Judge takes unusual step to move £50m family dispute to luxury May Fair Hotel


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The Independent Online

A luxury hotel conference room is to be turned into a courtroom on Monday for a £50m family dispute to be played out.

Judge Sir William Blackburne has agreed to the unusual step of presiding amid the five-star luxury of The May Fair in London to hear a sick octogenarian.

Bal Mohinder Singh, 86, requires 24-hour care but on Monday will be allowed to give evidence in the comfort of the hotel rather than make the more arduous trip to the High Court.

The businessman is at loggerheads with his son, Jasminder, over a £50m stake in “family property” but says the money is not the central issue.

He has resorted to legal action, he says, to uphold the “Mitakshara” custom from Sikh and Hindu traditions under which property is shared between family members.

He maintains, in a claim that is disputed, property was held under a trust for male members of the family and that he is entitled to a third.

Sir William ordered the hearing be moved to the hotel temporarily after lawyers told him that Bal Mohinder Singh is frail and not fit enough to travel to the trial.

The judge has given special permission for stacks of box files and recording equipment to be removed from the Royal Courts of Justice and relocated in Mayfair, and said yesterday: “There are going to be some raised eyebrows when people read this in the cause list.”

The octogenarian, who will be the first witness to give evidence when the hearing resumes on Monday, has previously said that after coming to Britain and running a post office, he and his son moved into the hotel business. Their acquisitions included the May Fair and the Savoy Court.

Jasminder Singh was put in charge of the operation and for years it worked well but more recently the father and son have fallen out.

They still live in the same property, a seven-bedroom house in Berkshire. The father claims that he was forced to retire in 2010 and that his son has failed to share the family wealth with him. He said in a newspaper interview: “He is my eldest son and of course I still love him. I always will. This is about respect and carrying on the traditions in which I have brought Jasminder up.

“I have to find the strength to get what is mine and uphold the traditions which are so valuable to us. They are the backbone to my family.”