Judge raises concern for welfare of billionaire with dementia at centre of family feud
A judge has raised concern about the welfare of a elderly billionaire who became the centrepiece of a feud between relatives after being diagnosed with dementia.
Mr Justice Hayden said he had at one stage considered placing Srichand Hinduja, 86, whose family topped 2022 Sunday Times Rich List and was said to be worth more than £28 billion, in a public nursing home.
The judge, who oversaw hearings in the Court of Protection in London, said Srichand Hinduja’s needs became “marginalised” by the family dispute, notwithstanding his wealth.
He has told how at one stage he had concluded that Srichand Hinduja should leave hospital, but he said relatives had not found private accommodation despite the “extraordinary scope and reach of their financial capacity”.
The judge, who also oversees hearings in the Family Division of the High Court, said he had been driven to consider a placement in a public nursing home.
Mr Justice Hayden has outlined concerns in written rulings published after public hearings in London.
Court of Protection judges consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.
Judges generally sit in public but normally rule that vulnerable people at the centre of litigation in the Court of Protection cannot be named in media reports of cases – to protect their human right to respect for private and family life.
But Mr Justice Hayden has ruled that Srichand Hinduja, and others involved in the case, can be named after hearing public-interest arguments from journalists.
Detail of the proceedings emerged on Friday after Court of Appeal judges in London had analysed issues and, also, ruled that journalists could name people involved.
Srichand Hinduja’s brother, Gopichand Hinduja (pictured), had challenged the legitimacy of a lasting power of attorney, for property and affairs, Srichand Hinduja gave to his daughters, Vinoo and Shanu Hinduja.
Gopichand Hinduja had argued that, because of his dementia, Srichand Hinduja would have lacked the capacity to have created that lasting power of attorney.
The judge said at one stage Vinoo and Shanu Hinduja had told how they “drew on Srichand’s assets to fund their own costs of this litigation”.
He said it had been “further recognised and acknowledged” that they drew on those funds for “their own private purposes”.
Mr Justice Hayden said the “identified conflict of interest was so flagrant” and so “manifestly contrary to the fiduciary obligations of the attorneys”, that both Vinoo and Shanu Hinduja had “disclaimed the role”.
He said he had appointed a solicitor to act as Srichand Hinduja’s “deputy for property and affairs”.
Mr Justice Hayden heard how the family members had also been embroiled in a separate High Court row in London over family assets.
Detail of that dispute emerged about in 2020, when another judge, Mrs Justice Falk, published a preliminary ruling, and named the people involved.
Mr Justice Hayden said he had been told that the family had agreed “heads of terms” intended to end “all disputes” between them in “all jurisdictions”.
Gopichand Hinduja had argued that reporting restrictions preventing people at the centre of Court of Protection proceedings being named should stay.
Mr Justice Hayden had disagreed and lifted restrictions – Gopichand Hinduja had then challenged that ruling in the Court of Appeal.
Appeal judges Lord Justice Peter Jackson, Lord Justice Baker and Lord Justice Warby said people involved in proceedings could be named in media reports.
But they barred reporting of intimate detail about Srichand Hinduja’s health and care.
Shanu and Vinoo Hinduja said later in a joint statement: “We welcome the transparency that this ruling will bring to the proceedings, so long as the dignity of our beloved S.P. Hinduja and his wife of 59 years, our mother Madhu Hinduja, remains protected.
“That was the stance we took in the Court of Appeal on behalf of our father, and we believe this judgment vindicates that stance.
“We have always lived and acted according to the instructions given to us by our father.
“These are in line with his values, which have been instilled in us since childhood.
“We have – as any other children would have done – cared for our parents and have worked in their best interests.
“Our absolute priority has been to ensure that our parents’ wishes are fulfilled and that their dignity and wellbeing are protected.
“While we are pleased that the dispute surrounding the health and welfare of our father has been resolved, a final settlement with respect to the broader disputes still needs to be reached, so that we can fulfil the wishes of our parents for security and dignity in their final years.”
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