Hearing a matter pertaining to a dispute over the estate of late Russi Mody who had served as the chairman and managing director of Tata Steel, the Bombay High Court recently passed ad interim orders and directed a court receiver to carry out an inventory of all moveable assets found in a property he had stake in on Carmichael Road in south Mumbai. The property is known as The Cliff.
The court was hearing a Notice of Motion relating to two contesting wills. One of the wills is dated February 5, 2003, under which one Basant Mishra, who is the respondent in the matter, makes claims. The second is of a later date of May 7, 2007. The beneficiaries of this are Jamshed Kali Mody and his wife Feroza. Jamshed is Russi Mody’s nephew, the son of one of his brothers who had filed the Notice of Motion in the matter.
Russi Mody had a one-third interest in this property while his brother Kali Mody has another one-third undivided share. The balance 40 per cent was with other outsiders.
“It appears that the bequest in favour of Mishra is of a portion of Russi Mody’s right, title and interest in the immovable property. The Applicants claim that Mishra has no bequest in respect of many movables including personal belongings artefacts, artworks, paintings, antiques, furniture as also investments, bank accounts and other financials. The application is to appoint them as curators of the movables and to restrain Mishra from interfering with their possession of any of the movables,” said the court.
“I believe it is necessary to preserve the movables in the estate in status quo and that this is an order in the interests of both sides. The Applicants propound a later Will….,” said Justice G S Patel. Meanwhile, Mishra claimed that there was a clause in the 2003 will, which stated that if there was any challenge to the will, that person would result in exclusion from inheritance for that person. “It is all the more necessary to preserve the moveables, pending final disposal of these cross litigations,” said the court, asking the court receiver to carry out an inventory of the moveable assets in the property.
The lawyer appearing for Mishra pointed out that the latter had occupied the first floor and half of the third floor of the structure for the last several decades, and that the possessions of belongings in this portion were Mishra’s and not part of Russi Mody’s estate.
“While this is contested, it does mean that an inventory of moveables such as furniture, artifacts, paintings, artworks and so on is essential as a first step before any final order is passed. As regards financial investments, these should also be inventoried. It is the case of the Applicants that these need to be liquidated for optimal preservation, but I do not believe that is an order that I can make at this stage without a more complete listing,” said Justice Patel, adding that Mishra could point out which of these articles belonged to him.
Both parties have also been asked to provide financial details of bank accounts, investments, mutual funds and shares. Meanwhile, the court has said none of the parties can dispose of, sell, part with possession of any of the moveables in the property in question without prior leave of the court. The matter has been kept for hearing on February 7.