Erstwhile Nizam’s palaces, including the Falaknuma Palace, in the eye of a legal storm over ownership

Published : November 24, 2021 12:34 IST

The Falaknuma Palace, now known as the Taj Falaknuma Palace, in Hyderabad. Photo: Shiva Kumar

Five iconic and prime properties belonging to the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad—the Falaknuma Palace, the King Kothi Palace/Nazri Bagh, the Chowmahalla Palace, the Purani Haveli in Hyderabad and the Harewood and Cedars Bunglow in Ooty—are now in the eye of a legal storm with a grandson of the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan filing a civil suit in a Hyderabad court on November 22, seeking a share in all of them.

The five valuable pieces of real estate are currently in the possession of Prince Mukkaram Jah, the heir apparent and grandson of Mir Osman Ali Khan and the titular eighth Nizam. The properties were gifted to Mukarram Jah in 1957 through gift deeds by the then Nizam.

However, Najaf Ali Khan, the grandson of the seventh Nizam, has alleged in his petition that Mukarram Jah had executed a document informing their grandfather that he (Jah) was unwilling to accept the gifts since he considered himself incapable of maintaining the properties with his meagre income. Najaf Ali Khan has claimed that Mukarram Jah orally gifted the properties back to Nizam VII and he himself executed a memorandum acknowledging the oral gift.

Claiming that Mukarram Jah, by virtue of rejecting the gift of Mir Osman Ali Khan, now has no right to claim sole ownership of the five properties, Najaf Ali Khan stated in his petition that Mukkaram Jah’s claim to being the sole owner of the properties was “totally baseless” and “erroneous”. His petition stated that the Hyderabad State was integrated into the Indian Union through the Instrument of Accession, and an agreement was entered into between the Government of India and Osman Ali Khan, Nizam VII, for the merger. Najaf Ali said in his petition: “By virtue of this agreement the listed private and personal properties belonging to the Nizam VII were approved, declared and acknowledged by the Union of India to be the private and personal properties of Nizam VII. The properties which were entered in the said list were still in existence at the time of the death of the Nizam VII on February 24, 1967. After his death it was supposed to devolve upon his 16 sons and 18 daughters.”

Najaf Ali Khan has alleged that Mukkaram Jah, despite knowing fully well that he was not the absolute owner of the five properties, has continued to wrongfully and pretentiously behave like he was the sole owner of these properties. Stating that Mukkaram Jah has deprived the other family members of their legitimate rights and shares, Najaf Ali Khan urged the authorities not to register the five properties in full or in part, as the title of the properties was now sub judice.

In November 2020, Najaf Ali Khan had filed a complaint with the Hyderabad police alleging that some of his relatives had submitted falsified and fabricated documents to claim £35 million belonging to the Nizam and deposited in a bank in Britain. In October 2019, a UK court had ruled in favour of India and the Nizam’s legal heirs and dismissed Pakistan’s claim over the funds.