Centre gets custody of gold, meant to be donated to Lal Bahadur Shastri’s post-war fund, now worth Rs 32 crore

Rajasthan government has handed over 64.600 kilos of pure gold, lying in custody of Udaipur Collector while a legal battle went on over its ownership, to the Union government in keeping with law

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: IANS)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: IANS)

Prakash Bhandari

After a long drawn legal battle of 56 years, the Rajasthan government has handed over 64.600 kilos of pure gold having a market value of Rs 32 crores to the Union government. It was worth Rs 4.76 lakh in 1965.

This is part of the gold that was lying in the Udaipur district Collector’s treasury for the past 38 years. It was meant to be presented to the late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri as part of the National Defence Fund (NDF), after the 1965 Indo-Pakistan conflict. Shastri had promised to visit the historic city of Chittorgarh in the state, but he passed away in Tashkent where he had gone for the Indo-Pak summit before he could do that.

On Monday, the gold was weighed and was found to be 67.800 kilos. There was jubilation since the figure was higher than expected.

The gold was in the form of bars. Out of this, 3.200 kilos of gold was not handed over to the Union government as some verifications were needed. The rest of it was delivered to the Assistant Commissioner of Central GST of Chittorgarh, Sher Singh Meena by the district administration.

The gold bars were counted and weighed before the competent authorities. The precious metal was later transferred to Jaipur where it would be in the custody of the Central Excise department. A large posse of armed police guards accompanied the gold on its journey from Udaipur to Jaipur.

One Ganpat Lal Anjana family, which once used to deal in opium in Chhoti Sadri, was contesting a legal battle against the state government claiming that the gold belonged to them. The gold was deposited in 1965 by the Anjana family to the district Collector of Chittorgarh for donating it for the National Defence Fund to Lal Bahadur Shastri.

The late Chief Minister Mohan Lal Sukhadia along with family members had extended an invitation to Lal Bahadur Shastri to come to Chittorgarh where he was to be presented the gold.

In February this year, the district and session judge of Chittorgarh, through an order, said that the gold which was lying in the custody of the Collector of Udaipur should be handed over to the Rajasthan government as it is now the property of the state government. But according to laws, the seized gold is the property of the Union government and all seized goods have to be handed over to it.

The said gold, which once belonged to a rich business family, was given to Ganpat Lal Anjana, an opium dealer, for safe custody after it was found in an old haveli of the business family of Gunwant Lal Ghodawat. Later when Ghodawat demanded the gold back from Ganpat Lal, he returned only part of it. Ghodawat then lodged an FIR against Ganpat Lal on December 9, 1965.

After the FIR was lodged against him, Ganpat Lal deposited the gold with the Collector of Udaipur with a request that the late Prime Minister Shastri should be weighed with the gold during his visit to Udaipur.

After that, Ganpat Lal, another person Heera Lal and Gunwant Lal were involved in a long-drawn legal battle over the ownership of the gold. After a long period of 56 years, the chief judicial magistrate in 2020 ordered that the gold should be given to the Central Goods & Services Tax Commissioner as the gold was found as a treasure trove and it belongs to the Union government.

Goverdhan Lal Anjana, after the death of his father, pursued the case as the inheritor in the session court, but the court gave a verdict against him and ordered that the gold should be given to the government through the Central Goods & Service Tax Commissioner.

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Published: 14 Sep 2021, 8:00 PM