Sunday, July 8, 2012

Jinnah's religion-3

There is a relatively contemporary twist to Jinnah's heirs defining his religion.  The news-item, from the Indian Express, October 13-14, 2008, is reproduced below.

In the dispute over the palatial Jinnah House in south Mumbai, Dina Wadia, the only daughter of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, has stated before the Bombay High Court that her father is not governed by Islamic succession laws, but by Hindu customary law instead.

The building in question, blessed not only with history but also location — facing the sea from the posh Malabar Hill — is currently valued at Rs 300 crore.

In 1947, when Jinnah left India for Pakistan, the Government had taken it over as “evacuee property”. However, Dina had remained behind in Mumbai, having been disowned by Jinnah. Now 88 years old, she lives in the United States. After a series of legal moves, Dina Wadia filed a writ petition before the Mumbai High Court in 2007, claiming that Jinnah House could not be classified as “evacuee property”, as her father had died without leaving behind a will. So, she went on to claim, all his properties, including Jinnah House, devolved to his successors.

The trouble was that under Muslim succession law, Jinnah’s property would devolve to a long list of family claimants, only one of which was his daughter. This meant that even if Jinnah House was not “evacuee property”, Dina Wadia would have to share Jinnah House with other relatives of her father.

To overcome this, her lawyer Fali Nariman has stated in court that Jinnah, as a Khoja-Shia, was not governed by Muslim succession law, but by Hindu customary law — in which intestate succession is to the daughter alone. To establish this, Nariman has relied on a long line of cases where the Indian Supreme Court has held that Khoja-Shias are governed by Hindu customary law. Khoja-Shias, like many Muslim communities in India, have traditions that are a mix of Islamic and Hindu rituals.

However, given the complicated legal issues involved in the case, what has taken a backseat is this most interesting aspect of the case: the claim by Jinnah’s only daughter that the man who forged Pakistan claiming to be the representative of India’s Muslims be governed by Hindu, not Islamic, laws.

The Government, led by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Gopal Subramaniam, has countered Dina Wadia’s argument by alleging that Jinnah did not die intestate, but had willed Jinnah House to his sister Fatima. Since Fatima also left India for Pakistan in 1947, ASG Subramanian contends that Jinnah House is rightly classified as “evacuee property”, and now belongs to the Government.
Nariman has countered this by arguing that since the will — even if genuine — is not probated, it is not admissible in court. Some other relatives of Fatima have joined the melee, claiming that as per the will, Jinnah House devolves to the heirs of Fatima Jinnah — them.

To further add to the confusion, some within the previous NDA cabinet sided with Dina Wadia, and had informally agreed to give Jinnah House to her on a life-long lease. Former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh says this in a personal affidavit to the court.
While he admitted on August 29 that many within the NDA Government favoured giving Jinnah House to Dina, ASG Subramaniam claims that then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s final decision was that it remain with the Government.
Adding another twist to the tale, Nusli Wadia — Dina’s son and Jinnah’s grandson — filed a petition with the Central Information Commission (CIC) in December 2007, demanding the release of former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee’s two legal opinions, in which he reportedly sided with the Wadias. In early October, the CIC ruled that the two opinions be made public. The Court has scheduled the next hearing for October 24.

Further from 2010: (Times of India, August 24, 2010)

MUMBAI: The Bombay HC on Monday finally admitted a petition filed by Dina Wadia, daughter of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, staking claim as the "only daughter and sole heir" to her father's palatial multi-million dollar bungalow in Malabar Hills.
The 91-year-old daughter of Pakistan's creator lives in the US and had moved high court three years ago with her "controversial" demand. She has challenged a 60-year-old notification of the Indian government that defined Jinnah House, spread over a 2.5-acre plot, as "evacuee property" and made it state property. While the government says Jinnah willed his house to his sister Fatima on May 30, 1939, Dina and her lawyers have been denying the existence of any such valid will.
 DNA India, November 28, 2011

