MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court has refused to direct Mumbai-based businessmen to vacate premises owned by the royal family of Kuwait, noting that prima facie, their tenancy agreements were not "forged or fabricated". Justice BP Colabawalla was hearing an interim application of Sheikha Fadiah Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah, the daughter of the late Father Amir Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah.

The plea alleged that three Mumbai businessmen had illegally and forcibly occupied the premises in their building and sought to declare the trio as trespassers and direct them to vacate the Al-Sabah Court building premises immediately. However, the court has restrained the businessmen from creating third-party rights or titles to the said premises pending the final hearing of the suit filed against them by the Kuwaiti royal family.

The family had filed a suit against the trio in 2014, which is still pending. Apart from that, the family had 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.

The bench, in its order, said that the tenancy agreements entered into by Faisal Essa, former Kuwaiti counsel general who the royal family appointed to take care of the building, and the three defendants - Sanjay Punamiya, Amish Shaikh and Mahesh Soni - are not forged and fabricated. "I say this because prima facie, it appears that the said tenancy agreement emanated from Faisal Essa himself," the court said. "Prima facie, it appears that Faisal Essa had the authority from the building owners from time to time to create tenancies in favor 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 that the plaintiff has failed to establish that the tenancy agreements are forged and fabricated, and the prima facie appears to be genuine," Justice Colabawalla held. The court directed the suit to be expedited and placed it for hearing on Dec 16.

Punamiya claimed that he was in possession and occupation of the said flat by virtue of a tenancy agreement dated Oct 30, 2012, entered into by Faisal Essa (for and on behalf of the landlord) and himself. "The plaintiff stopped collecting rent from tenants in 2016, and it is the tenants themselves who are collecting the rent and using it towards maintenance and upkeep of the building," Saraf argued.

Punamiya was earlier a tenant of one of the flats situated on the first floor of the building. The plea alleged that when 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. The plaintiff claimed that they learnt about this only when other tenants of the building informed them.

The plaintiff 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 3.5 million per month to the plaintiff for the period they stayed in the building.