Court Refuses To Vacate 3 Occupying Kuwait Royal Family’s Mumbai Building

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The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to direct three city-based businessmen to vacate premises occupied by them in south Mumbai’s Al-Sabah Court building, owned by the royal family of Kuwait, noting that prima facie their tenancy agreements were not “forged or fabricated”.
The royal family of Kuwait, through its eldest daughter, had alleged the trio had illegally and forcibly occupied the premises in their building.

The family had filed a suit against the trio in 2014, which is still pending hearing. The family also filed an application seeking interim orders asking the trio to vacate the premises and pay compensation for the illegal possession of the premises since 2013.

A single bench of Justice B P Colabawalla refused to pass such an order at the interim stage.

The court, however, restrained the trio from creating third party rights or title to the said premises pending final hearing of the suit filed against them by the Kuwaiti royal family.

The court was hearing an interim application filed by Sheikhah Fadiah Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah, the daughter of late His Highness Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, who was the Prime Minister and then Ultimate Head of the State of Kuwait.

It sough to declare the trio as trespassers and to vacate the Al-Sabah Court building premises immediately.

The bench, in its order, said the tenancy agreements entered into by Faisal Essa, former Kuwaiti counsel general who was appointed by the royal family to take care of the building, and the three defendants Sanjay Punamiya, Amish Shaikh and Mahesh Soni are not forged and fabricated.

Prima facie, it appears the said tenancy agreement emanated from Faisal Essa himself, the court said.

“Prima facie, it appears Faisal Essa had the authority from the owners of the building from time to time to create tenancies in favour of different people. The owners of the building Al-Sabah Court never came to India and it was Faisal Essa alone who created tenancies and was dealing with the tenants,” the court said.

“When one looks at the overall facts and circumstances, at least at the interim stage, I am of the opinion the plaintiff has failed to establish the tenancy agreements are forged and fabricated. They, prima facie, appear to be genuine,” Justice Colabawalla said.

The order added, having come to this conclusion, the court cannot direct the defendants to pay compensation to the complainant but said pending final hearing of the suit, an injunction restraining the defendants from creating any third party right or title in the premises would adequately safeguard the rights of the complainant, if any.

The court directed for the suit to be expedited and placed it for hearing on December 16.

According to the complainant, the three had forcibly and illegally taken possession of three flats, including one measuring 7000 square feet, along with a parking garage on the fifth floor, the ground and sixth floor in Al- Sabah Court building, situated on Marine Drive in south Mumbai, and owned by the royal family of Kuwait.

Sheikh Saad died on May 13, 2008 after which his family, including the complainant, obtained heirship certificates in respect to his properties. The complainant, her mother and her siblings are now the royal family of Kuwait.

As per the application, the building was being taken care of by one Faisal Essa, former Counsel General of Kuwait. Punamiya was earlier a tenant in one of the flats situated on the first floor of the building.

When Faisal Essa left India in May 2013, the trio took illegal and forcible possession of other flats in the building and then created forged and fabricated documents to create illegal tenancy rights, it alleged.

The complainant claimed they learnt about this after other tenants of the building informed them.

The complainant had sought HC to direct the trespassers to vacate the premises and the same to be handed over to the royal family of Kuwait, the rightful owners of the building.

The suit also sought for Punamiya and the two others to be directed to pay Rs 35 lakh per month to the complainant for the period they stayed in the building.

Punamiya claimed he was in possession and occupation of the said flat by virtue of a tenancy agreement dated October 30, 2012 entered into by Faisal Essa (for and on behalf of the landlord) and himself.

Punamiya’s counsel Birendra Saraf had argued the royal family of Kuwait never visited the building and that they had even stopped taking care of the building.

“The plaintiff stopped collecting rent from tenants since 2016 and it is the tenants themselves who are collecting rent and using it towards maintenance and upkeep of the building,” Saraf argued.

The bench, in its order, noted the complainant has nowhere in the suit and said Faisal Essa had no authority to create tenancies in respect of any premises in the building.

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