The Delhi High Court Monday dismissed a Howrah woman’s petition seeking directions to hand over the Red Fort to her on the ground that she is the legal heir of the last Mughal emperor
68-year-old Sultana Begum sought compensation from the government for the ‘alleged illegal possession of the Red Fort.’
A petition stated that Bakht was recognized as the inheritor of Bahadur Shah II in 1960 by the Government of India and after the former’s death, she started receiving pension.
Calling the Government of India ‘an illegal occupant of the Red Fort’, the petition claimed that the woman has been deprived of her ancestral property without any compensation whatsoever. The plea also said that when Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled by the East India Company, they took over his property ‘without taking consideration of the law and the principle of natural justice.’
The Court, with Justice Rekha Palli presiding, rejected the argument that the woman is illiterate and poor and said that it was not commenting on whether Bahadur Shah Zafar was her ancestor. The Court wished to know know the petitioner could approach the Court now.
‘According to you, the injustice was done in 1857. After 170 years you have approached the court, please explain how you can do that. We will then come to merits, how you own the Red Fort, we will see. We need to inform all other people they should not be using it without permission, that is what you want to say,’ said the Court.
Terming the petition a ‘gross waste of time’ and dismissing it on the ground of inordinate delay, Justice Palli added ‘In my view, merely because the petitioner is an illiterate person, there is no reason as to why if the petitioner’s predecessors were aggrieved by any action of the East India Company, no steps were taken in this regard at the relevant time or soon thereafter.’
At the end of the hearing and after the order was dictated, the Court asked Additional Solicitor-General Chetan Sharma if he wanted to say anything.
Sharma submitted, ‘I am pleased that the Government of India is not deprived of the Red Fort.’