Hyderabad: Curtains finally came down on the six-decade-old ‘Hyderabad funds case’ with the High Court of England and Wales maintaining that Prince Mukaram Jah and Prince Muffakham Jah, the legal heirs of the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, and the Union of India are entitled to the considerable fund kept in a London bank. Justice Marcus Smith, who passed the judgement on Wednesday, left to the parties to finalise the ratio in which the amount has to be distributed and approach the court for its approval.
The court outright rejected Pakistan’s claim to the fabulous funds of the Nizam on the grounds of “illegality”. Overruling Pakistan’s argument, the court said that a settlement reached between the princes and Indian government has rendered the issue irrelevant even if the question of illegality were relevant to India’s claim. Pakistan held the fund through its then High Commissioner to UK, Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola, as a trust of Nizam VII and his successors in title. The fund was not held by Rahimtoola personally nor did he or Pakistan have any beneficial interest in the fund, the court maintained.
“It is appropriate to record that the Nizam’s successor in the title can be no-one other than the Princes or India…I have seen no hint of the possibility of any further claimant to the fund, beyond the Princes and India,” the court remarked in its historic 140-page judgement.
The Nizam’s fortune running into one million pounds was stashed away in the National Westminster Bank, now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, UK, in 1948. Soon after partition of the country, the Nizam’s Finance Minister, Moin Nawaz Jung, transferred over one million pounds to the Westminster Bank in Habib Ibrahim’s name.
Subsequently, a dispute broke out between the Governments of India, Pakistan and the Nizam’s family over the ownership of the money which has now grown to about Rs 400 crore. A few years ago, the royal descendants led by Najaf Ali Khan, President of Nizam Family Welfare Association, met the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and the Foreign Ministers of both countries. However, there was little headway in the matter. The matter got complicated with Britain’s House of Lords ruling that the account could be unfrozen only with the agreement of all three parties.
Najaf maintains that the London money belongs to the Nizam and not to the State exchequer. There are about 120 claimants to the Nizam’s fortune. “The royal family members are going through financial straits, and the settlement of the dispute will come as a big relief,” he said.