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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Indian royal wins back property
Map showing Mahmudabad in Uttar Pradesh
The heir of the former ruler of a principality in northern India has won back his ancestral property after a 32-year court battle.

Mohammad Khan, the only son of Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan, last ruler of Mahmudabad, will get back a fort and other properties owned by his father.

Indian authorities confiscated the properties after Mr Khan's father migrated to neighbouring Pakistan.

Many princely states were absorbed by India after its independence in 1947.

Enemy property

The ruler of Mahmudabad, like many other Muslim feudal rulers of northern India, left India in 1957 to become a citizen of Muslim Pakistan.

But his wife and son, Mohammad, stayed in India.

In 1965, when India and Pakistan went to war, the ruler's assets in the state of Uttar Pradesh were declared enemy property and seized by the government.

"My mother and I stayed back. We remain citizens of India, but we had no claim on the property that truly belonged to us," Mr Khan told the Associated Press.

Mr Khan, a Cambridge graduate, began fighting the case after his father's death in 1973.

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that the citizenship of Mohammad Khan, the legal heir, was not in question and the land could not be termed enemy property.

Million-dollar assets

The court has ordered the government to hand the property over to Mr Khan within eight weeks, Mr Khan told AP.

The restored assets include a fort, dozens of buildings, hundreds of acres of farm land and a hotel in the Himalayan tourist town of Nainital.

A family friend, Mohammed Laik, told the BBC Urdu service that the properties were in prime locations in the Uttar Pradesh capital, Lucknow, and other cities and could be worth billions of rupees (millions of dollars).

But he said many items had been looted and buildings damaged after the properties were confiscated.

The court has also ordered the Indian government to pay 500,000 rupees ($11,000) to Mr Khan for having retained the property illegally and to help him cover some of his legal costs.

Residents of Mahmudabad, a small town about 50km (30 miles) north-east of the Uttar Pradesh capital, Lucknow, still refer to Mr Khan as raja, which in Hindi means king.

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