Four years after a petition was filed claiming right over the Jinnah House in Malabar Hill, Dina Wadia’s plea will come up for hearing in the Bombay high court on December 12.
Dina, daughter of Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, had filed the petition in the Bombay HC in July 31, 2007, seeking possession of the Jinnah. She claimed that she was the only legal heir.
A division bench of Justices P Majmudar and Mridula Bhatkar kept the petition for hearing on December 12. The HC has asked all the parties to file their affidavits, if any, by December 5. The court was informed by Dina’s attorney that they would have to appoint another counsel to argue their petition. Since 2007, senior counsel Fali Nariman was arguing on her behalf.
However, Nariman’s son Rohinton Nariman has been appointed as Solicitor General of India, who would be either arguing for or advising the Centre. Earlier, the government was represented by Gopal Subramaniam and advocate Advait Sethna.
The court had earlier admitted applications filed by Mohammed Rajabally Ebrahim and Shakir Mohammed Ebrahim, who are claiming 1/6th undivided interest in the residual rights of the bungalow at Malabar Hill valued at over Rs300 crore. They have claimed that they are the descendants of Fatima Jinnah, his sister to whom Jinnah had bequeathed the property.
Apart from Dina and descendants of Fatima, the Pakistani government is also seeking claim to the Jinnah House. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations is also planning to use the Jinnah House as South India Centre for Arts and Culture. The Jinnah House was constructed by Mohammed Ali Jinnah in 1917.
Dina, who is now staying in the UK, has claimed in her petition that there is no valid will to justify the Centre’s notification declaring the heritage property as evacuee property under the Bombay Evacuee (Administration of Property) Act, 1949.  (Liaquat Merchant, The Daily Times, Pakistan) (December 25, 2011?)
The question of who is and is not a member of the “Jinnah family” has agitated the minds of several journalists and writers in Pakistan. It may not be an important issue given the troubled times we are passing through but I write this for two reasons.
One, philanthropic and social services in the field of education and health as well as the management and control of Jinnah related institutions have taken a large part of my time in the course of legal practice; two, the government’s decision to sponsor one individual who claims to be Jinnah’s grandson or great grandson or that of his sister Shirin Jinnah’s has been surprising.
Legally, for the purpose of inheritance, a descendant could fall in the category of heir, sharer, residuary or distant kindred. The descendants of Jinnah’s paternal uncle as well as the grand children of Jinnah’s brother and sisters fall in the last category while his daughter and grandson rank higher in degree of relationship.
However, when one speaks of family, we look at the immediate family of father, mother, brother, sister, son and daughter and then the grand children and children of brothers and sisters. The grand children and great grand children of a paternal or maternal uncle are considered too remote to classify as family. In the present case, I have endeavoured to clarify these issues only because the Government by its actions has created a situation which has made this necessary.
Jinnah’s father was “Jina Poonja”. His father’s brothers were Walji Poonja and Nathoo Poonja. Jinnah’s immediate family comprised of the following: Rehmatbai, Mariambai (sisters), Ahmad (brother), Shirin, and Fatima (sisters).
On the basis of this, here are some straight facts.
  1. Jinnah has only one daughter, Dina Wadia. She lives in New York and Bombay.
  2. Jinnah has only one grandson, “Nusli Wadia”. He lives in Bombay. He has two sons “Jay” and “Ness Wadia”. They are Jinnah’s great grandsons.
  3. The other members of the Jinnah family comprise the grandsons and granddaughters of Jinnah’s sisters Rehmatbai and Mariambai. These grandchildren live in Karachi, Bombay and Calcutta.
  4. Ahmad Jinnah’s daughter Fatima lived in Switzerland and has left no heir.
  5. Shirinbai’s son Akbar Jafferbhoy predeceased her. He never married and left no heirs.
  6. Most of the grandchildren of Mariambai are in Pakistan and they include Kulsoom Ibrahim, Zehra Chandoo, Gulshan Chandoo, Hussain Ebrahim, Rohina Peerbhoy, Liaquat Merchant and Moonira Kassam. There are other grandchildren of Rehmatbai and Mariambai in Bombay and Calcutta.
