. In the end the property was sold by them, to three different builders for less than Rs 200 crore.

Others who took their family to court

>> Decades ago, actress Nutan sued her mother Shobana Samarth for mismanagement of property and earnings. Nutan won the court case, but had to severe all ties with her mother and stepsister Tanuja.
>>  Ameesha Patel sued her father Amit Patel for mismanaging her accounts and squandering away money. Later, she even took her uncles to court over a property dispute.
>> Sridevi and her sister Srilatha were involved in a legal tussle over property. The actress had to shell out a large sum of money.
>> Ramesh Sippy was involved in a legal battle with his nephew Sascha Sippy over the 3D release of his film Sholay.
>> Robert Vadra’s father Rajendra had threatened to file a defamation case against his son, after Robert issued a public notice in 2001 stating that his father and brother Richard, were ‘duping’ people by promising jobs at the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee.

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