Tardeo resident had willed everything to his family physician; assets include 3 bank accounts and properties across the state; couple’s grandniece had contested the will, saying it was forged.
By Sharmeen HakimSharmeen Hakim, Mumbai Mirror
A general physician who runs aclinic in Tardeo will get all the assets owned by an elderly couple she had treated for at least five years. The Bombay High Court recently upheld the authenticity of a will drawn up by 87-year-old Dinshaw Gandhi
five years before his death in 2014, in which he apparently bequeathed everything he owned to his physician Dr Veena Patel
Dr Patel became the couple’s family physician
Tardeo residents Gandhi and his wife Homai, who died in 2006, were child-free. Gandhi owned several assets across the state, including three bank accounts and fixed deposits. The court order did not reveal the total estimate of the assets.
Dr Veena Patel runs a clinic in Tardeo. (Right) Dinshaw Gandhi willed his flat in Batliwala Compound in Tardeo to her. Its tenancy is still disputed since the building is owned by Zoroastrian Building Fund Trust
After Gandhi’s death, Dr Patel filed for execution of the will in the HC. But the will was contested by Gandhi’s grandniece Bhaktawar Ghadially. She claimed that not only was the will “false and fabricated”, but also that Gandhi was physically unfit owing to his advanced age when it was executed. She also raised questions about the will being executed in Dr Patel’s handwriting as well as about Gandhi’s signature on it. Ghadially had claimed that Gandhi’s residence was her ancestral home, and that he had no right to will it to anyone.
Patel, however, said that her own father had passed away on the same day in Rajasthan and therefore she could not make it.
During her cross-examination, the physician denied taking undue advantage of the couple being child-free or that she coerced Gandhi into bequeathing his assets to her.
Justice AK Menon rejected Ghadially’s contentions, holding that Gandhi seemed to be of sound mind while executing his will. “The testator (Gandhi), in my view, appears to have signed the will after having understood the effect thereof,” he said in the order.
The court accepted Dr Patel’s statement that Gandhi had dictated his will to her. She had also claimed that Gandhi was “hale and hearty” at the time, and that he often visited a bank, the Parsi Agiary, a temple, and the market near his home.
The court held that it wasn’t relevant if the couple considered Dr Patel to be their daughter. “But it could be true considering that the plaintiff (the doctor) also stayed with them for some days and used to send food to them,” it said. Ghadially had claimed that if Patel was indeed treated like a daughter, Gandhi’s last rites would not have been performed by the landlord.
On the contention over the signature on the will, Justice Menon pointed out that Gandhi had signed in both English and Gujarati, and given a thumb impression. He also observed that the will was executed in the presence of two witnesses, Jimmy and Zenobia Bhoot.
One of Gandhi’s assets, however, is still under dispute. His flat is in Batliwala Compound
in Tardeo, a property owned by the Zoroastrian Building Fund Trust. A previous HC order had clarified that separate civil proceedings will have to be initiated to establish its tenancy.
During hearing of the suit, another claimant to the property had emerged. Neville Sam Daruwalla, a relative, had filed a caveat, asking to be made party to the petition, claiming that he was the Gandhis’ rightful legal heir. His claim was dismissed after he refused to reveal his actual relationship, saying he “did not trust Patel”.