Legal proceedings relating to inheritance from the Estate of Fatima Jinnah were pending in Karachi from 1968 until 1984. These cases also involved the Estate of Fatima Jinnah. The controversy ended with a judgement of the Division Bench of the Sindh High Court which held that Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah had no sectarian faith or beliefs and that they were neither Shias nor Sunnis but plain Muslims like the Prophet (PBUH).
Fatima Jinnah’s estate was to be governed in accordance with Quranic Law. The case is still pending for determination of the share of the trustees of Shirin Jinnah Trust and the Walji family and for disbursement of the share of inheritance.
In these legal proceedings claims were filed by family members including the Walji family comprising descendents of Walji Poonja, the paternal uncle of Jinnah (brother of Jinnah’s father “Jina Poonja”).
A sole claim by a lady Jenabai, daughter-in-law of one of the descendents of Nathoo Poonja, was filed but this claim was rejected by the Sindh High Court and thereafter no member of the Nathoo Poonja family appeared or filed any claim before the High Court in the said proceedings. The distribution of the Estate of Fatima Jinnah has not yet taken place and a sum of approximately 180 million is lying deposited in the High Court and is available for distribution.
Mr Aslam Jinnah’s claim to be the grandson or great grandson of Jinnah is obviously incorrect. He could be a descendent from the Nathoo Poonja family and the correct course of action would be for him to establish his ancestry and make a claim before the Sindh High Court from the Estate of Fatima Jinnah rather than claiming the benefit of charity from provincial Governors, Chief Ministers and Baitulmal. His action reflects adversely on Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the entire Jinnah family in Pakistan and India.
It is a matter of record that the Quaid never sired a male child and therefore there is no son. Dina Wadia is his daughter and Nusli Wadia her son. He is the Quaid’s only grandson. As for Shirin Jinnah, her only son Akbar Jafferbhoy predeceased her. He never married and left no issues. Therefore the question of grandson of Shirinbai existing somewhere does not arise.
According to some writers, if Aslam Jinnah belongs to the family and carries the name Jinnah, he deserves the respect of the Pakistani public. Sadly, there is a big “if” according to the writer and the truth is that he is not the grandson of Jinnah or Shirin Jinnah or Ahmad Jinnah.
How he became a Jinnah, I do not know. I have authored several publications on Jinnah, appeared in Jinnah-related litigation in the High Court and control several Jinnah-related trusts and institutions. I have met all members of the Jinnah family and Walji Poonja family but not the Nathoo Poonja family.
The family of the Quaid (Jina Poonja descendants) include Dina Wadia, Nusli Wadia (only grandson), Jay & Ness Wadia (great grandsons) and the grandsons and granddaughters of the Quaid’s two sisters Rehmatbai and Mariambai and these include Kulsoom Ibrahim, Zehra Chandoo, Gulshan Chandoo, Mohammad Ebrahim, Hussein Ebrahim, Abbas Peerbhoy, Rohina Peerbhoy, Liaquat Merchant, Moonira Kassam and other grandchildren of Rehmatbai and Mariambai living in Bombay and Calcutta.
I hope this will put this controversy to an end. Extending support to a needy cause is laudable but this sort of publicity adversely affects the Jinnah family in Pakistan and India.
Jinnah stopped his nephew Akbar Peerbhoy from disclosing his name in the book “Jinnah faces an Assassin” and also stopped his brother Ahmad from stating on his card that he was the brother of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah because he did not want to create the impression that he was promoting his relatives or patronising them for advantage in his capacity as a leader of the Muslim League.
And yet some public functionaries and people in this country think this is acceptable. I have no personal dispute with Aslam Jinnah if that is what he likes to be called but facts must not be distorted. Only Aslam can explain how he was given (or acquired) the name “Jinnah” and how he is the grandson or great grandson of Mohammad Ali Jinnah son of Jina Poonja or Shirin Jinnah for that matter.
As for the Prime Minister and his cabinet members arranging a reception in the National Assembly and a standing ovation followed by gifts from the public exchequer and Baitul Mal, only the PM and the government can explain. So far there has been no justification for these actions which have no precedent.
Even Jinnah’s own daughter Dina Wadia and grandson Nusli Wadia were not extended any such protocol or felicitation. I met them privately at the Flag Staff House and the State Guest House in Karachi while former General-President Pervez Musharraf met them at the Cricket Stadium in Lahore.


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