Muslim law doesn’t apply to Jinnah, says daughter

In the dispute over the palatial Jinnah House in south Mumbai, Dina Wadia, the only daughter of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, has stated before the Bombay High Court that her father is not governed by Islamic succession laws, but by Hindu customary law instead.

The building in question, blessed not only with history but also location — facing the sea from the posh Malabar Hill — is currently valued at Rs 300 crore.

In 1947, when Jinnah left India for Pakistan, the Government had taken it over as "evacuee property". However, Dina had remained behind in Mumbai, having been disowned by Jinnah. Now 88 years old, she lives in the United States. After a series of legal moves, Dina Wadia filed a writ petition before the Mumbai High Court in 2007, claiming that Jinnah House could not be classified as "evacuee property", as her father had died without leaving behind a will. So, she went on to claim, all his properties, including Jinnah House, devolved to his successors.

The trouble was that under Muslim succession law, Jinnah's property would devolve to a long list of family claimants, only one of which was his daughter. This meant that even if Jinnah House was not "evacuee property", Dina Wadia would have to share Jinnah House with other relatives of her father.

To overcome this, her lawyer Fali Nariman has stated in court that Jinnah, as a Khoja-Shia, was not governed by Muslim succession law, but by Hindu customary law — in which intestate succession is to the daughter alone. To establish this, Nariman has relied on a long line of cases where the Indian Supreme Court has held that Khoja-Shias are governed by Hindu customary law. Khoja-Shias, like many Muslim communities in India, have traditions that are a mix of Islamic and Hindu rituals.

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